Sexist remarks by Turkish football pundit trigger social media backlash

Sexist comments made by the Turkish football television pundit Melih Şendil have drawn an angry response on social media, BBC Turkish reported on Saturday.

While commenting for beIN sports channel on the Manchester City v Real Madrid Champions League match played on Friday night, Şendil said that he did not like the pink jersey that Real Madrid’s players were wearing and said he believed football was not for women.

“Football is such a patriarchal game, playing volleyball for example suits women very well, but my personal opinion is that women should not be in football. I think basketball is also a man’s game,” he said.

"If I were president, I would never wear a pink shirt,” he added.

The remarks triggered criticism on Twitter. 

“Our young girls, who dream of becoming professional football players and basketball players, will think once again about what they will face on their way to becoming athletes when they come across Melih Bey's words,” Twitter user Mustafa Özdemir said.

"If you change your patriarchal mindset, you will see that sports, strength and colours do not have genders," Buket Özcan said.

Journalist Kenan Başaran said the comments came just as many women’s rights activists are struggling to prevent Turkey withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention on violence against women.

Başaran suggested that beIN make Şendil wear a pink shirt. "He will see that he will not lose anything from his manhood. Such sexism for a person in this position."

Lawyer Gürkan Özocak said that it was Şendil, rather than football that was patriarchal as women in Turkey and across the world lived their lives through sports: "Keep your mediocre 'ideas' to yourself!"

"Fortunately, he's not the president" journalist and women's rights activist Melis Alphan said. She lamented that women are always being told what they can and cannot do, and shared a post about a women's team in the eastern Trkish city of Malatya that was defying gender stereotypes.

In a statement, beIN Sports said it condemned Şendil’s comments. "These comments were extremely insulting and absolutely unacceptable,” it said.

The channel said they would “urgently take all kinds of measures to avoid such a situation again,” without going into detail.