FIFA delays decision on Istanbul soccer brawl

ZURICH (AFP) – FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, said yesterday that a disciplinary ruling on violent incidents at the Turkey-Switzerland World Cup qualifier in Istanbul has been rescheduled for early February instead of this month. «The meeting will take place on February 6 and 7,» FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren told AFP. The match on November 16 last year was marred at the end by fighting involving players and officials that left one Swiss player injured. Turkey won the game 4-2, but failed to qualify for the World Cup finals on the away-goals rule, having lost the first leg 2-0 in Bern. [Turkey had qualified for the encounter, a home-and-away playoff for a World Cup finals berth after capturing second spot in its qualifying group behind Ukraine. Greece, which was hoping to make it to this coming summer’s World Cup in Germany as the reigning European champion, failed after ending fourth in the group.] The incidents in the Turkey-Switzerland match prompted an outburst from FIFA President Sepp Blatter – who is Swiss – threatening to ban Turkey from the 2010 World Cup, and verbal sparring between Turkish and Swiss tabloid media. The governing body’s disciplinary committee has so far interviewed more than 30 witnesses or people involved in the incidents in its probe into charges leveled at Turkish players, officials and the country’s soccer association, as well as a Swiss player and official. Turkish soccer association chief Levent Bicakci has said that he fears the sanction could be serious. Herren emphasized that key hearings on the case needed to be completed before the disciplinary committee could meet for its final deliberation. FIFA later said in a statement that it still wanted to interview a German journalist who was near the dressing rooms in Istanbul when the brawl happened, underlining that it had no legal power to secure his testimony. «FIFA’s first request for the journalist to attend a hearing was denied by the legal representatives of the television channel that employs the journalist in question.» The governing body had hoped that the committee could issue its rulings by the draw for the World Cup finals on December 9, but that was postponed until this month. The draw for the qualifying round of Euro 2008, which will be played in Switzerland and Austria, is due to take place on January 27. The Swiss tabloid daily Blick complained yesterday that the new delay until after the draw could prevent Turkey from being excluded from the championship organized by European governing body UEFA. Herren denied that FIFA was delaying the ruling. «By no means are we dragging our feet, on the contrary. The matter must be dealt with in an accurate and careful manner in accordance with the regulations,» he said.

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