Spor Toto Super League standings

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Turkey’s Hiddink Dilemma

Going into the Turkish national team match against Belgium this past Friday, much of the speculation was on how the Turks would do against Belgium. Turkey needed maximum points against the Belgians in order to consolidate second position in Group A of the Euro 2012 qualifiers. With Belgium to play three matches after their match against Turkey, and with Turkey having four matches left after the match against Belgium, the Turks needed maximum points. However, a draw away in the Roi Badouin stadium in Brussels wouldn't spell the end of the world for Turkey.

Turkey would get exactly that result in Brussels. In the fourth minute, a costly mistake from starting left back Caglar Birinci led to Belgium's first goal. Marvin Ogunjimi made the Turks pay for an egregious mistake in the defense by giving Belgium the 1-0 lead. Turkey did equalize in the 22nd minute, as Arda Turan got behind the defense of Belgium, and passed the ball back to Burak Yilmaz to have him tie the match. Belgium would then take over the rest of the match. Turkey almost suffered a nightmare in the 75th minute, when a penalty was called against them. Axel Witsel put the resulting penalty over the crossbar and Turkey and Belgium tied 1-1.

So Turkey did not get the necessary result, but got a result that doesn't spell elimination from Euro 2012 qualification. However, there was also speculation of a different kind for Turkey. Speculation that head coach Guus Hiddink moving to Chelsea as either their head coach or sporting director, depending on what rumors one has read, hounded Turkey before, during, and after the match against Belgium. Hiddink had come out on the %100 Futbol (100% Football) program on Turkish channel NTV and denied the possibility of him joining Chelsea. However speculation still remained on whether Hiddink would stay with Turkey or take a job with Chelsea.

Even the Turkish Football Federation became unsure of whether Hiddink would remain as head coach. TFF spokesman Turker Tozar said that Hiddink has not said anything concrete as to whether he will remain as Turkish national team head coach. Hiddink was also elusive when asked whether he would coach Turkey against after the match against Belgium, completely avoiding answering that question. Naturally this raised the ire of Turkish national team fans. Many of them would like to see the back of Hiddink and have him quit. Even with a hard earned draw against Belgium, Turkish fans are starting to call for Hiddink to leave. Even a Twitter account under the handle "@hiddinkistifa" or Hiddink resign has been created. But even if Hiddink were to leave at this very moment, it would create far more problems for Turkey than solutions.

How that is possible one may ask? For one, a new coach will have to adjust quickly as the next qualifier is in September. Another thing is that the new coach will immediately be pressured to produce results, and many of the potential candidates are not ready for such a job. If Hiddink were to take a dual role as Turkish national team head coach and Chelsea sporting director for example, he can still produce for the national team and help out Chelsea as well. This is a situation similar to the one he had a few years ago, when he was Russian national team head coach and Chelsea manager simultaneously. Most likely, this will be the situation that will manifest itself over the next few weeks.

Many Turkish fans are complaining about Hiddink's selections and basically have thought of him as a fraud. This is an example of the knee-jerk mentality that Turkish fans have become famous, or infamous, for. The selections though seem not to be coming from Hiddink. Assistant coach Oguz Cetin, a holdover from Fatih Terim's reign as Turkish national team head coach, seems to have influence over the selections. One such selection is that of Colin-Kazim Richards, who has not found his previous form with Galatasaray after transferring to the club this past winter. Another selection that can be argued as a Cetin-influenced selection is that of Selcuk Sahin, who started the match against Belgium, and has never been considered close to average, much less a good player. It seems that the Turkish national team is becoming more of a "good ol' boys" club rather than the best players available in Turkey or who are Turkish, but born outside of Turkey.

As for thinking of Hiddink as a fraud, that is complete bunk. Hiddink has had success wherever he has gone, his reign as Fenerbahçe head coach aside. With the mentality that Turkish fans have, they really don't deserve an established manager like Hiddink. Fans have clamored for change under the Hiddink regime, but when change comes, they complain about why certain players aren't selected. An example of this is Ersun Yanal, former head coach of Gençlerbirliği, Ankaragücü, and Turkey (during the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign). Yanal once left off Hakan Sukur off a national team roster, and many fans were complaining about why Sukur wasn't taken on the roster. Even if Hiddink were to make a complete overhaul of the Turkish national team roster within the next few months, fans will still find a reason to complain of why certain players weren't selected.

