Turkish soccer club manager says team doing poorly since it fired star Israeli player

Antalyaspor, which released Israeli player Sagiv Jehezkel following his tribute to hostages held in Gaza, is currently facing a crisis in the Turkish league; Team manager Sergen Yalçın attributes this poor showing to his departure.
"Sagiv Jehezkel's departure has left Antalyaspor in a difficult position," says the struggling Turkish soccer club a month and a half after a storm of controversy surrounding the Israeli player. Since a draw against Trabzonspor, which was the Israeli player's last game for the team, Antalyaspor has only managed one win in eight matches. This disappointing run includes three draws and four losses, one of which saw them knocked out of contention for the championship cup at home by Beşiktaş.
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Manager Sergen Yalçın attributes the squad's current situation to the decision to release Jehezkel. "This event touched sensitive points for the Turkish people," Yalçın said, referring to Jehezkel's gesture of support for Israelis held hostage by Hamas. "Our behavior was correct, and we did what we needed to do in his case. But, in fact, we released our best player and couldn't replace him. The union should have helped us in this situation. We're now left without a right winger and are facing difficulties as a result."
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שחקן אנטליהספור שגיב יחזקאל עם מחוה לחטופים
שחקן אנטליהספור שגיב יחזקאל עם מחוה לחטופים
Jehezkel and the gesture that caused a storm
(Photo: Antalyaspor official website)
At the beginning of the week, Sinan Boztepe, the president of Antalyaspor, suggested that his team could have managed the Sagiv Jehezkel case more effectively, especially regarding their public statements. He cited Basaksehir's handling of a similar incident – when Eden Kartsev left the team after expressing support for the hostages on social media – as a model approach.
"Basaksehir's statements were much more professional," Boztepe commented in an interview broadcast on Turkish television. "They stated it would be better for everyone if their Israeli player transferred to a foreign team. Both incidents were similar, yet each club managed it differently."
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Sagiv Jehezkel
(Photo: Oz Mualem)
Last week, Jehezkel lodged a complaint against Antalyaspor with FIFA, following the club's behavior toward him, Ynet first reported. The player insisted that the team pay the remainder of his contract, a net salary of $1.24 million. Jehezkel also sought damages for the emotional and reputational harm he suffered, attributing it to the club's "cruel and offensive conduct."
Parallel to the financial lawsuit filed with FIFA, Jehezkel intends to return to the game. For this, he requires special permission from FIFA since their guidelines allow a player to represent only two clubs in a single season, and he has already played for both Hapoel Be'er Sheva and Antalyaspor. If Jehezkel secures the approval, Maccabi Tel Aviv will execute the agreement already established with him – a three-season contract with an annual salary of more than $596,000.
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