Spor Toto Super League standings

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hooliganism Rears Its Ugly Head, Again.

It was supposed to be another match between Beşiktaş and Bursaspor. With Beşiktaş needing a win to climb to contention for the Turkish Super League title, and Bursaspor needing a win to keep pace with Trabzonspor at the top of the standings, this match was important for both clubs. Beşiktaş won the match 1-0. However, the big news from this match wasn't the result itself, but what happened before the match got started.

A fierce rivalry between the two clubs resulted in hooliganism rearing its ugly head in Turkey. Two Bursaspor fans were stabbed by Beşiktaş fans and had to be hospitalized. Another Bursaspor fan was hospitalized with undisclosed injuries and a Beşiktaş fan was left bleeding after being hit with a water bottle. Five people have been detained by police due to these events.

Fans of the two clubs had been banned from travelling to the away matches for five years. This is due to the fact that Bursaspor fans blame Beşiktaş for, what they thought was intentionally losing matches against Bursaspor's rivals to have Bursaspor relegated to the 1st division. This happened at the end of the 2003-04season. Bursaspor fans weren't happy about it and took out their frustrations on Beşiktaş fans. Sunday's match marked the first time that Bursaspor fans could travel to Beşiktaş' Inonu stadium to watch their club face Beşiktaş, as the ban was lifted for the supporters of both clubs.

The security detail for the match only was at about 1,600 policemen. Selim Kurtulan, the head of the Bursaspor Teksas supporters group, blamed the police for not providing enough security. Kurtulan told Dogan News Agency that the crowd trouble "was due to the malevolent attitude of the police and a few rotten apples in a 1,600 strong group."

Regardless of whether the police or the supporters led to the violence, these sorts of events have reared their ugly head yet again in Turkey. It was only a few months ago when Gaziantepspor had to forfeit a match due to crowd trouble. Yet again, supporters seem to think they are the show and the football match is only a backdrop for their shenanigans.

So what should be done? Should there be more security for these high tension matches? Should the ban be reinstated? Should the TFF fine both clubs a hefty amount of cash for these events?

It seems that no matter what the punishment handed down may be, there will be cries of favoritism to one club depending on what side of the fence one's support lies. The TFF should make an example of both clubs, but then there could be conspiracy theories on how the TFF shows favoritism.

This incident at the Inonu stadium has highlighted a problem which has only been swept under the rug by Turkish football officials and fans. On Sunday, blood was spilled, fights were fought, and four people had to go to the hospital. For what was the point, because of the "my team is better than yours" argument? This problem has become almost a norm in Turkey and it has to stop. Something has to change within Turkish football and supporter mentality.

Then again, who's to say when this will happen again? And if instead of people sent to the hospital, people will be attending a funeral for a dead supporter?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Anatolia Rising

The Turkish Super League has played a third of its season. Go ahead and take a look at the standings. You can find them at this link. For the first time in Turkish top flight football, going back to the establishment of top flight professional football in 1959, none of the Istanbul big 3 clubs are in the top 3 spots this far into a season. People may not have noticed due to the fact that, here in the United States, the Turkish league is noticed by Turkish Americans or hardcore fans of the sport.

So what has gotten into the league this year? Considering all the big transfers that are hyped to the moon for the big 3 Istanbul clubs, and the fact that the money the big 3 Istanbul clubs have is far greater, one would think that the big 3 would have no trouble taking care of business against the smaller Anatolian sides. With players such as Guti and Ricardo Quaresma of Beşiktaş, Juan Pablo Pino, Milan Baros, and Arda Turan for Galatasaray, and Alex, Miroslav Stoch, and Emre Belozoglu for Fenerbahçe, the big 3 Istanbul clubs have players far better in quality. So why is there the changing of the guard?

Perhaps this is a residual effect of Bursaspor's historic league title last season. Nobody had expected that Bursaspor of all clubs would win the league title, much less get into a European spot. But considering that an Anatolian club won the league for the first time since 1984, it has perhaps given the impression that other Anatolian clubs can not only compete with the big boys, but can beat them at any given chance.

