Kemal Kilicdaroglu (C-R), leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), lays flowers at the scene of December 10 blasts outside the Vodafone Arena football stadium on December 14, 2016 in Istanbul. The death toll from the Istanbul twin bombings near a major football stadium has risen to 44, Turkish Health Minister Recep Akdag said on December 12, 2016. PHOTO: YASIN AKGUL / AFP
Thousands of football fans came out in a show of solidarity on Wednesday for an emotionally-charged first match after twin bombings outside the Istanbul stadium of top Turkish team Besiktas.
Waving Turkish flags and whistling, fans made their way to the stadium after 44 people were killed on Saturday in an attack claimed by Kurdish militants.
Besiktas was due to play Kayserispor in a Turkish cup match at 8:30pm (1730 GMT) at its new arena, which opened earlier this year overlooking the Bosphorus.
A mournful silence was broken by fans making their way to the game who shouted “martyrs never die, homeland not divided” — slogans of solidarity and patriotism rather than the usual team slogans, an AFP correspondent said.
Later inside the stadium, the slogans were repeated as fans sought to pay tribute to those killed and show a united front.
A car bomb exploded on Saturday outside the stadium and less than a minute later, a suicide attacker blew himself up next to a group of police officers at a nearby park.
Some 37 police officers and seven civilians were killed in the blasts claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), which is seen as a radical offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
One of the Besiktas coaches Veyiz Oguz said Turkish football fans were united in mourning.
“Right now, Galatasaray fans are with us, Fenerbahce fans are with us,” referring to Istanbul’s two other big teams.
Kayserispor fan Mehmet said he came all the way from the central Turkish city of Kayseri for Wednesday’s match.
“Today, we Trabzonspor fans, Besiktas fans, Galatasaray fans are all united,” he told AFP outside the stadium.
“Godwilling these incidents end and our matches can occur peacefully,” he added.
A sea of flowers, including carnations coloured the red and white of the Turkish flag, have been left outside the stadium, along with scarves from all of the Turkish teams. An imam recited from the Koran at the site on Wednesday evening.
Besiktas said this week that money from tickets sold for Wednesday’s match would go to victims’ families.