The day is April 15, 2012 during a game between Didier Zokora’s Trabzonspor and Emery Belözoğlu’s Fenerbahce.
A feisty fixture at the best of times, this tie was no different, as both sides exchanged heavy tackles, dirty looks, grim thoughts of ill will and – in one unfortunate instance at least – racist language.
That language came from the mouth of Fenerbahce midfielder and ex-Inter Milan man Emre, a general bastard with scraggy Hobbit hair who spent his career veering wildly from pieces of sumptuous play to unnecessary acts of aggression.
In a video viewed millions of times online, Emre hacks at a Trabzonspor player and can be seen mouthing the aforementioned alleged racist abuse at Zokora, something Zokora himself later confirmed.
He uttered the words directly in front of the referee, who then reported him to officials.
Now while one may have expected a hefty fine and ban for Emre, that’s not how things played out.
Instead, he was banned for two games, roughly what you’d get for a straight red card or for calling the referee a gormless prick. Emre got off easy.
He would, two years later, receive a suspended prison sentence of two-and-a-half months, but at the time he was left to chill at home for a few weeks, unaware of what was coming on the horizon.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and, as fate would have it, the two sides faced each other again.
The atmosphere was prickly from the beginning – as it tends to be between two teams that truly fucking hate each other for no reason other than the fact that historically they truly fucking hate each other, like elderly brothers who have forgotten why they began arguing 60 years ago.
The first signs of some kind of conflict were clear when Zokora refused to shake Emre’s hand when the teams entered the pitch. Rude.
The tension was clear and Zokora’s eyes suggested the intensity and purpose within, but few could have foreseen the events which were about to unfold. Namely the forceful kick in the balls he was about to hand out.
As the match progressed, it became clearer to those watching that revenge – rather than victory – was the key motivation for Trabzonspor’s players as they rallied around their teammate.
From first to last whistle, Emre was booted from pillar to post, getting lumped into the air by a group of players who quite clearly, and rather beautifully, had their man’s back.
But these kicks were merely the amuse bouche ahead of the main event.
And then it happened; Emre received the ball and, presumably against his better judgement, decided to do something with it. Unfortunately for him, the man running towards him was none other than Zokora, who would have his vengeance.
Time stood still as Emre braced for impact, for the swift leg of justice he no doubt deserved for his despicable behaviour in the previous meeting.
“Why get one ball when you can go for two?” was presumably Zokora’s reasoning.
As Emre writhed in agony, he must have known deep down that he had been paid his dues. Zokora knew it too.
After the act he stood there, surveying the scene and looming over Emre, proudly admiring his work like Michaelangelo would have if he’d painted the floor of the Sistine Chapel rather than the ceiling.
This moment continues to live long in the collective football memory. It was not world-changing – racism still blights the game we love dearly – but it was spectacular retribution, meted out in the most brutal beauty.
Didier Zokora did not succeed in kicking racism out of football that day, but he did – quite firmly – kick it square in the balls.
Watch the video below.
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