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Turkish Police Arrest Dozens in Football Fixing Probe

Turkish police have arrested scores of people in connection with a Europe-wide football match-fixing scandal that began four months ago in Germany.

The scandal is dominating the news in Turkey, pushing aside ongoing judicial and political crises.

The arrests were made in 26 towns and cities across the country. Some of those detained are household names in Turkey where football is fanatically followed by tens of millions.

One of those arrested is former international star Arif Erdem, who shot to fame in the 2000 European football championship by scoring the fastest international hat trick. He is seen as the most significant arrest in Turkey's match-fixing investigation.

Erdem is now coach of a first-division team, and denies involvement in the scandal.

He says he has nothing to do with the accusations and has nothing to hide. Erdem said because his name is included in the investigation he turned himself into authorities. He thanked the police for his treatment and said he spent the night helping them with the inquiry.

The investigation is the biggest of its kind in Turkey. It was prompted after German police said four months ago they had broken the world's biggest match-fixing conspiracy. German investigators believe 200 matches in 11 countries were fixed by players and referees.

But the Turkish Football Federation said these arrests are not related to the German investigation. This latest inquiry is suspected to involve as many 30 Turkish games. While most of the games are believed to involve lower-league games, the arrest of a coach from the first division is fueling allegations the scandal could implicate some of the country's most prestigious teams.

Football is big business in Turkey, with the top 20 teams earning $6 billion last season.

On the streets of Istanbul there is shock and resignation. "We loved them actually they were famous players, we did not think that they could do this. We are shocked. But it has happened. But it must be good actually in the end, because the guilties must be punished," one person said.

Another added "Because this is Turkey, it is very normal, because we have corruption everywhere. When I saw it on TV, I said it is very normal that they are also fixing the games. They are fixing everything in Turkey, there is so much corruption."

Rumors of match fixing are frequently heard with claims that clubs or referees threw games, but are usually dismissed as sour grapes from losing supporters. With so many arrests and more expected, any supporters' claim of vindication will be overshadowed by the realization the nation's favorite game may have fallen victim to the scourge of corruption.