Turkey says it supports the decision by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) to postpone Euro 2020 until 2021, but it will for now not be postponing its domestic football league matches.
“The 2020 European Championship has been postponed to June 11 – July 11 in 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus incident. We, as the TFF, have supported the [UEFA] decision,” Turkish Football Federation (TFF) chairman Nihat Ozdemir told reporters on Tuesday.
Regarding the domestic football league, Ozdemir said there was no change in their agenda.
“We have planned everything. For now, there has been no change on our agenda in terms of holding the league without spectators. The matches will go on without spectators until the end of April,” he said.
At an emergency meeting on Tuesday, the UEFA, European football’s governing body, ruled on health grounds that the Euro 2020 football tournament would become Euro 2021 and be played between June 11 to July 11 next year, allowing time for domestic leagues to conclude.
UEFA today announced the postponement of its flagship national team competition, UEFA EURO 2020.
Read full statement 👇
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) March 17, 2020
The UEFA held Tuesday’s meeting of all 55 individual federations to discuss the potential impact of the virus by video conference.
The UEFA decision came with continental Europe recently becoming the new epicenter of COVID-19 outside China and Iran.
UEFA’s flagship national team competition had been due to kick off in Italy’s capital city of Rome on June 12 this year and was to be played in 12 different host cities across the continent.
“As is the case for all European teams, we had two practice matches at the end of March. All those matches will be played in June. It is [also] decided that all [countries] should try to complete the [domestic] leagues until the end of June,” Ozdemir added.
The TFF head also praised the crisis management of the outbreak led by the country’s health minister Fahrettin Koca.
“We have a rightminded and well-planning health minister and a science council. We are continuously in touch with [them],” Ozdemir added, referring to the consensus with the minister on the continuation of the games to be played behind closed doors.
However, the TFF decision has already drawn fire from some football coaches and players.
Fatih Terim, the coach of Galatasaray football team, took a swipe at the federation after playing an Istanbul derby against Besiktas inside an empty Turk Telekom Stadium on Sunday.
“We have been facing a global problem. Countries have been declaring a state of emergencies [against the pandemic]. All events are canceled in the country. [However,] you make us play the game without spectators and under risk. Under which scientific approach and precautions do you make us play?” the coach asked after the game.
John Obi Mikel, a prominent Nigerian football player at Turkey’s Trabzonspor, posted a message on his Instagram account last week, saying he did not want to play football amid the spread of the virus. Later, he did not play in the match with Basaksehir.
On Tuesday, the club announced that Mikel’s contract had been ended based on a mutual agreement.
The 32-year-old former Chelsea midfielder has left his team after he had said “There is more to life than football” on Instagram.
“I do not feel comfortable and don’t want to play football in this situation. Everyone should be home with their families and loved ones in this critical time,” he said.
The majority of Europe’s top football leagues have been suspended because of the virus.
According to the latest announcement by the minister late on Tuesday, Turkey has seen the first death caused by COVID-19, with 98 people having been infected.