A few days ago, Indian Super League (ISL) club Kerala Blasters and Turkish Super Lig outfit, Trabzonspor were embroiled in an online poll, conducted by San Bass Media. The Twitter battle essentially revolved around the strength of the respective clubs’ fan bases, with each voting to prove their superiority.
However, things took a turn for the worse when the debate moved away from footballing lines and instead started targeting Indian people based on their race. Consequently, xenophobic comments marred the Twitter timeline and rather remarkably, involved another country which seemed completely unrelated to the entire match-up.
To put things into perspective, the hashtag ‘#VoteForTurkey’ started trending in Pakistan. The country’s citizens came out on Twitter and pledged their support for Turkish team Trabonspor.
Yet, the most unfortunate bit of it all was that it included them abusing the Kerala Blasters fans and throwing racial slurs at them. The fact that a few citizens from Pakistan were left absolutely clueless about the trend only added another layer of absurdity to the entire thing.
Ultimately, Trabzonspor emerged victorious over Kerala Blasters in their online battle. The former, despite being on level pegging with the latter for a major chunk of the survey, enjoyed enormous support from those in Pakistan. Eventually, Trabzonspor edged past the ISL club via a 50.8%-49.2% margin.
But, the unfortunate criticisms ended up marring what could’ve been a healthy contest. In fact, the situation got so out of hand that San Bass Media, the organizers of the poll, had to issue an apology to the Indian fans, wherein they stated,
“We really regret the fact that our research was the basis for xenophobic insults and diplomatic conflict. To the people of India, our thanks, we regret the racist insults about their culture. We would like to invite you to new polls on Instagram,” San Bass Media said on Twitter.
Over the years, not many sports have evoked as much emotion among fans as football. While these spectators have often clashed in stadiums, chanting their own versions of support for their sides, these rivalries have shifted to social media pages recently, owing to the commercialization and globalization of the game.
Yet, the incident between ISL club Kerala Blasters and Turkish team Trabzonspor only highlighted that the aforementioned only prospers when happening in a controlled environment.
A survey, which was meant to keep football fanatics engrossed during the quarantine ended up turning ugly. And, one reckons that that is an outcome neither party would’ve envisioned or indeed wanted.