The current leaders, Trabzonspor, have had a championship tradition going back to their golden generation of the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. The goalkeeper from that time and current manager, Senol Gunes, has a team that looks like they might contend for their first title since the 1983-1984 season. With a gem of a goalkeeper in Onur Kivrak, a backline anchored by the venerable Egemen Korkmaz, a creative dynamo in Gustavo Colman, and finishers in Umut Bulut and Jaja, Trabzonspor looks like they have the necessary tools to finally break their championship drought. Players that should also be mentioned are the speedy Ibrahima Yattara, and the defensive midfielders Ceyhun Gulselam and Selcuk Inan, who can transition the team from defense to offense with relative ease. There's a reason why Trabzonspor gave Liverpool a scare in their Europa League qualifying tie, and if Trabzonspor got another chance, they'd most likely be in European competition. Gunes has a reputation for being one of the more intelligent coaches in the league. Ever since coming back from a stint at FC Seoul in the K-League, Gunes has built Trabzonspor into a contender, even winning the Turkish Cup last season. With many weapons at their arsenal, Trabzonspor look to be the favorites to take the Turkish league title this season and ends their league title drought.

Bursaspor have proven this year that they are not a fluke. Regardless of their Champions League performances, in which they haven't scored a goal, much less win a match, their league play has been stellar. While their only loss of the season came at home against Trabzonspor, Bursaspor is still keeping pace and look like they can get the lead at any time should the other contenders slip. Bursaspor can count on their "big 3" of Volkan Sen, Sercan Yildirim, and Ozan Ipek to create chances for goals. While all three of those players have not been on the pitch together as much as last season, those three have proved that they are players of quality, and should be on the radar for other European leagues. Omer Erdogan, an ageless wonder in his early 30s, anchors a back line that has only given up seven goals so far this season. While some players such as Leonel Nunez and Frederico Insua are still adapting to the league, Bursaspor are proving their mettle in the league. While many point to their Champions League failures, to be fair, Bursaspor have never been in a competition of that sort of prestige before. No team seems to do well in their first season of Champions League play, and Bursaspor is no exception to that rule. As for the Turkish league, Bursaspor are proving that they want another title and destroy the notion that only the Istanbul big 3 should have a stranglehold on the title.

While it may be surprising to those who follow Turkish football in Turkey, and elsewhere, but not surprising to those who follow the sport far more closely, Kayserispor is becoming a legitimate title contender. While his experience as a manager has only been with Kayserispor, Shota Arveladze has built on the foundations left by former Kayserispor managers Ertugrul Saglam (currently Bursaspor manager) and Tolunay Kafkas (currently Gaziantepspor manager) and has gotten Kayserispor to play to their potential. Kayserispor is considered to be a dark horse in the running for the title. Kayserispor can boast the best defense in the Super League so far, as they have given up only six goals so far in the campaign. Perhaps if lady luck had smiled on them a few more times, they'd most likely lead the league. What's more amazing is that they have been playing well without highly regarded striker Franco Cangele, who has been out of action since tearing his ACL against Fenerbahçe in week 4 of the season. Kayserispor can also boast stellar Turkish players, such as Serdar Kesimal (recently called up for the national team match against the Netherlands), Selim Teber, and Omer Sismanoglu. Sismanoglu is one to watch for down the right wing, as his performance against Galatasaray this past week have put people on notice. Their foreign contingent consists of players who fill in key roles for the club. Alexsandre Amulashivili is a good compliment to Kesimal in the central of defense. Marcelo Zayaleta is a finisher in the mold of what Ariza Makukula provided for Kayserispor on loan last season, in that he can finish off attacks by banging the ball into the back of the net. Jonathan Santana is an attacking midfielder that can create plays and score when needed. Kayserispor is a team to watch out for, and probably one of the more complete teams at the moment.

This season has been a weird season for those following Turkish football. People are used to seeing the big 3 Istanbul clubs occupy the top of the table. But now the league has become more competitive. With Trabzonspor back into prominence, Bursaspor looking to repeat, and Kayserispor looking to make history of their own, it will not be a surprise to see any of the three Anatolian clubs currently occupying the top three spots to win the league title. Fans of the big 3 Istanbul clubs will complain that their teams should be doing better. However, this should be a wake-up call for everyone following Turkish football that there is other teams ready and hungry to become champions. The big 3 should not be resting on their laurels, and this season has proved it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Derby of Turkey: Fenerbahçe & Galatasaray Play To 0-0 Draw.

