Soccer fans shower stadium with teddy bears for Turkey’s earthquake victims

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By Amit


Fans at a soccer match in Istanbul threw thousands of soft toys onto the pitch in a bid to send a message to the many children affected by recent deadly earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria.

The shower of giant teddy bears and other animals came during a Turkish super league game between Besiktas and Antalyaspor on Sunday at the city’s Vodafone Park stadium. On social media, many used the hashtag #BuOyuncakSanaArkadasım, meaning, “This toy is for you, my friend,” to share photos and videos of the plush animals raining down.

The arena usually seats 42,000 people. At this particular match, an array of multicolored stuffed animals could be seen in the stands before they were sent flying through the air as music played.

The outpouring of donations came 4 minutes 17 seconds into the match — marking the exact time the first earthquake hit earlier this month: 4:17 a.m.

Among the toys tossed onto the pitch were pink dolls and sparkly unicorns, fluffy rabbits, monkeys, elephants and fish. Some people threw scarves and hats — donations they hoped would keep those displaced by the disaster warm amid harsh winter conditions. The scene was hailed as “incredibly moving” by some who watched footage of the incident online.

More than 47,000 people were killed across Turkey and Syria after two powerful earthquakes — of magnitudes 7.8 and 7.5 — struck on Feb. 6. An estimated 93,000 buildings were entirely or partially destroyed, leaving hundreds of thousands injured, trapped under the rubble or homeless. Across a number of cities in Turkey, residents are still being forced to sleep in cars or tents following what Turkish officials say is the country’s biggest disaster in modern history.

The Turkish government has come under fire in recent weeks for its handling of the crisis, including criticism that the authorities were too slow with initial rescue and relief efforts, and that the state was not adequately prepared for the calamity despite the country’s history of devastating earthquakes.

Critics have also pointed to sub-standard building practices across the country as a factor in the collapse of thousands of buildings in the earthquake zone. Erdogan, who is gearing up for presidential and parliamentary elections in the coming months, has denounced what he has called “negative campaigns” aimed at his government’s efforts, even as he has acknowledged mistakes in the first few days after the earthquakes.

On Monday in Adiyaman, a devastated city, he went further, apologizing to the city’s residents by asking for their “blessing,” using a word that suggested a plea for forgiveness. “Unfortunately, we could not carry out the activity we wanted in Adıyaman for the first few days due to the devastating effect of the tremors, adverse weather conditions, and the difficulties brought by the damaged infrastructure,” he said. “We are aware of everything.”

At Sunday’s soccer game, fans in the stadium chanted for the government to resign, videos showed.

Soccer players and stadium workers on the field picked up the toys as they landed, placing them to one side before applauding the crowd.

In a statement on its website, Besiktas football club thanked fans for taking part in the “meaningful event,” which soccer officials said would “give morale” to the children affected by the deadly earthquakes.

The club said that the event was organized in partnership with Turkish store “Toyzz Shop,” which said on Instagram ahead of the game that all proceeds from soft toys being sold at the stadium would go toward helping earthquake victims.

The earthquake’s widespread destruction, in photos, maps and videos

Kareem Fahim contributed.

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