Jan 19, 2008

Australian Open 2008: Marcos Baghdatis in anti-Turks row

Probably this is one of the most controversial Grand Slam ever. Earlier of the week, we heard about clash between the police and some spectators who appears to be Greek supporters. Then Sania Mirza was accused of being disrespect to her national flag.

And now, Marcos Baghdatis who has just beaten Marat Safin, has landed himself in a bigger mess. He has been accused of being racist.

Want a kiss? I think people want him out instead.

Marcos Baghdatis has appeared in a YouTube video showed the Cypriot socializing with a group of Greek supporters called Hellas Fan Club (HFC). In the video, Baghdatis was holding a red flare above his head and chanting anti-Turkish slogans with others.

Baghdatis' home island of Cyprus has been a flashpoint for ethnic tensions since winning independence from Britain in 1960. Turkey invaded and occupied part of the island in 1974 in the wake of an attempted coup by Greek Cypriots.

Baghdatis said he just wanted the matter to go away.

"There has been a lot of coverage of me appearing in a video on youtube.com," he said in a statement.

"In that video from 2007, I was supporting the interest of my country, Cyprus, while protesting against a situation that is not recognised by the United Nations.

"Now I would like to concentrate on the tournament and ask everyone to respect that. I love the Australian Open and want to do well here."

The Hellas Fan Club, which is part of a worldwide network of supporters of Hellenic athletes, said the slogans chanted had been misconstrued.

"The 'Turks out of Cyprus' chant is directed towards the well documented illegal occupation of Cyprus, and is not directed towards citizens of the Turkish ethnic minority," it said in a statement.

Earlier in the tournament, Baghdatis defended the Greek supporters involved in the ugly scenes this week during a match between Chilean Fernando Gonzalez and Konstantinos Economidis of Greece.

The Australian Turkish Cypriot Cultural and Welfare Association on Friday demanded an apology from Baghdatis.

"This is a straight-forward provocation of our community and he is playing a different game to sport, he is not being a sportsman and should apologise," president Hakki Suleyman told reporters.

Baghdatis is scheduled to play Australian Lleyton Hewitt today.

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