FOOTBALL IS, understandably, not a big priority in at present, following the huge earthquake which devastated much of the north-west of the country last week.
The Turkish Football Federation has postponed all league matches until mid-September as a mark of respect for the 12,000 people so far known to have died in the earthquake. The season will now resume on 10 September, but it may be longer before clubs such as the First Division side Kocaelispor, whose stadium is in the city of Izmit, near the epicentre of the earthquake, are able to stage home games.
One top Turkish club will be in action tomorrow, though. Galatasaray, who are based on the Asian side of Istanbul, will play Rapid Vienna in a Champions' League qualifier.
The Austrian team, who trail 3-0 from the first leg, had asked Uefa, European football's ruling body, to postpone the match, in view of the emergency situation in . However, after consulting Turkish political and football authorities, Uefa noted that Turkish league matches "have been called off for humanitarian aspects, and not for security reasons," and that Istanbul airport is fully operational. The fixture will take place as scheduled in the Ali Sami Yen stadium.
Galatasaray's players have been based at a training camp on the south coast, away from the quake zone around Istanbul. "My players cannot concentrate on a match after such a disaster," the coach, Fatih Terim, said, but he added that he supported the decision to stage the game tomorrow.
ATLETICO MADRID suffered an embarrassing setback in their first game of the new Spanish League season on Sunday. They were beaten 2-0 at home by the newly-promoted Madrid club, Rayo Vallecano.
Atletico's new Dutch striker, the former Leeds United player Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, was a bustling presence up front but rarely threatened in the danger area. Whenever he had a clear chance, he reportedly shot straight at Vallecano's debutant goalkeeper Kasey Keller, the American international who left Leicester City in the summer.
The champions, Barcelona, launched their defence of the title with a 2-0 home win over Real Zaragoza.
IGOR SHALIMOV, Napoli's Russian international midfielder, has tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid, nandrolone, and has been suspended from Italian football, the country's Football League revealed yesterday.
Shalimov failed a drug test after a Serie B match between Napoli and Lecce on 16 May. The former Spartak Moscow and Internazionale player has been suspended as a cautionary measure.
Shalimov, 30, made his debut for Spartak Moscow in 1986. In 1991 he moved to Italy where he joined Foggia, then in Serie A. He went to Inter a year later and after two seasons at San Siro was sold to Germany's MSV Duisburg and Switzerland's Lugano. He returned to Italy in 1995 and played for Udinese and Bologna before joining Napoli last season. He made his international debut for the Soviet Union in 1990 and later played for Russia.