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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Baghdatis hits back over YouTube row ]

Baghdatis hits back over YouTube row

Video showed Marcos chanting anti-Turkish slogans.

MARCOS Baghdatis defended his actions yesterday after being captured on video chanting anti-Turkish slogans with the Greek supporters’ group involved in a clash with police at the Australian Open.

Videos circulating on the internet show the Greek Cypriot tennis star holding a flare and chanting, “Turks out of Cyprus” at a barbeque hosted by the Hellas Fan Club after he was knocked out of last year’s tournament.

Members of the group were involved in a row at Melbourne Park on Tuesday that led to police using pepper spray to subdue rowdy fans, with ten people ejected and three arrested.

Baghdatis was shown with the alleged ringleader of Tuesday’s trouble, who has been banned from the rest of the tournament and is expected to be charged with assaulting police and resisting arrest.

In one video, the world number 16 holds a burning flare above his head and joins a chant with others condemning the 1974 Turkish invasion.

“Turks out of Cyprus,” the group chants twice, after singing the Greek national anthem, the Melbourne Age reported.

The video was shot last year and surfaced on YouTube.

According to the AFP wire service, its emergence comes at a sensitive time for the Australian Open, which has recently seen ethnic rivalry surface in crowd trouble. In a statement yesterday, Baghdatis offered no apology.

“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,” he said.

“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 Greek 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.

But Australian Turkish Cypriot Cultural and Welfare Association president Hakki Suleyman accused Baghdatis of a racist attack and demanded an apology.

Suleyman said his association would write to Tennis Australia, the State Government and other organisations calling for Baghdatis to be expelled from the Australian Open and the country for abusing his position.

“When you become a professional sportsman you have to be careful about what you are saying and it doesn’t matter where you are, you are followed and it can be used against you,” he said.

Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria director Bill Papastergiadis denied the chants were racist and said the call for Turks to leave Cyprus was in line with a UN resolution.

“It’s not exactly expressing a view which doesn’t conform with the resolution or with the general global view of that incident,” Papastergiadis told

And Suat Yilmaz, secretary of the Australian Turkish Cultural Association, believes members of his community will ignore Baghdatis’ behaviour.

“I don’t think there will be a bad reaction form our community – people will ignore him,” Yilmaz stated.

“But in any community there are stupid people. Baghdatis should not mix sport with politics.”

Yilmaz even said he has seen Turkish fans with a Cypriot background at the tennis supporting Baghdatis.

“That’s normal – he is a young man from the Mediterranean and we support them.”

The Association of Tennis Professionals is meeting Baghdatis’ management to discuss the issue.

The 22-year-old is scheduled to play home favourite Lleyton Hewitt in a mouth-watering third-round clash this lunchtime.

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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