With many storylines coming into this Sunday, this was one of the most interesting matches between eternal rivals Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray in quite some time. How would Gheorghe Hagi do in his first match back in charge of Galatasaray? Could Fenerbahçe be peaking at the right time in the season? How would Galatasaray recover from a two match losing streak? Could Fenerbahçe keep the winning streak against Galatasaray at the Şükrü Saracoğlu stadium going?

The match started out with Fenerbahçe kicking off. A quick corner in the first minute led to Fenerbahçe's Mehmet Topuz attempt a header on goal, but ended up in Galatasaray goalkeeper Aykut Ercetin's hands. Galatasaray almost had a goal in the fourth minute. After a pass from Elano, Juan Pablo Pino had a shot that only got saved off the goal line by the effort of Gokhan Gonul. Volkan Demirel came out of his goal to cover Pino, but Pino got off the shot that was prevented from going into the goal by Gonul. Pino would get another chance in the 12th minute. His shot was saved by Fenerbahçe's Volkan Demirel, and the ball would just barely miss the goal going out. Fenerbahçe had a chance in the 19th minute. Mamadou Niang's volley was blocked by Galatasaray's Lorik Cana. Emre Belozoglu's attempt was also blocked by Cana, and Galatasaray cleared the danger. In the 23rd minute, Lucas Neill's volley was brilliantly saved by Volkan Demirel. Neill would get a yellow card one minute later for a rough foul. The 29th minute found Juan Pablo Pino with another attempt on goal, but missed. His shot didn't miss by much. Emre Belozoglu got a yellow card for a tactical foul in the 35th minute, as Galatasaray went on a counterattack. A rough foul from Galatasaray's Ayhan Akman in the 42nd minute resulted in a yellow card, and Akman will miss Galatasaray's match next week against Antalyaspor. The first half ended with the score at 0-0.

Galatasaray kicked off the second half. In the 47th minute, a cross by Fenerbahçe's Miroslav Stoch resulted in Alex heading the ball out. In the 51st minute, Mamadou Niang almost had a goal but his shot was saved by Ercetin. Servet Cetin tried to clear the ball after the shot, but the clearance went off Ercetin by accident and was out for a corner. In the 57th minute, Stoch decided to try a long range shot that went over the bar by about two feet. In the 64th minute, Alex's corner was headed out by Mehmet Topuz, as Fenerbahçe continued to have frustration in front of the Galatasaray goal. In the 68th minute, Fenerbahçe's Diego Lugano picked up a yellow card, and he will miss Fenerbahçe's match next week against Bursaspor due to yellow card accumulation. In the 74th minute, Stoch laid off a pass to Semih Senturk, but Senturk's effort went out. Galatasaray had two efforts to win the match right at the end of the match. In the 90th minute, Emre Colak's long range effort was a weak effort and ended up in the hands of Volkan Demirel. In the third minute of three of stoppage time, PIno nearly had the winner for Galatasaray. It took a clutch save from Volkan Demirel to prevent Galatasaray from stealing the match. The match ended without a goal from both Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray, but provided good entertainment for the casual fan. Galatasaray got a point, and this was their first points of any kind on the road against Fenerbahçe since 1999, the last time Galatasaray won at the Şükrü Saracoğlu stadium.

There were perhaps two observations from this match. One was the effort of Juan Pablo Pino serving as the lone forward for Galatasaray. Pino, normally a wing player, was one of the men of the match. His play as the lone forward gave Fenerbahçe's defense much to think about. Without the services of Milan Baros to injury, and without Mehmet Batdal being used, Pino was a makeshift forward. But Pino did so well that perhaps Galatasaray manager Gheorghe Hagi may use him until Milan Baros returns from his injury. The second observation is the terrible job referee Bulent Yildirim did in refereeing this match. Yildirim let many harsh fouls go uncalled and, while he did give out some yellow cards, didn't whistle enough fouls. He basically let the match get out of hand and got intimidated by the match atmosphere and the players. His treatment of Lucas Neill in particular was disturbing. Neill, regardless of a yellow card in the first half, played very harshly and some of his tackles were dangerous. Yildirim let him gets off with warnings, when it would have better suited to give a card, and Neill should have been ejected from this game because of his play.

