Let’s be honest here. The control of one’s emotions isn’t a character trait often associated with Felipe Melo. Try as he may he just can’t keep whatever it is inside within. Suppressing an urge is not his forte.
And so, around half an hour after Sunday night’s Kıtalar Arası or Intercontinental derby with Fenerbahçe, the Galatasaray midfielder, probably sat in the dressing room at the Türk Telekom Arena, reaches for his phone and composes a tweet for his 700,000 or so followers.
Not for the first time, Melo showed that the No.10 shirt he wears stands more for mischief or troublemaker than it ever will for playmaker. All 140 characters available to him were simply used like this: “Hahahahahahaha.”
This was trolling of the highest order. Galatasaray had beaten their biggest rivals 2-1 and Melo couldn’t resist rubbing it in. He couldn’t help himself. It was retweeted 21,274 times and, after the events of last month when he pulled on the gloves of sent off goalkeeper Fernando Muslera and saved a last minute penalty against Elazigspor to secure a 1-0 win for Galatasaray, it only added to his cult status at the club.
Melo knows how to play to an audience. He knows how to work a crowd to say nothing of winding it up too. For Galatasaray supporters, and in particular the ultrAslan, he is as good as one of them on the pitch. Not that they didn’t play their own part on Sunday.
Once again, a huge choreography was organised to rival that put on earlier in the spring before the derby against Besiktas when, with the Braveheart soundtrack playing in the background, the figure of Fatih Terim was shown indicating ‘The Way’ for Galatasaray players to follow.
This time, a Lion, the club’s symbol, rose up from the crowd holding a trophy, accompanied by a despairing Fenerbahçe player, thought to be the dearly missed Alex, behind a burning Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium. A banner unfurled beforehand read: “Everything can be forgotten, just distant memories remain but every MAY reminds you of us.”
It was of course a reference to their last meeting in the Süper Lig back in—you guessed it—May, when a decider ended in a stalemate at Fenerbahçe’s ground, but was enough to ensure Galatasaray won the league for the first time in four years, making it 18 titles a piece and on the final day, edging them at the last just like they had in 2005-06 too.
Fenerbahçe supporters reacted by tearing up seats, invading the pitch and clashing with police like they had done in 2010 when a draw with Trabzonspor so traumatically handed the title to Bursaspor. On that occasion sections of the Şükrü Saracoğlu were set alight in fury.
The outcome of last season’s Süper Lig championship play-offs was destined to become part of derby lore, something for Galatasaray to hurt Fenerbahçe with, just as Fenerbahçe never tire of bringing up that 6-0 beating they gave Galatasaray, despite famously being down to 10-men for much of it, in 2002.
Galatasaray needed something to shout about again. For the derby has been fairly one-sided over the last decade, celebrated more in Kadıköy in the East rather than Galata in the West of Istanbul. Until last season, Fenerbahçe had only lost to Galatasaray in six of their last 21 encounters.
Since then, however, they have won just one of the last four. A power shift from one shore of the Bosphorus to the other is discernible. And it has coincided with the return of the Emperor, Fatih Terim, for a third spell at the helm of Galatasaray.
A new cycle appears to have begun. The draw, which felt so much like a win in May, was followed by a 3-2 triumph in the Turkish Super Cup in August and Sunday’s meeting had a context all of its own.
Win and Galatasaray would go five points clear. Lose and Fenerbahçe, heading into the game only two points behind, would leapfrog their rivals at the top of the table. Early in the season, though it is, this was a game not without significance. But of course how could a derby between these two ever not be?
“Winning these games means more than three points,” Terim said. “When you lose, you lose your morale as well.”
The latest edition certainly didn’t disappoint. Curiously it was the oft-forgotten former Liverpool winger Albert Riera, now playing out of position and rather awkwardly it must be said at full-back, who was its chief protagonist, at least early on.
A curling delivery from a free-kick of his was headed in for an own-goal by Fenerbahçe defender Bekir İrtegün in the 10th minute. A week ago he’d scored the winner for his team against Istanbul BB and received a kiss smack on the lips from a fan. Now what might he expect? A slap instead?
Riera, however, offered Fenerbahçe a lifeline with a poor clearance shortly afterwards and Hasan Ali Kaldırım grabbed it, hooking a low shot from outside the box inside Muslera’s near post to make it 1-1.
Then, in the 36th minute, came the decisive moment of the match. Selçuk İnan stood over a Galatasaray free-kick. As he went to strike the ball Fenerbahçe goalkeeper Volkan Demirel moved a step to his left. It would prove to be a fatal error.
“I made a mistake,” Volkan admitted afterwards. “There’s nothing more to say about it. I’m just sorry.” He’d gone the wrong way and was caught flat-footed. The shot went to his right and Selçuk wheeled away in celebration. “My mother told me before the match that I would score a free-kick,” he later revealed. “I also scored the winning goal. I’m very happy.”
Fenerbahçe endeavoured to get back into it. Alas their efforts were to no avail. Terim, taking off striker Umut Bulut for midfielder Yekta Kurtuluş, and switching from 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 managed to stifle his opponents. Raul Meireles’s sending off for a second bookable offence in the 82nd minute, all but ended Fenerbahçe’s hopes of getting a result.
“We allowed two goals from two dead balls, two free-kicks,” lamented coach Aykut Kocaman afterwards. “The second half was not productive, neither for us, nor for the game of football. And the opposition’s attempts to kill off the game played it’s part. We just couldn’t find the rhythm to get us the equaliser.”
The night belonged to Galatasaray and above all to Selçuk. Breakfast at the club’s Florya training ground on Monday saw him served with a pide, a Turkish flatbread.
Victory in the Kıtalar Arası Derbi, it seems, can be savoury as well as sweet. And one thing’s for certain: it’s always tasty.