ISTANBUL: England skipper David Beckham revealed on Saturday that the mass brawl which erupted at half-time in the 0-0 Euro 2004 qualifying draw against Turkey was caused by a foul-mouthed tirade by opposing defender Alpay.
“He clipped me around the ear and said something about my mother which upset me,” explained Beckham, who had clashed with the Aston Villa player minutes earlier when he had missed a penalty which would have given England the lead.
The point from the draw was enough to put England into the Finals in Portugal next year as Group 7 winners while Turkey face a play-off.
“The referee took us into his room and told us to shake hands and calm down because the game is much bigger than this. It was a sad thing to happen but these things happen in football.”
Alpay had taunted Beckham when the England star had slipped as he took the penalty.
As the spot-kick sailed over the bar, Alpay mocked the prone Beckham.
“The ground gave way as I took the penalty and I slipped,” said the England captain. “He said something to me but I didn’t take much notice because I was thinking about what had happened.”
Defending his skipper, England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson said: “His left foot slipped, otherwise David Beckham would never put a penalty up there.
“It was a good rugby goal maybe.”
Beckham, who also had a second half headed goal ruled out for offside, said that the draw showed the team had a great spirit after a testing week in which the players threatened to boycott the match over the exclusion of defender Rio Ferdinand for missing a drugs test.
“I think the performance showed our character much more than a 1-0 win would have done, especially in this atmosphere where we had no fans,” said Beckham.
Erikkson paid tribute to his players for keeping their cool in trying circumstances and producing a “marvellous” result.
“I’d like to congratulate the players – after a strange week they showed exactly what we hoped. They played like a team with a lot of experience, they were very calm. I’m very proud.”
The Swede said that despite only needing a point the England players had come to Istanbul seeking outright victory.
“I really don’t care about not winning,” said Eriksson. “We tried to win but it’s the result that counts. But I thought we were a little unlucky especially in the first half where we could have had a couple of goals.”
Eriksson said he “really hoped” he would still be in charge of England at next year’s Finals, despite the persistent rumours linking him with the manager’s job at big-spending Premiership club Chelsea.
“I’m getting a little bit fed up as it seems every time I come out of a room I have to say nothing’s changed,” he said.
“The European Championships are almost as big as the World Cup, it’s one of the biggest sporting events you can get.”
Turkey manager Senol Gunes said: “I believe my team did their best. As far as I am concerned, this match is history and we must look to the future.
“I believe we’ll do well in the playoffs and maybe meet England in Portugal. To be a great team you have to come back from a defeat.”
Turkish midfielder Tugay Kerimoglu added: “We were under a great deal of stress. If you ask me, we played our worst match of the group.” – AFP