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Oct 27, 2005

Tensions rise between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce

ISTANBUL, Oct 27 (Reuters) - With a month to go until their first meeting of the season, tensions between historic rivals Galatasaray and Fenerbahce are hotting up in the Turkish capital.

After 10 games they each have 26 points with an identical goal tally and only alphabetical order puts champions Fenerbahce at the top of the standings.

Fenerbahce's German coach Christoph Daum has played down comments he made about Galatasaray supporters in a German newspaper interview.

'My words were reported incorrectly. I said that we must have a friendly approach towards Galatasaray... But the rivalry on the pitch is different,' he said.

Daum on Thursday praised his side's domestic performances but said the added demands of Champions League football were putting strains on the squad.

'It is a miracle. We have a small squad but we are continuing on our path. We are trying to make the most of the material we have,' he told a news conference.

Galatasaray chairman Ozhan Canaydin has voiced veiled criticism of Fenerbahce, while the club's veteran striker Hakan Sukur has appeared to question the neutrality of the country's referees in a jibe at their Istanbul rivals.

'On one side we have a team which is advancing with the help of referees and on the other side we have Galatasaray which is advancing on its own,' Hakan said on a football television channel.

ANGRY FANS

Despite making a strong start to the domestic season, Galatasaray has incurred the wrath of their fans by exiting the UEFA Cup against Norway's Tromso.

In a sign of discontent with the club's management, fans ripped out hundreds of seats and threw them at the pitch after a 1-1 draw against Denizlispor on Saturday.

In the wake of that match the club's mercurial midfielder Hasan Sas is facing possible punishment by football authorities after allegedly swearing at the referee.

The response of the club's supporters to the team has frustrated Galatasaray's Belgian coach Erik Gerets who bemoaned that only 8,000 fans attended the last game.

'Thankfully it is not the fans who score goals but the players on the pitch. If the fans could score goals, Fenerbahce would always be champions,' he said at a ceremony to collect the coach of the month award.

'Of course we are not exactly where we want to be but we are continuing our work on it at full speed... We are a family here. There may be problems sometimes but they are there to be solved,' he said.

A survey of university students this week illustrated the dominating position of the two clubs in people's affections, along with Istanbul's other major team Besiktas.

It showed 41.1 percent supported Galatasaray, 23.8 percent Fenerbahce and 22.7 percent Besiktas, followed by 4.8 percent for Trabzonspor and just 2.5 percent for other teams, while 5.1 percent supported no team.

Fenerbahce play Gaziantepspor at home on Saturday, while Galatasaray will play away at Genclerbirligi on Sunday.