Istanbul | Having scaled heights in the esteem of world football, Turkey perhaps made a serious misstep Wednesday given post-game violence directed against the native country of the FIFA president. Sepp Blatter promised an inquiry into the mêlée that hospitalized Swiss defender Stéphane Grichting following a wild 4–2 Turkish victory that nevertheless delivered a World Cup finals spot for Switzerland. Blatter said he would not act “as a Swiss,” but that “we will act and we will act tough.” Most incendiary was the suggestion that Turkey might be expelled from the 2010 competition—this for a team that reached the semifinals in 2002 and that, according to Rob Hughes in the International Herald Tribune, had convinced some with its hosting of the Champions League final in May that violence and Turkish football were not conjoined.
Rather than $120 million Atatí¼rk Olympic Stadium, the venue for the qualifier, Sí¼krí¼ Saracoglu, was selected for its intimidating reputation as the home ground of Fenerbahçe. Another subtext for Wednesday’s events was Turkey’s pursuit of membership in the European Union, for which safely organizing sporting events can prove readiness. One wonders if FIFA will extend the inquiry to the troubling charge of Swiss coach Kobi Kuhn, who claimed to see Turkish police attacking television crews to prevent them filming the violence.