Regardless, another derby has come and gone in Turkey. Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray will meet again in the spring, and the anticipation for the derby will begin again. What will be unique about the return leg is that it will be the first derby in the brand new Turk Telekom Arena. The stadium is in the Seyrantepe district and Galatasaray will start playing at their new stadium tentatively in January. Galatasaray fans will be happy that their team got a point against their fiercest rivals in their stadium, their first point of any kind at Şükrü Saracoğlu stadium since 1999. The second Gheorghe Hagi era didn't get off to the best start for Galatasaray, but a point will be welcome after two consecutive losses. For Fenerbahçe, it seems that they were lucky to get the draw, due to Galatasaray being the better team for much of the match. Fenerbahçe still is ahead of their rivals in the standings, but will be disappointed that they couldn't get the three points needed to keep pace with the leaders in the Turkish Super League table.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gheorghe Hagi Appointed Galatasaray Manager

Galatasaray has reached an agreement with Gheorghe Hagi to become their new manager, replacing Frank Rijkaard. Hagi, who previously played for Galatasaray from 1996 to 2001, signed a contract for 1.5 years. This will be Hagi's second stint as manager of Galatasaray, as he previously was in charge in the 2004-05 season, coming over from Bursaspor. Hagi led Galatasaray to the Turkish Cup that season, beating Fenerbahçe in the final 5-1.

Hagi's assistant will be Tugay Kerimoglu. The former Galatasaray, Rangers, and Blackburn Rovers player was the consultant with the Galatasaray youth teams. Kerimoglu played with Hagi from 1996 to 1999.

The Galatasaray sports club put out this statement:

"The Galatasaray Professional Football A Team has agreed with Gheorghe Hagi to become the technical director, and agreed with Tugay Kerimoglu as the assistant.

At 3:30pm on October 22, 2010, Hagi will be presented at a signing ceremony at the Metin Oktay Facility Turgay Vardar press conference room."


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Frank Rijkaard Leaves Galatasaray

Frank Rijkaard has been let go as the manager of Galatasaray by what the club claims as a contract termination by "mutual consent".

Rijkaard was signed to a two year contract in June of 2009, succeeding interim manager Bulent Korkmaz.  His first year at the Istanbul club saw Galatasaray place third in the 2009-10 season.

A statement from Galatasaray said that as of October 20, 2010 "manager Frank Rijkaard, assistant manager Johan Neeskens, and other assistants have had their contracts terminated by mutual consent.  We thank Frank Rijkaard for his efforts and work to date, and sharing with us his know-how and experience."

Rumors around the club are that Fatih Terim is set to take over for his third stint with the club.  Tugay Kerimoglu, who had previously played for the club as well as Blackburn Rovers, and is currently the manager of the youth teams, takes over on an interim basis.

Galatasaray currently are ninth in the Spor Toto Super League standings with a record of four wins and four losses, giving them 12 points.  Galatasaray currently is on a two game losing streak, and play fierce rivals Fenerbahçe this Sunday.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Spor Toto Super League – Week 8 Recap

After a disappointing weekend involving the Turkish national team, fans were looking forward to Spor Toto Super League action. With the always anticipated Fenerbahçe-Galatasaray derby coming next week, both of those teams would look to get wins to gain momentum towards the showdown next week. This week would see upsets for two of the big three Istanbul clubs, and the leaders starting to stumble.

Bursa's Ataturk stadium has been a fortress for the defending champions Bursaspor. While Bursaspor hasn't lost a match in their home for almost a year, they got tested by one of the season's surprise packages in Karabukspor. Bursaspor had to do without the services of Volkan Sen, who was left off the roster due to disciplinary reasons. The match started off hot and goals were coming in early. A penalty in the 10th minute for Bursaspor was scored by Turgay Bahadir, putting Bursaspor in the lead. Karabukspor won a penalty of their own in the 13th minute, and Florin Cernat converted the spot kick to tie the match. Turgay Bahadir struck again for Bursaspor in the 24th minute to give Bursaspor the league again. Ten minutes later, Florin Cernat brought the score back level for Karabukspor. Cernat later suffered an injury in the first half leading to his substitution. Cernat was thought to be out for the rest of the first half of the season, but his downtime was later reduced to four weeks. The second half saw the same level of furious play from both clubs, but the match ended 2-2. Bursaspor played to their second draw in two consecutive weeks of league play.

