2000 UEFA Cup semi-final violence
The 2000 UEFA Cup semi-final violence were a series of violent incidents in Istanbul, Turkey between fans of English team Leeds United and Turkish team, Galatasaray before their UEFA Cup semi-final first leg. It is noted for the deaths of two Leeds fans.
The violence happened on 5 April 2000 between Leeds and Galatasaray fans after unknown provocation and Galatasaray fans which led to two Leeds fans being stabbed to death. Four men were arrested and charged with their murders. The deaths lead to an angry reaction in England with Galatasaray fans being banned from attending the second leg.
The violence happened at 21:00 in Istanbul's Taksim Square during a fight between Leeds fans and Galatasaray fans the day before their UEFA Cup semi-final first leg at Galatasaray's Ali Sami Yen Stadium in Istanbul on 6 April 2000.
Leeds fans had been reportedly taunting people from local bars, to which the Turkish police were called in to stop fights breaking out. There were reports that a Galatasaray fan had run to a nearby telephone box to call for support when he saw Leeds fans arriving. Several Galatasaray fans, reportedly members of a gang called "The Night Watchmen", entered the area shortly afterwards which precipitated a fight between the two sets of supporters which led to the two Leeds fans being stabbed to death. Police arrested Ali Umit Demir and three other men for the stabbings.
It was not clear how the fight started with reports of the fight either being started by Leeds fans throwing beer glasses at Galatasaray fans and insulting the Turkish flag or being started by Galatasaray fans throwing chairs or ambushing Leeds fans with knives.
In 2002, after an adjournment from 2001 where some defendants failed to appear in court, Demir was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment which was reduced from 30 years as it was not clear who was the sole cause of the deaths. This sentence was negatively received by residents of Istanbul who said that Demir was a "patriot". In 2005, he was released for a retrial after a change in Turkish law and after an appeal in 2003 was successful.
Because of the stabbings, Leeds United banned Galatasaray fans from attending the second leg at Elland Road claiming that the safety of fans inside the stadium could not be guaranteed and asked for Galatasaray fans not to travel to England. Galatasaray in response asked for the match to be played at a neutral venue or for Leeds fans to be banned from the match as well. The away supporters ban was supported by UEFA and only 80 tickets were issued to Galatasaray for officials and representatives of the Turkish government. This led to an angry reaction from Galatasaray's vice-president who called the decision "Disgusting" and by the Turkish State Minister who said that Leeds were trying to turn the murders into an advantage. Leeds United chairman, Peter Ridsdale, responded by claiming that Galatasaray were showing a lack of respect and said that Galatasaray should withdraw from the UEFA Cup if they did not accept the supporters ban.
The day after the violence, flowers, scarves, shirts and tributes were lain outside the Elland Road gates. The statue of former Leeds United captain, Billy Bremner outside the stadium also had a black armband placed on it. Leeds' Premier League match against Arsenal the Sunday before the second leg, was marked by Arsenal players laying flowers at all four corners of Elland Road and a minutes silence being held before the match started.
Before the second leg, Ridsdale took out adverts in British newspapers calling for calm with the messages in the adverts also being translated into Turkish. Despite this, West Yorkshire Police warned local Turkish businesses to close early. When Galatasaray players arrived at Elland Road for the second leg, hundreds of Leeds fans attacked the coaches that were carrying them which delayed the kick-off of the second leg. During the second leg, Leeds players wore black armbands however Galatasaray players did not. During the first minute of the match, Leeds fans turned their backs on the match in protest of, what was viewed as, a lack of justice.
Leeds lost the tie 4-2 on aggregate. On the day of the final in Copenhagen, Denmark. Members of Leeds United's hooligan firm, the Leeds United Service Crew joined members of other British hooligan firms led by Arsenal's firm, The Herd in order to enact revenge attacks on Galatasaray fans in Copenhagen's City Hall Square. Leeds United installed a brass plaque in Elland Road to remember those who had been killed in the violence.
The next season, Leeds drew Turkish side Beşiktaş in the UEFA Champions League. Security surrounding both matches was increased and planned several months in advance. Because of the tensions caused the stabbings in Istanbul, only 70 Beşiktaş fans travelled to Leeds. They had originally been booked onto an official Beşiktaş chartered flight however, it was eventually cancelled as was pre-match hospitality prepared by Leeds' directors. In the return leg, Beşiktaş placed Leeds fans, who had been escorted through the airport, on an alcohol-free cruise around the Bosphorus Strait before being transported by bus to the BJK İnönü Stadium in Istanbul before the match.
The events are used by some football supporters to antagonize Leeds fans. It has been used by Sheffield Wednesday, Millwall and Manchester United fans. In 2009, a Millwall fan was banned from The New Den for life after taunting Leeds fans about the events whilst wearing a Galatasaray shirt. Galatasaray fans also used similar chants before their UEFA Champions League match in 2012 against Manchester United.
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