The Turkish club looking to become shock champions by signing multiple ex-Premier League stars is apparently being financed by close allies of controversial President Recep Erdogan who says he helped set up the club.
The current leaders of the Turkish Super Lig, Istanbul Basaksehir, have had a startling rise to the top of Turkish football in just four seasons and reports are emerging that the club has links to the country’s President Recep Erdogan.
Istanbul Basaksehi have several ex-Premier League stars including Robinho, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy and Demba Ba in their squad along with midfielder Arda Turan on loan from Barcelona.
The club were founded as Istanbul Basaksehir in 2014 after Istanbul BB, which was owned by the local municipality and had just reached promotion to the top-flight that year, was shut down and converted into an independent company under the new name.
The club then moved to the Basaksehir area of Istanbul and into the new 17,000-seater Basaksehir Fatih Terim stadium.
The stadium was built by Kalyon Grup Holding, a company reported to have close ties to Erdogan and which is currently building Istanbul’s brand new airport. It was also behind the controversial makeover of central Istanbul’s Gezi Park into a shopping centre which triggered the massive Gezi Park Protests against Erdogan in 2013 and which were violently shut down by the police.
Cagatay Kalkanci, 44, a member of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) party and married to a relative of Erdogan, was appointed as the club’s president in 2014.
Reports state Kalkanci was not only chosen because of his loyalty to the President but also as his tile company “Deco Vita” was named as the club’s shirt sponsor.
And another of the club’s main sponsors, private hospital chain “Medipol”, was founded by Erdogan’s personal doctor Fahrettin Koca, 55. The club is now officially called Medipol Basaksehir Futbol Kulubu (Medispol Basaksehir Football Club).
Another big sponsor who is reported to have donated several million euros is Goksel Gumusdag, who runs the construction firm Makro Insaat which is said to be highly dependent on orders from Erdogan’s government, according to German newspaper Bild.
Erdogan himself attended the opening of the new stadium in 2014 wearing the club’s orange kit and kicking a ball on the turf.
The Turkish President was recently asked in an interview broadcast on the national channel Turkish Television TRT, about Basaksehir’s performances and he answered: “Basaksehir FK is a club which I established during my time as Mayor of Istanbul [1994-1998]. The team is doing very well. Recently they won a match 3-0. The team is really good. They are currently leading .”
With their wealth of experienced stars, Basaksehir are currently eight points clear at the top of the Super Lig, ahead of Galatasaray who are in second place.
The club are looking to become the first team outside the traditional ‘big three’ of Fernabache, Galatasaray and Besiktas to win the league since Bursaspor in 2009-2010.
The previous winner from outside the normal three was Trabsonzpor in 1983-1984.
Erdogan has been accused of failing to protect human rights, curbing freedom of speech and using unfair elections to strengthen his grip on power in Turkey.