With a new manager in Bulent Uygun, Eskişehirspor hosted Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor looking to gain their first win in league. The municipal team from Istanbul looked to consolidate their mid-table position. Batuhan Karadeniz scored in the 33rd minute for Eskişehirspor to lead Eskişehirspor to victory. Eskişehirspor had to play much of the match with ten men due to Koray Aslan's red card in the 33rd minute. Eskişehirspor got the Bulent Uygun era off to a winning start, but they have a lot of work to do to climb back up the table.

Gaziantepspor hosted Bucaspor in the January 5th stadium in Adana. This match was played behind closed doors due to the events from week 5 in which Gaziantepspor's match against Bursaspor was abandoned. The hosts got a penalty in the 9th minute, in which Sume El Yasa was brought down in the box. Ismael Sosa converted the spot kick to put the hosts up 1-0. Ivelin Popov doubled the lead in the 44th minute, as he converted a cross from Sosa to a goal. Bucaspor tried to make a comeback in the second half, but Gaziantepspor went on to win the match 2-0.

With Beşiktaş losing to Trabzonspor 1-0 in week 7, the match in week 8 against Manisaspor looked to be a cakewalk. Even without Ricardo Quaresma and Guti in the lineup, and with this match in Inonu stadium, Beşiktaş was expected to beat Manisaspor. It didn't start out that way as Manisaspor took a shock lead through Promise Issac in the 9th minute. Beşiktaş responded with a goal of their own as Bobo tied the match in the 14th minute. The halftime break saw the match tied at one goal apiece. Manisaspor regained the lead in the 52nd minute, as Jimmy Dixon scored. Beşiktaş' chances to win the match took a blow two minutes later, when Rodrigo Tabata picked up a second yellow card for a tactical foul. Tabata previously picked up a yellow near the end of the first half for simulation. Manisaspor then scored again in the 69th minute through Yigit Gokoglan, who had come into the game five minutes earlier replacing Ariza Makukula, shocking the Inonu crowd. The match evened out from a player standpoint in the 81st minute, as Manisaspor's Eren Aydin picked up his second yellow card of the match, leading to his ejection. There came a glimmer of hope for a draw for Beşiktaş in the 89th minute, as Fabian Ernst scored to pull the deficit back to one goal. Stoppage time saw missed opportunities from Mert Nobre, Filip Holosko, and Roberto Hilbert as Beşiktaş were desperate to get the draw. Manisaspor pulled off the upset 3-2 to give Beşiktaş a shock result going into Beşiktaş' Europa League match against FC Porto.

Gençlerbirliği hosted Antalyaspor in a match between mid-table sides in Ankara. Billy Mehmet got the scoring started in the 7th minute, giving Gençlerbirliği the quick lead. Kerem Seras tied the match for Antalyaspor in the 30th minute and the first half ended 1-1. Antalyaspor came out quickly in the second half, but Ermin Zec scored in the 62nd minute to put Gençlerbirliği back ahead 2-1. Antalyaspor would get quick scores from Tita in the 79th and 82nd minutes in order to give Antalyaspor the lead and eventually the win 3-2. Antalyaspor continued their slow climb up the standings by winning four out of their last five matches, including this match. After the match, it was announced that Gençlerbirliği manager Thomas Doll was sacked.

With Bursaspor dropping points, Trabzonspor looked to close the gap between first and second places. They travelled to Istanbul to face Kasımpaşa, dead last in the standings. This match basically turned into the Trabzon goal show. Alanzinho scored in the 1st minute to give Trabzonspor the lead, and it basically went downhill for Kasımpaşa from there. Burak Yilmaz scored in the 33rd and 46th minutes. Umut Bulut, starting in the place of Teofilo Gutierrez, scored in the 44th and 81st minutes. Jaja, who came into the match replacing Alanzinho in the 62nd minute, scored in the 66th and 83rd minutes. Trabzonspor thrashed Kasımpaşa 7-0, and continued the misery for Kasımpaşa as they continue to occupy the bottom of the league standings.

Also looking to gain points on leaders Bursaspor is dark horse contenders Kayserispor. Kayserispor hosted Sivasspor in the Kadir Has stadium looking to close the point gap with Bursaspor and keep pace with Trabzonspor as well. Without the services of Mehmet Yildiz and Souleymane Keita, left off the roster due to disciplinary reasons, it was a tall order for Sivasspor to at least get a draw on the road. Sivasspor took the lead in the 20th minute with a goal from Bruno Zita. Kayserispor responded in the 28th minute as Serdar Kesimal tied the match. The second half saw Kayserispor come out aggressive. Aleksandr Amisulashivili gave Kayserispor the lead in the 52nd minute. Sivasspor would see the deficit increase to two goals as Mamadou Diallo scored an own goal to give Kayserispor a 3-1 lead. Marcelo Zayaleta put the game out of reach in the 83rd minute as Kayserispor went on to win the match 4-1.

