Pride, passion and fascinating stories from Asia Minor
Lights, camera, action! Amid a haze of uncertainty, the Turkish Super Lig finally got underway last weekend.
Far from the usual fanfare of expectation, this season looks set to chug along like a steam train carrying the dark burden of the summer’s match fixing scandal.
While it may have looked like a smooth start on the outside - something the TFF will have been praying to the high heavens for - the underlying problems were still evident as if merely painted over with the finest coats.
The sight of the Fenerbahce team taking to the pitch ahead of their win over Orduspor wearing t-shirts displaying the face of Aziz Yildirim was a sharp reminder to the country that the war was far from over. It was very much ‘us against the World’, as far as Fenerbahce were concerned.
It can be said that historically Fenerbahce have always considered themselves the outcasts. The team everybody wants to see fail. And in truth, they probably are exactly that. This time around though, they will find few people willing to show them any sympathy.
If, as reports suggest will happen, the club are indeed found guilty of any wrong doing, they could still be relegated at the end of next season having already been expelled from this season’s Champions League.
Of course the Fenerbahce board have had a relegation request turned down by the Turkish Football Federation. The general belief is that this was an attempt to get their punishment over and done with as soon as possible.
Nonetheless, the reality is they are still in trouble, and more worrying for the club is the potential mass exodus that could occur next summer if the club are demoted.
Already the likes of Andre Santos, Diego Lugano and Mamadou Niang have gone and very few of the current squad would stick around for another season without the lure of European football.Keeping hold of the Turkish contingent was key this summer. Holding on to them next year will be a very tough task.
Gokhan Gonul, arguably the best player in the league, was subject to a bid from Valencia and, given that he has now signed with agent Jorge Mendes – the man partly responsible for Arda Turan’s move to Atletico Madrid – this is unlikely to be the last we hear of a potential move to La Liga.
If Fener have anything to fall back on, it is their fan base. Monday’s match was played in an empty stadium but the noise of the thousands of fans who gathered outside was easy to hear on TV.The t-shirts may have been able to hide the scars of the summer, but the wounds underneath will be lingering for a long time to come.
If there is one thing this summer has taught us, it is to expect the unexpected.
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