The Fall and Rise of Turkey’s Elite
To most of us in the UK, especially up to and including the 1990s, there is one football team who have been seen stereotypically and perhaps rather unfairly, as being synonymous with kebab shop and restaurant owners.
Memories of hunger pangs after exiting the local pub late on a Friday night are largely responsible for this image. However, it is one that now although isn’t that long ago, seems very distant and outdated. Indeed, because of the emergence and aspiration of Turkish footballing giants Galatasaray this season, that image is fast becoming a very different one.
Prior to the successful team that was led by current manager Fatih Terim (1996-2000), the clubs status on the European stage at least, certainly wasn’t a very bright one; albeit the only highlight of note up to this point was the reception Man Utd players received from fanatical supporters at the clubs old stadium in a Champion’s League group match in 1994.
With the UEFA cup victory over Arsenal in 2000, many pundits predicted an era of Turkish dominance – what with neighbours Fenerbache and Beskitas also coming to fore at that time.
History has since proven that this struck match would not ignite into a full blown flame. As a consequence, Galatasaray have since been quietly going about their business by looking for a magic formula. One which can potentially see them line up against Europe’s elite once more.
With a five point lead over Beskitas in the Turkish Ligue and a recent dramatic advance over FC Schalke to the Champions League Quarter-Final, one could argue that we may be witness to such a colourful era once more. The club do have many reasons to be confident when you look at the multi-national squad that has been almost discreetly and cleverly assembled.
Former African Premier League stars Didier Drogba and Emmanuel Eboue can now be seen rubbing shoulders with ex-Inter Milan and Holland superstar Wesley Sneijder. Also added to that roster are Finland’s Johan Elmander and Spain’s Albert Riera, who were both last seen on British shores in the colours of Bolton and Liverpool Respectively.
The remainder of the squad is filled is with faces who are more familiar to Turkish audiences such as Hamit Altintop and Aydin Yilmaz, but one can see quite obviously that Terim (whose nickname in Turkey is ‘Imparator’ – meaning ‘The Emperor’ in English) is keen to resurrect the fortunes of Turkeys most famous export.
Should he manage to lure the services of two or three more big names to the Turk Telecom Arena this coming summer, the current European establishment may well want to give a quizzical glance over their shoulder.
They would also do well to heed the original objective of the clubs founder in 1907 – Mr Ali Sami Yen:
“To play like the British in a team, with colours and a name of our own. To beat non-Turkish teams”