Never seen. Thursday, December 1 in Turkey, a sports commentator for the TRT channel was fired in the middle of a World Cup match after pronouncing the name of a taboo football player. It all started in the fourth minute of the match between Canada and Morocco. As Hakim Ziyech had just opened the scoring in favor of the North African country, Alper Bakircigil praised his performance and spoke of the fastest goal in football history. To date, the record is held by Hakan Sukur, a Turkish footballer who scored after just 11 seconds against South Korea at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Unfortunately, this short anecdote did not go over very well with the channel’s managers, who replaced Alper Bakircigil with another commentator at half-time. And the journalist wasn’t just kicked out of the game. A few hours later, he announced in a tweet that he had simply been thanked by the chain. “I was fired by TRT, for which I have proudly worked for years, following what happened today, he revealed. Separation is part of love. I hope See you again soon. Goodbye.”

A tumultuous political past

If Alper Bakircigil paid dearly for the evocation of Hakan Sukur, it is because the Turkish footballer leaves a very bitter memory in Anatolia. After his sports career, the ex-striker went into politics. He joined the party of incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but quickly turned against him and publicly insulted him on social media. Moreover, after the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, Sukur refused to denounce the alleged leader, the cleric Fethullah Gulen, to whom he was close. He was then the subject of an arrest warrant and fled the country to join the United States.

Today, Sukur has rebuilt his life across the Atlantic. He became a bookseller and an Uber driver. Although he is one of the best players in the history of Turkish football, his name is now taboo in the game.

2022 World Cup: a commentator fired in the middle of a match for having pronounced a taboo name

Alper Bakircigil © Alper Bakircigil

Maria T.
Maria T.

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