After a shock loss on the road to Karabukspor, Galatasaray came home to the Ali Sami Yen stadium in order to recover before the important derby next week against Fenerbahçe. Facing Ankaragücü, Galatasaray looked to give their fans a victory to give them momentum going into the derby. It didn't look good for Galatasaray in the 3rd minute. Metin Akan scored off an Ankaragücü counterattack to give the visitors a shock 1-0 lead. The score going into the halftime break was Ankaragücü leading 1-0, and the fans of Galatasaray looked frustrated. Ankaragücü struck again in the 51st minute, as Ozgur Cek doubled the lead. Galatasaray got back into the match in the 57th minute, as Milan Baros scored. But hope for a Galatasaray comeback faded three minutes later, as Stanislav Sestak gave Ankaragücü a 3-1 lead. Two minutes after that, Galatasaray goalkeeper Ufuk Ceylan received a direct red card for handling the ball outside his box in a one-on-one situation, leaving him out for next week's derby. Milan Baros reduced the deficit for Galatasaray to one goal as he scored in the 65th minute. However, if getting reduced to ten men wasn't bad enough, Baros left the match in the 85th minute, as he picked up an injury leaving him doubtful for the derby next week. Two minutes into stoppage time, Ankaragücü sealed the win with Turgut Dogan Sahin scoring to make the final score 4-2 to Ankaragücü. A second consecutive loss for Galatasaray now leads to questions about the team's future, as it was rumored after this match that Frank Rijkaard may be sacked either before or after the derby.

Fenerbahçe looked to continue a recent run of good form. Going on the road to face Konyaspor it seemed as if that Fenerbahçe would be going into the derby next week on a high note. It didn't look good for Fenerbahçe in the 14th minute, as Ozer Hurmaci, starting in place of Alex de Souza, was injured and was replaced by Semih Senturk. Hurmaci later was listed as doubtful for next week's derby. Emre Belozoglu got the scoring started in the 26th minute, as Fenerbahçe took a 1-0 lead. Konyaspor got a tying goal through Peter Grajciar in the 31st minute. But Fenerbahçe took over the match three minutes later, as Semih Senturk made the score 2-1 to Fenerbahçe. Miroslav Stoch added a third goal for Fenerbahçe in the 41st minute, and Fenerbahçe went into the halftime break up 3-1. Diego Lugano added a fourth goal off a header and Fenerbahçe cruised to a 4-1 victory.

After the matches this week, it is striking to see that, currently, five out of the top six positions in the Spor Toto Super League are occupied by Anatolian teams. The places from 1st to 6th are occupied by Bursaspor, Trabzonspor, Kayserispor, Fenerbahçe, Karabukspor, and Antalyaspor. Next week features the most anticipated date of the Turkish football calendar, as Fenerbahçe hosts Galatasaray on Sunday October 24th. Also featured next week is an important clash on Monday October 25th, as Beşiktaş travels to the Kadir Has stadium to face Kayserispor. But the eyes of Turkey will be at the Fenerbahçe Şükrü Saracoğlu stadium for one of the biggest derby matches in the world.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Turkey Announces Roster For October Euro 2012 Qualifiers

The roster for the Turkish national team was announced for the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Germany and Azerbaijan. The roster is as follows:

Goalkeepers: Volkan Demirel (Fenerbahçe), Hakan Arıkan, Cenk Gönen (Beşiktaş), Onur Recep Kıvrak (Trabzonspor)

Defenders: Gökhan Gönül (Fenerbahçe), Sabri Sarıoğlu, Servet Çetin, Hakan Kadir Balta (Galatasaray), Ömer Erdoğan (Bursaspor), İbrahim Toraman, İsmail Köybaşı (Beşiktaş), Ceyhun Gülselam (Trabzonspor)

