Second Israeli soccer player runs foul of Turkish feelings with support for hostages

İstanbul Başakşehir club says it will open disciplinary action against Eden Kartsev for social media post highlighting 100 days since Hamas terrorists abducted captives

Screen capture from video of Israel soccer player Eden Kartsev. (YouTube. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of Israel soccer player Eden Kartsev. (YouTube. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

After Turkey’s decision Monday to deport Israeli soccer player Sagiv Jehezkel over a gesture in sympathy to Hamas-held hostages in Gaza he made during an on-field celebration of a goal, attention turned to a second Israeli player who also expressed solidarity with the abductees.

Soccer team İstanbul Başakşehir said it would open disciplinary action against midfielder Eden Kartsev for harming “sensitive values” in Turkey.

The drama over the two Israeli players began when Jehezkel, 28, a player for Antalyaspor, celebrated his equalizer goal in Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Trabzonspor in the top Turkish league by making a heart sign with his hands to the camera and showing his wristband, which bore the words “100 days. October 7” along with a Star of David symbol.

The 132 hostages remaining in captivity in the Strip have been held there for 100 days after being kidnapped by Hamas-led terrorists on October 7.

The gesture did not go down well in Turkey, a country that hosts top Hamas officials and whose leaders have taken a highly hostile approach against Israel during the ongoing war.

Jehezkel was arrested and brought to court, while his team said it was terminating his contract. Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced Monday that he would be deported from Turkey.

Meanwhile, pressure mounted on Turkish social media for the top league İstanbul Başakşehir to take action against Kartsev, who published an Instagram story similarly identifying with the Gaza hostages and echoing the slogan calling to “Bring them home now.”

The fan club for Başakşehir, a favorite club of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s, wrote on X: “We do not want Zionist supporters who disregard the values ​​and sensitivities of our country.”

On Monday afternoon, after initially ignoring the issue, Başakşehir published a statement saying it had launched a “disciplinary probe” against Kartsev, alleging that he had “violated the club’s disciplinary rules by publishing a post on his Instagram that harms sensitive values of our country, and we expect a written defense by the player on the matter.”

Israeli sports network Channel 5 reported that Kartsev and his partner were asked to remain within the confines of the club’s complex after training sessions and not go to their home to avoid any possible confrontation. According to the report, the club had received information about possible trouble.

Israeli officials, among them Israel Football Association chair Moshe Shino Zuares, were said to be making efforts to bring Kartsev back to Israel as soon as possible due to fears he could be physically harmed, the Israel Hayom outlet reported.

According to the report, the local Israeli team Maccabi Haifa is looking at taking on Kartsev if he leaves Turkey.

Israeli ministers, responding to the initial fuss over Jehezkel, blasted Ankara as an accomplice of Hamas, Erdogan as a “full-on Nazi,” and Turkey as a “dark dictatorship.”

Israeli soccer player Sagiv Jehezkel displays a message of solidarity with hostages held in Gaza while celebrating a goal for Turkish club Antalyaspor on January 14, 2024 (Handout / DHA (Demiroren News Agency) / AFP)

Jehezkel was one of hundreds of thousands of Israelis and supporters around the world who called Sunday for the release of the hostages.

This is not the first time the Gaza war has been an issue for Israeli players in the Turkish soccer league.

Weeks after the outbreak of the war, Jehezkel and his Arab Israeli teammate Ramzi Safouri sat out a game after the league held a moment of silence in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza — without any mention of Hamas’s brutal onslaught on Israel that triggered the war.

Michael Bachner and Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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