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Africans Abroad: Kevin-Prince Boateng, Demba Ba in Turkish Super Lig action amid coronavirus blackout

While Europe's five major leagues have all been suspended amidst the ongoing coronavirus, African players were still in action in Turkey -- with Demba Ba and Kevin-Prince Boateng among the stars who took to the field in the Super Lig.

The league proceeded behind closed doors despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with various high-profile African players involved in a fascinating title race, although some are in disagreement as to whether the Turkish Football Federation is right to continue.

Trabzonspor, without a domestic title since 1984, headed into the weekend atop the pile, but their spot came under threat from their visitors, second-placed Istanbul Basaksehir, on Sunday.

Former Chelsea striker Ba drew first blood for Basaksehir, opening the scoring in the 56th minute with a fine finish after being set up by Edin Visca.

Now 34, the evergreen Ba still boasts the unflinching finishing ability that he demonstrated -- at times -- during spells with Newcastle United and West Ham United, and he has now scored six goals from his past seven shots for the title chasers.

The Senegal international, a title winner with Besiktas in 2017, has had a direct hand in 13 goals in his past 10 matches (nine goals, four assists), and may yet prove to be the difference-maker in this year's title race.

However, Trabzonspor's lead lasted only seven minutes at the empty Medical Park Stadium, as ex-Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel clumsily put the ball past his own goalkeeper Fehmi Mert Gunok.

Trabzonspor turned to Senegal's Badou N'Diaye 17 minutes from time, as they sought a winner, while Nigeria's Anthony Nwakaeme, who's on course to enjoy the best season of his career, was withdrawn in stoppage time as the sides shared the spoils.

Nwakaeme, 30, has already scored 10 goals this term -- the same as he managed during the entirety of last season -- but it was his creativity that truly caught the eye against Istanbul BB, with the towering attacker creating five scoring chances for his teammates.

Ghana's Caleb Ekuban was guilty of inaccurate finishing on Trabzonspor's left flank, while another African -- Nigeria's Azubuike Okechukwu -- was introduced by the visitors with 10 minutes to play.

The draw favoured the Black Sea Storm, who remain in top spot by virtue of a superior goal difference, but not everyone in the Trabzonspor ranks was delighted with the victory.

For unused substitute, ex-Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel, the match ought not to have gone ahead, and the former Chelsea midfielder criticised the Turkish officials for allowing the league to continue.

"There is more to life than football," Mikel wrote on his Instagram handle. "I do not feel comfortable and don't want to play football in this situation.

"Everyone should be home with their families and loved ones in this critical time.

"Season should be cancelled as the world is facing such turbulent times."

The comments drew support from former teammates and current pros alike.

"Words of wisdom," Didier Drogba added in the comments section from his official handle, while Galatasaray's Radamel Falcao also supported with the 32-year-old's take.

In Sunday's late kick-off, Champions League hopefuls Galatasaray and Besiktas went head-to-head in the Istanbul Derby, in the disinfected Turk Telekom Stadium, albeit shorn of its chaotic atmosphere due to the ban on supporters.

The two giants played out a 0-0 draw in low-key surroundings, a result that extends Gala's unbeaten streak to 10 games but keeps them three points off the top two, with Besiktas a further six points behind them.

"Football without fans is not football, but more important is that everybody stays safe," ex-Ghana midfielder Boateng wrote on his social media handles.

"Behind closed doors... was a different derby, but we played with pride and strength."

Nigeria's Henry Onyekuru was an ineffectual presence on Galatasaray's left flank, while the hosts' all-African midfield of Jean Seri, Mario Lemina, Younes Belhanda and Sofiane Feghouli struggled to break down the visitors' defensive pairing, which was protected diligently by Arsenal loanee Mohamed Elneny.

Fallen giants Fenerbahce, who found themselves in an unlikely relegation battle last term, were on the losing side at Konyaspor, with Cape Verde winger Garry Rodrigues struggling to make headway in an ill-tempered contest in which he was one of seven players to receive bookings.

Guinea's Bengali-Fode Koita was Africa's star performer of the weekend in the Super Lig, scoring twice for Kasimpasa -- in the second and the 92nd minute -- as they downed Goztepe 2-0 at home.

Seven-goal Koita struggled to impress during a brief stint with Blackburn Rovers, but he served a reminder with his aerial ability and powerful display as to why he remains such a lethal prospect at this level.

Rivalling Koita, Kayserispor's Ghana international Bernard Mensah was one of the star performers for Robert Prosinecki's side on Sunday, contributing a pair of assists -- for Muris Mesanovic and Pedro Henrique -- as the Anatolian Star downed Yeni Malatyaspor 2-1 to boost their hopes of beating the drop.

Mensah also missed a penalty during a display in which he was at the heart of all that was good about Kayserispor's performance; having failed to make the grade at Atletico Madrid, performances like this should help him return to one of Europe's big five league.

In the short-term, his objective is to get the bottom club out of the relegation zone after winning three of their past five matches to move within three points of safety.

"It would have been different if I'd scored the penalty, I'm sorry I couldn't convert it," he said. "In the second half, we fell out of the game, and we have to handle this.

"We made simple errors with passing in the second half, but we won. We'll continue to fight in the remaining matches and we'll collect points in order to stay in the pack."

On Monday evening, Mali's Mustapha Yatabare toiled up top for Sivasspor, failing to add to his 11 league goals this term, as they fell to a 1-0 loss away at Antalyaspor, who extend their undefeated streak to six matches.

Speaking ahead of the match, in contrast to Mikel, the powerful striker offered support for the TFF's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and supported the decision to maintain football.

"For now, there's no problem," he told France Football on Monday. "We'll see in time what's going to happen, and if they'll change their advice. The epidemic is 'calm' for now. There aren't too many cases, apparently there are only five people in quarantine."

It remains to be seen how long the Super Lig can avoid suspension amid the rising number of coronavirus cases in Turkey, but, until the doors close, the division's African stars can continue to thrive with the increased global attention on their league.

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