Whether Hiddink stays or leaves the post of Turkish national team coach is still to be seen. Hiddink will still be under pressure to deliver qualification to Euro 2012 to Turkey. But if Hiddink were to leave, Turkey would be in a bigger hole than they would be if Hiddink stayed. Turkey is still in good shape even after the draw against Belgium. With four matches left compared to Belgium's three, Turkey has a better chance of finishing in second place in their group and advancing to the Euro 2012 qualifying playoff. Considering that Turkey still has a chance of qualifying for Euro 2012, and he produced success with other countries, Guus Hiddink should be given the benefit of the doubt, whether Turkish national team fans like it or not.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Infighting at Galatasaray?

With Galatasaray having their worst season in Turkish top flight football, it seems that it can't seem to get any worse for them. Perhaps they haven't gone low enough yet in their season of futility. Galatasaray has now had to deal with some recent fights between teammates, with both fights involving Milan Baros. The Turkish sports media reported that Baros had fights with Emmanuel Culio and Juan Pablo Pino.

The first fight occurred after the 3-1 loss Galatasaray suffered at the hands of Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor. After the match was over, Baros was complaining that he wasn't being fed the ball enough from the midfield. The target of Baros' ire was Culio. In the locker room after the match, words were exchanged, Baros reportedly punched Culio in the face and the two had to be pulled apart by teammates. This shocked the other players in the locker room. It was later revealed that Galatasaray club chairman Adnan Polat was angry at the situation.

As if that wasn't enough, Baros would then get into another fight. This time it was at a training session this past Sunday at the Metin Oktay training facilities, and Baros and Pino got into a scuffle. After the fisticuffs, Pino left the training ground and went home.

With the reports circulating of fights between teammates at Galatasaray, Culio, Baros, and Pino came on Turkish sports channel NTV Spor in order to clear the air as to what had happened. The cblub had put out a press statement beforehand that the media was basically lying about the whole thing, and blowing things completely out of proportion.

Baros quickly denied that he had attacked any player. He said that he was angry at the team and not the players, and said that "what they write in the paper is totally bull----". He went on to say that the media is spreading a lot of lies and that while he respects the media; he was disappointed that the media reported on what wasn't true.

Culio also denied the reports of a fight between him and Baros. Initially, he said that his face was proof that the stories released by the Turkish sports media were lies, as the camera could zoom in on his face and people can judge whether he was punched or not. Culio said that it was normal to feel frustration after a loss and that there were no problems between him and Baros. Baros was tense and so was he, Culio went onto say. Culio then said that he tried to calm Baros down and that there was nothing else they could do.

Pino also denied the reports of him having a fight with Baros. Pino said that when things are going bad, reports like this can come at anytime. He went on to say that he didn't get into a fight with any of his teammates or have any problems with them. Pino said the reason he left the training ground early was that he wasn't feeling well. He went on to say that he was feeling sick before training started and asked permission of manager Gheorghe Hagi in order to leave the training grounds early. The request was granted, and Pino went home and rested.

Whether the media reports, or what the players say, is true or not, it looks like Galatasaray is a soap opera. Their fans are definitely tired of how the team has performed this season. It seems as though it can't get any worse for Galatasaray. Then again, considering that the season is almost 2/3rd of the way finished, it might.

Link to the interview with NTV Spor between Culio, Pino, and Baros: http://www.ntvspor.net/video-galeri/baros-culio-ve-pino-konustu

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Galatasaray At The Abyss

When one thinks of Galatasaray, one thinks of success. Galatasaray are one of the most successful clubs in Turkish football. Even if one knows nothing else about the sport in Turkey, people will most likely have heard of Galatasaray. With their success domestically and in Europe, it's hard to imagine Galatasaray having a bad season. But yet, this season has not been kind to Galatasaray.

For the first time since Turkish professional top flight football was established in 1959, Galatasaray has suffered eleven losses in a season. Previously, they had suffered ten losses in a season three times, occurring in the 1969-70, 1981-82, and 2003-04 seasons. But they have never suffered 11 losses until now, and the season isn't even two-thirds of the way finished.

It has been a hard fall for a club that has been associated with success. The woes of this season started with a Europa League qualifying round elimination by Ukrainian outfit Karpaty Lviv. It's been nothing but downhill from there. Frank Rijkaard, the previous manager of Galatasaray, only lasted eight weeks in this current Turkish Super League season, having been sacked before the derby match against Fenerbahçe. Galatasaray had a record of four wins and four losses at that time. Gheorghe Hagi was brought in to salvage the season. With Hagi being a Galatasaray legend, many expected that he would turn things around. He started off well getting a 0-0 draw against Fenerbahçe on the road. But things have not worked out since then.

