His name was Marko Ivkovic
Last week in Istanbul, Red Star Belgrade fan Marko Ivkovic was murdered by a coward claiming to be a supporter of Galatasaray.
Marko was not a hooligan. Marko was a 25-year-old doing what so many men and women of his age love to do, travelling thousands of miles to support his team. Just a few months ago, myself and many of my friends made the same journey to Istanbul to support our team. We came home, but tragically, Marko did not.
To use a knife on anybody is an act of cowardice, but what happened in this case is especially sickening. After noticing that trouble had broken out close to him, he turned and walked away so as to not become involved in the violence. Despite not being involved in the violence or provoking the home supporters in any way, he was attacked without warning and stabbed in the back. The coward who murdered Marko Ivkovic did not even have the courage to look him in the eyes as he did it.
For English supporters, this story is all too familiar. Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight were two loyal Leeds United fans who lost their lives in Istanbul before a Champions League game. Last year, Fenerbahce supporter Burak Yildirim was killed after the derby against Galatasaray. It is important to remember that these are not just names you read on the internet, pictures you see in the newspaper. They are sons, brothers, fathers and husbands. They are people like you and me who woke up one morning excited to go and watch their team, and were dead just a few hours later.
Supporters from many clubs were quick to pay tribute to Marko, including other Turkish clubs Fenerbahce and Besiktas. Red Star were also supported by Partizan, who displayed a condolence banner and burned a Galatasaray flag at their next game. Every other Belgrade club also paid tribute to their city brother who would never come home. Below you can see a small selection of the many tributes which have been paid:
Serbian fan groups from many different clubs unite to pay tribute to Marko
In addition to these tributes, supporters from CSKA Moscow, Olympiakos, Feyenoord, Leeds United, Sparta Prague and many others have shown respect to the man they never knew, but shared so much in common with.
Clearly, not every Galatasaray supporter is responsible for these acts. They have hundreds of thousands of fans, and I know that many of them will be sickened every time something like this happens. But the sad thing is, it is not enough. If a fan was murdered with a knife before a game in any other European country, and especially the Balkans, it would be condemned by the supporters groups instantly. Indeed, outside the section of Marakana where the Delije stand is a graffiti which reads ‘only pussies stab’
So why the silence from Galtasaray’s main group, ultrAslan? If they told supporters that they should only fight with their fists, this culture of knife violence could be stopped overnight. Instead, look at the comments and images which have been sent on Twitter following this murder:
These are not even the worst of the images sent by Galatasaray fans following this tragedy, with many being posted which are so bad I will not give them the satisfaction of being shared further. The disrespect was not limited to online. While many Galatasaray supporters stayed quiet during the minutes silence held following his death, many others whistled, jeered and sang offensive songs about Serbia.
Albanian supporters also celebrated the murder, posing with banners which read ‘Good job Galatasaray’ and ‘Burn in hell Marko’. Something has gone wrong in the world when people are celebrating murders in the way we celebrate scoring a goal or winning a game.
If you must fight at a match, then do it. Fight against others who wish to fight, and fight with your fists. A knife does not make you brave. A knife won’t make people respect you. A knife doesn’t make you a big man. If you want to look at a true example of a man, look at Marko. He provided for his family after his father was killed in the Balkan war, while getting good grades in school and never missing a game for his beloved team.
Marko Ivkovic was not only murdered by the man who stabbed him. He was murdered by Galatasaray head coach Ergin Ataman, who commented before the game that all Serbians were terrorists. He was murdered by the fact that the regular supporters of Galatasaray will not speak out against the prevalent knife culture at the club. He was murdered by the Turkish police, who refuse to provide the proper protection to visiting supporters, despite everything that has come before. He was murdered by UEFA and Euroleague refusing to take proper action when these incidents happen.
His name was Marko Ivkovic. Don’t forget it. Get angry about it. Use it to change something. Don’t let another supporter to go watch their team and not come home. If you are a Galatasaray supporter, you have the responsibility to not let this happen again. Make your team known around the world for the atmosphere you can create, and not the cowardice of attacking innocent people with weapons.
His name was Marko Ivkovic.
Supporters Not Customers sends our condolences to Marko’s family and friends and the whole of Delije. Sterker door strijd.