Turkey proud of naming Cakir as Portugal v Spain referee

Reuters, Wednesday 27 Jun 2012

Euro semi-final referee gives Turks reason to smile

Cueneyt Cakir
Turkish referee Cueneyt Cakir (Photo: Reuters)

Missing out on Euro 2012 was painful for soccer-mad Turkey but having a Turkish referee at the finals has helped restore some pride to a country still smarting from match-fixing allegations and high-profile arrests.

Cuneyt Cakir, a 35-year-old Istanbul native who runs an insurance branch office, is the youngest referee at the tournament and will take charge of the semi-final between Spain and Portugal in Donetsk on Wednesday.

"Cuneyt Cakir... makes us Turks smile once again through his appointment to blow his whistle at the Euro semi-final," newspaper Milliyet wrote this week.

Hurriyet newspaper said on Wednesday the Iberian clash would resemble Spain's El Clasico and was a great honor for Cakir.

Cakir, whose father was a referee, regularly officiates at the notoriously volatile derbies between the three major Istanbul clubs.

Turkey, semi-finalists at Euro 2008, lost to Croatia in a playoff for the Euro 2012 finals after finishing second behind Germany in their qualifying group.

However, Germany playmaker Mesut Ozil, who was born in Gelsenkirchen but whose family hail from Turkey, is another favorite with the Turkish public.

MATCH-FIXING PROBE                    

Turkey, which has bid to host Euro 2020, is grappling with a major match-fixing investigation in which 93 defendants, including the chairman of Fenerbahce, are being tried, casting a shadow over the country's multi-billion dollar league.

The soccer scandal erupted last July when police carried out raids against those accused of involvement in rigging 13 matches.

An indictment by state prosecutors names eight clubs, including Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Trabzonspor. Fourteen players are among the defendants.

Fenerbahce Chairman Aziz Yildirim, who is accused of being a gang leader and is in prison awaiting a verdict on his trial, has denied the match-fixing charges.

He says the allegations against him were specifically designed to undermine the 18-times domestic champions.

The Turkish Football Federation launched its own investigation, and 22 separate Super League games were referred to the disciplinary committee.

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