Since Hagi took over managerial duties, Galatasaray has a record of six wins, two draws, and seven losses. It begs to be asked what would have happened if Rijkaard wasn't sacked so early in the season. Hagi had previously managed Galatasaray in the past, but without success. But there is far more to this than meets the eye.

Perhaps one of the worst kept secrets in Turkish football is that Galatasaray has been in massive debt for more than a decade. While their rivals have enjoyed success in the country, it seems that Galatasaray has fallen to the third best team in Istanbul, falling behind big 3 rivals Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş. Although Galatasaray won a UEFA Cup in 2000, capping off a run of four straight Turkish league titles, they are currently living off past glories. Sure Galatasaray has won three league titles between 2001 and 2010, but they are currently mired in debt. They had to have their new stadium, Turk Telekom Arena, built almost entirely with taxpayer money, funded by the Turkish Housing Development Administration.

So what is wrong with Galatasaray this season? Have the players not lived up to expectations? Is it because of player injuries? Is it the manager? There's a good argument to be made that Hagi should never have been hired in the first place, considering his last run with Galatasaray before this season never worked out. Is it the pressures of fans expecting a league championship every year? All of those are good answers. However, this season might have been expected if one were to take a long term look at the club. The real reason for Galatasaray's lack of success this season has been long-term mismanagement of the club. A season such as the one Galatasaray is going through currently, it can be argued, was bound to happen.

As noted earlier, Galatasaray is in major debt, and has been for more than a decade. This is due to the free-wheeling spending under the chairmanship of Faruk Suren. Galatasaray won four consecutive Turkish league titles between 1996 and 2000, and peaked with the UEFA Cup triumph in the year 2000. Galatasaray needed to spend a lot of money in order to stay at the top of the heap. After Suren stepped down as chairman, Mehmet Cansun succeeded him. Coming after a successful period was a hard act to follow, and Cansun was replaced by the late Ozhan Canaydin. Canaydin tried to stop the financial bleeding as much as he could, by limiting the transfer money spent on acquiring new players. He tried to do his best considering the financial restraints on the club. It didn't seem to work, as many fans had always complained about the way Galatasaray was run under his chairmanship tenure. The fans had called for him to resign many times due to the way he was running the club. Canaydin has to be given credit as he tried to assuage the financial bleeding, as much as Galatasaray fans hated him and his reign.

With current chairman Adnan Polat taking over in 2008 it seemed that Galatasaray was back to its free spending ways. Galatasaray spent more money than they should have been capable of spending. They had doled out much cash in order to acquire players to win them league championships and other trophies, and not selling players in order to keep the finances even. This season they decided to scale back on money and brought in players that were mediocre or above-average at best, and sold some players. Perhaps they tried to take a page out of the Bursaspor championship playbook, which was to spend less for quality players. When the start of the season turned out to be bad, they then decided to get a playmaker in Zvezijdan (sic) Misimovic, but that transfer has been nothing but a disaster. The way that transfer worked out is not Misimovic's fault by the way.

So how does this storied club end up the way it has? How did Galatasaray get to the point where they are a mid-table team with a record number of losses in a season? The club only has itself to blame. Mismanagement of the club for many years has now led up to this low point in the season, and the season isn't over yet. How low can Galatasaray go? It's scary to say, but relegation from the Turkish Super League could be a possibility in the coming years. This year they are safe, there's now way that Galatasaray will be relegated. Sadly for Galatasaray, it may take relegation from the Turkish Super League for the club to start over from scratch. That is the absolute worst case scenario. They should start over from scratch now, but considering that this is a Turkish club, and an Istanbul big 3 club to boot, that won't happen until their worst fears are realized. If it has to take relegation in order for Galatasaray to revamp the way they do business on and off the field of play, then that will have to be the necessary spark in order for Galatasaray to get their house in order.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Beşiktaş Are At A Crossroads.

It wasn't supposed to be like this for Beşiktaş.

After stealing the transfer headlines in Turkey last summer and this past winter, Beşiktaş looked to have a team that would not only contend for the Turkish Super League title, but perhaps win the title by a very comfortable margin. After the transfers of Hugo Almeida, Simao Sabrosa, and the loan of Manuel Fernandes right before the second half of the season started, there was talk of Beşiktaş possibly winning every match in the second half of the season. Adding the three Portuguese players to an already stacked roster which included Ricardo Quaresma and Guti, and Beşiktaş might have possibly pulled it off. But reality soon set in.

