ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey tried a new approach to curbing crowd violence at soccer games — kick out all the men but let women and children attend for free.
Under new rules approved by Turkey's soccer association, only women and children under 12 will be admitted to games involving teams sanctioned for unruly fan behavior.
On Tuesday, Fenerbahce handed out free tickets and more than 41,000 women and children attended the game against Manisaspor in Istanbul. Women formed long lines around Sukru Saracoglu stadium, some carrying babies in the team's colors, for an opportunity to watch the club.
Before the game, Fenerbahce and Manisaspor players tossed flowers at the fans. The visiting team was greeted with applause, instead of the usual jeering, the Anatolia news agency reported.
"This memory will stay with me forever," Fenerbahce captain Alex de Sousa said. "It's not always that you see so many women and children in one game."
Manisaspor midfielder Omer Aysan added: "It was such a fun and pleasant atmosphere."
The fans were searched by female police officers.
"This really is a historic day," Yasemin Mercil, a female member of Fenerbahce's executive board, said before the game. "For the first time in the world, only women and children will watch a game. The women know all the chants. The same anthems, the same chants will be sung."
In July, Fenerbahce was ordered to play two home games without spectators after its fans stormed the field during an exhibition game against Ukrainian champion Shakhtar Donetsk. Fans also attacked journalists for what they regarded as critical coverage of a match-fixing investigation involving the league champion.
This week, the federation changed its rules to allow women and children at the games.
Fenerbahce President Aziz Yildirim is among 30 suspects detained in the match-fixing case, and the club faces the threat of being stripped of its title and possible relegation. It also lost its chance to play in the Champions League this season.
Some women showed support for Yildirim, wearing T-shirts emblazoned with his photograph.
"We have to thank the ladies for coming to support us," Fenerbahce defender Joseph Yobo told Lig TV. "It's difficult playing without the fans."