(WFI) FIFA director of security Ralf Mutschke claims the U-20 World Cup in Turkey kicking off on Friday will not be adversely impacted by the ongoing protests in Istanbul.
The former INTERPOL director met with vice governor of Istanbul Aziz Mercan and Erdem Iren, a sports division police representative today. They reassured him that the sometimes violent protests would not affect the competition.
“The overall message from the governor is Istanbul and Turkey are safe and they envisage no problems,” Mutschke was quoted on FIFA.com.
“I raised the concerns from FIFA regarding the security of [our headquarters in Istanbul] and the tournament in particular and discussed the possible impacts of the demonstrations which we have witnessed over the past few days, as well as the police reaction.
Mutschke said the vice governor “was very open with us and he understood our concerns. He ensured us that there is no security risk for the HQ which, from what I have seen, I would agree with.”
Some of the fiercest clashes between police and protesters were seen over the weekend and through Monday after prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered a crackdown on demonstrators. Police fired teargas and water cannons to clear thousands of people from Taksim Square.
Mutschke said FIFA would monitor the protests and work closely with law enforcement authorities through the duration of the 21 June-13 July tournament that is spread across seven host cities.
He added: “It’s good we had the opportunity to raise our concerns, I believe they took it seriously and we agreed that they are going to inform us about any change in their threat assessment to the competition or the HQ.”
FIFA said the matches were not believed to be at risk from the protests, nor the hotels occupied by team members or FIFA staff. No demonstrations are believed to be planned for the stadiums themselves.
Galatasaray SK’s stadium will host games in Istanbul.
“Regarding the tournament, the protesters are not targeting the competition, so it is not an issue. All intelligence the governor has is telling us that there will be no problems in the stadiums, and that is also in line with our assessment from a security point of view,” he said.
FIFA said assurances were also provided that policing of the events and transport systems would operate as normal.
By INSIDER’s Mark Bisson
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