Since the second half of the Turkish Super League season began, Beşiktaş have only won one out of four games. After demolishing Bucaspor 5-1 in week 18, Beşiktaş have results of a 2-1 loss to Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor at the Olympic stadium in week 19, a 1-1 draw at home against Karabükspor in week 20, and a 1-0 loss on the road to Ankaragücü in week 21. Not the way Beşiktaş or their fans imagining the rest of the season going. In fact, with a record of nine wins, five draws, and seven losses after 21 league matches, this is actually Beşiktaş worst season in the last 30 years. Only in the 1980-81 season did Beşiktaş have a worse record after 21 league matches, having seven wins, six draws, and eight losses at that time.

Injuries have taken a toll on Beşiktaş. Defender Ersan Gulum is out for the rest of the season with an ACL tear, which left the Beşiktaş defense with a huge hole to fill. Young goalkeeper Cenk Gonen is also out for 6-8 weeks with an injury, leaving Beşiktaş to call upon the very mediocre Hakan Arikan to fill in. Guti had not made the last two matches because of an injury, and that has proven to be a loss in terms of creativity, as well as some veteran leadership.

It got even worse after the Ankaragücü match. Longtime Beşiktaş player and club captain Ibrahim Uzulmez got released from Beşiktaş the day after the match after apparently punching teammate Ibrahim Toraman in the locker room at halftime. The two have had issues before, as there were reports of both of them getting into a fight with each other in a preseason camp and were suspended by the club for a period of time. With the punch to Toraman, Beşiktaş immediately said goodbye to Uzulmez, who had played for the club for 11 years.

Manager Bernd Schuster recently said to the media, after the match against Ankaragücü, that Beşiktaş plays against teams that play ten men behind the ball at all times, and that this is a problem. But he also went on to say that there are no excuses and that neither the referees nor their opponents are responsible for this run of poor form from Beşiktaş. The responsibility lied with the team and the team alone. Schuster is basically dead on with his statements. But, some Beşiktaş fans have started to make excuses about the team's poor form.

Many of them have placed blame varying from referee bias, to Schuster not having the team play to its full potential. The referee bias excuse is perhaps one of the most ridiculous statements that could be made at this point. Some fans have said that the only reason that Trabzonspor, Bursaspor, and Fenerbahçe are ahead of them in the standings in because of referee bias towards those teams. Perhaps the best example of how ridiculous the referee bias statement is, would be the in the match when Beşiktaş hosted Karabükspor. Ibrahim Toraman went with a studs-up tackle of Karabükspor striker Emmanuel Emenike early on in the first half of that match, and did not get a straight red card from that. While Turkish referees are, in fact, of a very poor standard, quality teams should be able to overcome the shortcomings of Turkish referees and win matches in spite of those shortcomings. It seems that Beşiktaş is not the quality team that everyone thought they were. As for Schuster not having the team playing to its full potential, his words after the Ankaragücü loss, mentioned earlier, are dead on. Some lower ranked teams in the Turkish Super League generally play with ten men behind the ball, and counter when necessary. This is usually seen when such clubs playing against the bigger clubs, such as Beşiktaş. Schuster probably has never experienced the sport played in such a manner, and it's hard to get used to that sort of style that opponents play.

Going back to the excuse about referee bias, Mahmut Özgener, the president of the Turkish Football Federation recently said that Beşiktaş were connecting their poor form to alleged referee bias. Beşiktaş chairman Yıldırım Demirören has recently come out and that Özgener was "a fascist" during a meeting of the Beşiktaş financial general assembly. Demirören said that "if you (Özgener) are saying that there is no democracy in football, then you are a fascist and a dictator." … "You are biased and not equal. Our stars have been crushed under." If the chairman is resorting to those sorts of statements, then he must be losing his mind.

Regardless of excuses, poor form, or however the opponents play (or not try to), Beşiktaş have only themselves to blame here. There is no team chemistry. With all of the signings made, they have not been able to really mesh together with the players already there. Bernd Schuster may be a good coach, and he is right about Beşiktaş can only blame themselves for their form. But considering all of the hype surrounding this team, Beşiktaş should have done way better than what their record after week 21 indicates. But perhaps there is old sports adage that can be applied to Beşiktaş at this point, "you can't buy success". Of course, there are exceptions to this adage, but in general, money does not fix everything. For Beşiktaş and club chairman Yıldırım Demirören, that is the lesson to be learned, and they better learn it fast.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Jozy Altidore & Freddy Adu Will Head to Turkey on Loan Deals.

