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Turkey vows legal war over sanctions

ISTANBUL (AFP) – The Turkish Football Association said yesterday it was preparing for a «legal war» against the sanctions that FIFA slapped on Turkey for the violence that marred its November World Cup qualifier against Switzerland. «We did not expect such a heavy penalty. We are shocked,» Haluk Ulusoy, the association’s president, said at Ataturk Airport after flying in from Zurich, where the sanctions were announced Tuesday. FIFA ordered Turkey to play their next six official home games behind closed doors at a neutral venue and pay all organizational costs, handed out a 129,000-euro fine and banned three of their players. The brawl broke out as the players were leaving the pitch after the end of the game, which Turkey won 4-2, but failed to qualify for World Cup 2006 on the away goals rule, having lost the first leg 2-0. Ulusoy said the federation would lodge an appeal with FIFA’s appeals committee, and, if needed, the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration in Sports (CAS). The sanctions mean that Turkey will play none of their Euro 2008 qualification matches at home. European champion Greece is included in the group. The Turkish press was also furious about the sanctions Tuesday. «Why not just hang us?» asked the mass-circulation Hurriyet, describing the punishment as the «heaviest in the history» of world football’s governing body. «This is not punishment, it is execution,» screamed the popular Aksam. «FIFA has crucified Turkey.» Alpay Ozalan and Emre Belozoglu were banned for six international matches, and Serkan Balci was slapped with a two-match ban. Assistant coach Mehmet Ozdilek, who has since resigned his position, was banned from taking part in «any football-related activity» for a year.