Erdogan opens new Trabzonspor stadium

19 December 2016

Istanbul (AFP) - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday opened the new 40,000-plus capacity stadium of Turkish football team Trabzonspor, the latest ambitious infrastructure project to take shape in the country.

Erdogan cut the ceremonial opening ribbon alongside visiting Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar, one of Ankara's top allies.

The stadium, spectacularly located on Trabzon's Black Sea coast, is said to be the most modern in Turkey with a capacity of almost 41,500. Construction began in 2013.

Erdogan has spearheaded a drive to build new stadiums, airports, bridges and tunnels across Turkey. On Tuesday he will inaugurate the first road tunnel under the Bosphorus in Istanbul.

The president admitted that the killing of 14 Turkish soldiers on Saturday in an attack blamed on Kurdish militants had cast a shadow over the opening.

But he added: "The fight against terror will continue without a break and we will make our investments, bring our projects to life and reach our targets."

Trabzonspor have traditionally been the only club from outside Istanbul to challenge the domination of teams from the mega city, picking up six Turkish league titles.

But the last of those titles dates back to the 1983-84 season and the club has been going through a thin period, currently only standing in 11th place in the league.

Trabzonspor are also known for their fanatical fan base who frequently allege a bias in favour of the Istanbul sides and are proud to be hated by everyone else in Turkey.

Their standout player of all time was Turkish international goalkeeper Senol Gunes who played a role in winning all of its titles, managed Turkey to third place in the 2002 World Cup and is now enjoying success as manager of Besiktas in Istanbul.

There were suggestions that the stadium could be named after Erdogan -- who hails from the nearby Rize region -- but the president confirmed the honour had gone to Gunes.

"We decided to name it Senol Gunes stadium," he said, donning a scarf in the club's claret and blue colours.

The arena is the second major ground opened in Turkey this year after Erdogan also opened Besiktas's new stadium on the shores of the Bosphorus in Istanbul in April.

That was hit by bloodshed earlier this month when a double bombing claimed by Kurdish militants after a game left 44 people dead, mainly police.

Trabzonspor's stadium was packed for the opening ceremony with fans supporting security forces in their fight against militants, with banners like "martyrs never die".