With the transfer window closing, many transfers and loans have been made to strengthen teams. In Turkey, teams have scrambled to strengthen their rosters in the four weeks of the winter transfer window. Two loan moves have particularly piqued the interest of American soccer fans. Before these loan moves, Brad Freidel was the only American soccer player that had played in Turkey, playing for Galatasaray for the 1995-96 season. In this transfer window, two more Americans will make their way to Turkey, but playing for two clubs in completely different positions. Freddy Adu will play for Rizespor in the Bank Asya 1st division, and Jozy Altidore was loaned out to defending champions Bursaspor in the Spor Toto Super League.

It's rare to see American players to come to Turkey. Other than Freidel and the two players now mentioned, no other American soccer player have made their way over to Turkey in order to ply their trade. It is interesting to see Adu and Altidore get loaned out to Turkey to continue their careers. Turkey can be a placed where upcoming players can try to get noticed or where veterans can have an Indian summer for their careers. A recent example of the latter is Ricardo Quaresma of Beşiktaş. Quaresma has become really popular with Beşiktaş fans, but he has shown glimpses of the potential he had earlier in his career, where he was considered more technically gifted than Cristiano Ronaldo. Whether Altidore or Adu can continue or resurrect their careers will depend on whether they can get playing time.

Freddy Adu is a curious case. Once considered the savior of American soccer at the ripe age of 14, he has had problems in his career ever since leaving DC United. Spells in such countries as Portugal and Greece has not worked out for him well, although he showed glimpses of his talent during his career. Adu now heads on loan to Rizespor, in the northeast of Turkey near the Black Sea. Rizespor is currently second in the Bank Asya 1st division after this week's matches. This seems like a step down for Adu. Then again, considering he has never lived up to the tremendous hype that was placed on him, this may actually be beneficial for him. He won't have a huge spotlight on him, considering Rizespor is in the second tier of the Turkish soccer pyramid. Rize is certainly not Istanbul, so outside distractions shouldn't be a problem for Adu as it may be if he was loaned out to an Istanbul based team. Should he contribute to a promotion to the Super League for Rizespor, he might be able to be signed on a permanent transfer and play in a league where his profile will be raised and other clubs, whether in continental Europe or Major League Soccer, can pay attention to his progress. Adu will have to work hard to get his profile raised. Another stop in his ever evolving career, Adu may have taken a step down. However, sometimes it is best to try out a club that isn't as well known so that Adu can work on his game and eventually get transferred to a better club.

Jozy Altidore, on the other hand, is going to a major club in Turkey. Confirming through his Twitter account, Altidore will play on loan for the rest of the season, and ply his trade for the defending Turkish Super League champions. He will be the first American to play for the club. Heath Pearce, currently of FC Dallas, would have been the first. But when he had signed for Bursaspor before the beginning of the 2009-10 season, the signing had occurred after the transfer deadline had passed. There had been interest from Bursaspor manager Ertugrul Saglam a few months ago, with Saglam even admitting that he had an interest in acquiring Altidore's services. Altidore isn't going to a major Istanbul club, but Bursaspor is now a club with ambition. With their league championship last season, Bursaspor is now looking to repeat as champions, and be known as the fifth biggest team in Turkey. But Altidore's move to Turkey raises a particular question that many American soccer fans have pondered.

That question is whether Altidore will get playing time while at Bursaspor. Bursaspor recently acquired Kenny Miller from Rangers, and is paying him about 50,000 quid per week. For a club like Bursaspor, that salary is steep, so Miller will almost have to start every match for the rest of the season. Also, Altidore will have to compete for the starting forward spot with not only Miller, but with Turgay Bahadir and Sercan Yildirim as well. Considering the foreigner cap the Turkish Football Federation implements, with a club can have up to six foreigners on the pitch at one time, Altidore will not be starting every game. It seems that Altidore is going from a situation where he was riding the bench for Villareal, to riding the bench for Bursaspor. Altidore is going to have to work hard in order to crack the starting lineup. He might be best suited at this point coming off the bench should Bursaspor be behind in a match, or to seal a win. He won't be starting right away, but if anybody can figure out a way to incorporate Altidore within Bursaspor, it will be manager Ertugrul Saglam. Saglam will have to make due with a wide variety of forwards. Altidore may be going into a situation where he will ride the bench again. But unlike at Villareal, Altidore will have a better chance at getting playing time at Bursaspor. Playing time will be crucial for Altidore's development, and benefit the United States national team should he get that playing time at Bursaspor.

These two loan moves are interesting moves due to the fact that it is extremely rare for American soccer players to play in Turkey. Both will have the opportunity to get time playing on the field, which can only benefit them and the United States national soccer team. But they will have to work for their playing time. Playing in Turkey may revitalize both of the careers of Altidore and for Adu. The question is, will they be able to play, and if so, can they be able to have consistent playing time?