In the mixed zone of the Estádio da Luz shortly after Fenerbahçe had played the second leg of their Europa League semi-final against Benfica, a disconsolate Reto Ziegler didn’t hide his emotions from reporters.
“We’re all sad,” he said. “It’s not easy to talk about it.” Fenerbahçe had lost 3-1 on the night and there was considerable regret. “We played two high level matches but we paid for hitting the woodwork three times in the first leg,” Ziegler added.
What if Moussa Sow’s header had gone in off the bar rather than up and over it back in Kadıköy a week earlier? Or Cristian Baroni had converted his penalty instead of striking the post before half-time? And how about that chance for Dirk Kuyt too that came back off the frame of the goal?
These are the questions Fenerbahçe supporters continue to ask themselves. The tie should have been over there and then. They should have been out of sight. Instead, all that separated them from Benfica was an Egemen Korkmaz goal. It wasn’t enough.
After reaching the club’s first-ever European semi-final in their 106-year history, hopes of winning the competition like Galatasaray had done in its forerunner in 2000 were gone. Their rivals would still have that over them—a major continental trophy that, as they never hesitate to remind Fenerbahçe, they followed up with the Super Cup by beating Real Madrid later that year.
On their return from Lisbon, disappointment, you might say, turned to despair. A 2-0 defeat to Istanbul BB, understandable perhaps after the physical and mental toll of playing in the Europa League only three days earlier, afforded Galatasaray the chance to retain their Süper Lig title, which they did with a resounding 4-2 win against Sivasspor.
Selçuk İnan, one of those wonderful playmakers whose talent deserves recognition beyond the Bosphorus, opened the scoring with a right-footed free-kick pitched up and over the wall. A little while later he got himself a second which, as a moment, will become one of those that defines this season in Turkey. Read the rest of this entry »
Update: “Fenerbahce’s Portuguese star Raul Meireles had his 11-match ban for spitting and allegedly making an offensive gesture at a referee reduced to four after a Turkish Football Federation appeal commission ruling.” From the Turkish federation: “As the player carried on talking throughout the entire incident, it would not have been physically possible for him to have spat.”
On Sunday I highlighted Andy Brassell’s piece on the controversy surrounding Raul Meireles’ red card during the Istanbul Derby.
The former Chelsea player accused referee Halis Ozkahya of inventing the accusations — mainly that the midfielder spat on Ozkahya. “It’s unbelievable, a suspension of so many games, and based on the referee’s lies,” Meireles told Lusa, Portugal’s main news agency. “I had access (to the report) and I was reading that he said I spat in his face. It’s a total lie. It also says that I made a gesture to him that meant he was gay.”
The video above documents the incident. Meireles was lucky to escape with just an 11 game ban.
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. Read the rest of this entry »
Alex de Souza pulled out of Fenerbahçe’s Can Bartu training ground in Samandıra for the last time. A 40-minute meeting with coach Aykut Kocaman and his teammates had just taken place. After eight years in Istanbul, the player known as KrAlex or King Alex had said his goodbyes. He had reluctantly agreed to rescind his existing deal with the club.
As rumours spread through Kadıköy that this was the end, a tweet appeared on the timelines of Fenerbahçe supporters. It was from Alex. “My contract with Fenerbahçe has come to an end,” he wrote. “It was the saddest signature of my life. Fenerbahçe have lost a player but they have won a fan. Thanks for everything.”
The message was retweeted 53,000 times, a record for Twitter in Turkey. Coincidentally, the figure was almost identical to the capacity of Fenerbahçe’s Şükrü Saracoğlu stadium.
Everyone was aghast. Only two weeks earlier, a statue had been unveiled in his honour in Yoğurtçu Park. Addressing the thousands of supporters in attendance, Alex, standing with his hands on a lectern and a Fenerbahçe scarf around his neck, broke down in tears.
The gesture meant a lot to him. Situated close by another statue, that of Lefter Küçükandonyadis, a player widely considered along with Can Bartu, as Fenerbahçe’s greatest ever, there could be no higher recognition than to be thought of in his company. Read the rest of this entry »
Dirk Kuyt walks out of the tunnel at the Şükrü Saracoğlu stadium into the blinding light of the midday sun. Once his eyes have adjusted, they fall upon the yellow and blue stand opposite where more than 10,000 supporters of Fenerbahçe have gathered to welcome him.
Kuyt had already met a number of them at Rotterdam airport. No sooner had he got out of his car before catching a flight to Istanbul than he was affably shaking hands with Fenerbahçe fans. Once there for his medical, he signed shirts and smiled for photographs with the Fenerbahçe-supporting doctors, obligingly holding up a message to one of the staff’s sons so that he could show it off to his friends at school. “I have come to realise just how big this club is,” Kuyt said.
As he walked across the pitch towards the stage where he was due to publicly sign a three-year contract worth a reported €2.85m a season, a chant of “Kuyt, Kuyt, Kuyt, Olé, Olé, Olé” reverberated around the ground. Scarf around his neck, clapping the fans, his first act was to pay tribute to Turkish soldiers killed earlier in the week.
After a minute’s silence, Kuyt sat down, lent over the microphone and said: “Hello Fenerbahçe” in Turkish. He then thanked everyone for coming, expressed his wish to win a lot of trophies and become part of the club’s history. Kuyt concluded by having another go in the language of his adopted country: “It’s an honor to be a part of Fenerbahçe.” Read the rest of this entry »