Players voice concerns over coronavirus as Turkish sports play on

Sport stars in Turkey are increasingly speaking out in concern as the Turkish professional football and basketball leagues play on despite fears over the spread of coronavirus, said the Washington Post on Wednesday. 

The former Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel, who joined Turkish club Trabzonspor last summer, expressed his concerns that the league had not been suspended in an Instagram post on Sunday.

“There is more to life than football. I do not feel comfortable and don’t want to play football in this situation. Everyone should be home with their families and loved ones in this critical time. Season should be cancelled as the world is facing such turbulent times,” said Mikel.

On Tuesday the club announced that Trabzonspor and Mikel had mutually agreed to terminate his contract.

Bernard Mensah, a Ghanaian midfielder who plays for Kayserispor, also questioned why the Turkish Super Lig was still playing in a Tweet on Tuesday.

Most professional football leagues across Europe have been suspended in recent weeks following the coronavirus outbreak. While spectators have been barred from Turkish stadiums, the league is still being played behind closed doors.

Turkish Football Federation President Nihat Özdemir on Tuesday reiterated that professional matches in Turkey will continue without spectators through the end of April.

Turkey’s professional basketball league is also playing on without spectators.

The American star Shane Larkin - the 18th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, who now plays for Anadulu Efes - expressed concern on Twitter last Friday over the continuation of the league.  

“In no way do I mean any disrespect to any of the decision makers that are responsible for handling this corona virus pandemic, but I do not understand why the Turkish League is continuing to play when every other league in the world is either suspended or cancelled,” he wrote. “I understand playing games behind closed doors makes things somewhat safer but that is NOT safe enough.”

Turkey's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Wednesday the country’s second death from coronavirus and reported 93 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number to 191.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday advised the country to stay at home unless absolutely necessary for at least three weeks, while announcing a 100 billion lira ($15.4 billion) package to support the economy and lessen the fallout from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Turkey has stepped up measures to contain the virus, including closing cafes, banning mass prayers, and halting flights to 20 countries.