With Israeli soccer star Eran Zahavi said to be in talks to sign up with Turkey’s Fenerbahçe SK club, a popular Instagram account issued a personal invitation, which the Israeli said he would accept if it got half a million likes.
Within hours, the post beat the target while riding on a wave of supportive responses from Turkey.
Zahavi’s agent said Sunday that the outpouring of affection from Turkish soccer fans was encouraging, but stressed that the player had not agreed to transfer to anywhere — yet.
On Saturday, Zahavi, 33, celebrated his scoring of an equalizer goal in Israel’s Nations League game against Scotland the day before, posting to his Instagram account: “It’s always special feeling to score in the national team.
The Dutch soccer-orientated social media agency 433 commented on his post with a simple invitation “Come to Fenerbahçe.”
Zahavi, who currently plays for Guangzhou R&F in the Chinese super league, responded “If your comment achieve[s] 500k :)” referring to the number of likes the post needed for him to agree to the offer.
When 433 wrote it would take up the challenge, Zahavi again responded, “Let’s try.”
By Sunday, the triumphant 433 posted on Instagram “We did it!” along with an image showing that the original post had received over 500,000 likes. The number kept growing, surpassing one million later in the day.
Many of the responses from Turkish fans included video clips of Zahavi’s goal against Scotland and pleas for him to join Fenerbahçe.
While some Turkish websites have reportedly claimed negotiations for a Zahavi move are ongoing and, according to some, are at an advanced stage, Zahavi’s agent Ronen Katsav on Sunday played down the situation.
“It is very flattering and heartwarming to see the support from the Turkish public for Eran and thanks for that,” Katsav wrote. “Eran has not closed or signed anywhere, he has a contract until the end of the year in China and he is concerned only with the coming team game tomorrow. When there is something to announce we will do it in an official way as always.”
Ever since recent rumors first began that Zahavi may be moving to Fenerbahçe, his Instagram account has been flooded with calls by Turkish fans to seal the deal. Each post — regardless of content — receives thousands of responses from Turks, all urging the player to join the local team.
Zahavai’s wife, Shay Zahavi, has also been getting similar requests posted on her Instagram account.
Relations between Israel and Turkey soured after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took power in 2003 and hit a nadir in 2010 after the Mavi Marmara incident, in which Israeli commandos boarded a ship trying to break the maritime blockade of Gaza and killed 10 Turks after coming under attack with clubs and iron bars.
Despite the souring of ties, trade — with the exception of military sales — between the two former strategic allies has remained robust. Turkey was Israel’s No.7 export destination in 2019.