Midfielders: Hamit Altıntop (Bayern Münih), Mehmet Aurelio, Necip Uysal (Beşiktaş), Selçuk Şahin, Emre Belözoğlu, Özer Hurmacı (Fenerbahçe), Nuri Şahin (Borussia Dortmund), Selçuk İnan (Trabzonspor),
Arda Turan (Galatasaray)

Forwards: Tuncay Şanlı (Stoke City), Halil Altıntop (Eintracht Frankfurt), Semih Şentürk (Fenerbahçe), Mevlüt Erdinç (Paris Saint Germain), Nihat Kahveci (Beşiktaş), Sercan Yıldırım (Bursaspor)

There are a couple of interesting call-ups for Turkey with this roster. Although the roster is nearly the same as it was for the matches last month, two call-ups particularly stand out.

Cenk Gönen is the first standout call-up. Gönen has proven himself to be a goalkeeper who has made fewer mistakes than his counterpart on Beşiktaş, Hakan Arikan. Arikan has been at the wrong end of mistakes made in the Beşiktaş net in the previous two weeks of matches. Arikan was saved in the previous week against Antalyaspor with a potent Beşiktaş offense. But it seems that this might be Gönen's time at Beşiktaş. Gönen has certainly earned his call up here, although it's highly doubtful he will play against either two countries.

The other interesting call-up is Özer Hurmacı. Hurmacı has barely featured for Fenerbahçe this season. Most of the time, Hurmacı has been featured coming off the bench. He has barely featured in the last few weeks for Fenerbahçe. He has a lot of potential, but it is still yet to be seen whether that potential is to be realized.

Perhaps the most glaring omission is Mehmet Topal of Valencia. From reading reports from blogs and watching highlights, it seems as if Topal has been one of the key acquisitions for Valencia this season. Topal has been quiet, but does his job effectively, and is starting to become a key player in the Valencia squad. Topal would be a far better choice than the ageing Mehmet Aurelio or the mediocre Selcuk Sahin.

Turkey is scheduled to play Germany in Berlin on Friday, October 8th and Azerbaijan on Tuesday, October 12th. The match against Germany will pit both nations who have not dropped points so far in the qualifying campaign. One of the interesting stories coming out of that match will be the crowd make-up, as Turks make up the largest minority group in Germany. The match has the possibility to become a "home" match for the Turkish national team. Four days later, Turkey will travel to Baku to face Azerbaijan. This is more of a battle of brotherly nations, as both countries share similar cultures and speak different dialects of the same language.

Turkey will have a huge test coming up against the third place team from the most recent World Cup. Even if Turkey does not win against Germany, they can't let that potential loss affect them against Azerbaijan. Turkey has been known as the most erratic national team on earth, and they will have to be on their A game to get maximum points in perhaps their biggest challenge early on in the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Spor Toto Super League – Week 6 Recap

The week after a derby match gets people to catch their breath, and back to normal business when it comes to Turkish soccer. Week 6 of the Spor Toto Super League was more of a "carry on" when it came to play and the results. One team needed to get a win to placate their fans, one team has come roaring back four weeks after panic was setting in, and the leaders continued their fast start.

The week opened in Bursa Ataturk stadium as Bursaspor hosted Bucaspor. Bursa Ataturk stadium has been a fortress for the defending champions, as they haven't lost at home in league play since November. Bursaspor got off to a fast start in the fourth minute. Turgay Bahadir's header came off the post and Huseyin Cimsir scored to put Bursaspor up 1-0. Bursaspor continued to find opportunities to get their second goal. In the 49th minute, Gokcek Vederson's cross was headed off the post by Omer Erdogan. Sercan Yildirim missed chances in the 61st and 79th minutes. Frederico Insua missed a chance in the 83rd minute off a counterattack. Regardless of the missed chances, Bursaspor will go into their Champions League match against Rangers with much momentum after this 1-0 victory.

The Ankara derby would be the featured match on Saturday. Both Gençlerbirliği and Ankaragücü would be looking for the win after disappointing starts to their seasons. In the 18th minute, Gençlerbirliği goalkeeper Serdar Kulbilge was injured in a collision with Ankaragücü's Roguy Meye, and couldn't continue. He left his spot to backup goalkeeper Ozkan Karabulut. In the 44th minute, Ankaragücü's Muhammet Hanefi tripped Gençlerbirliği's Serkan Calik in the penalty box, and referee Suleyman Abay pointed to the spot. Shane Smeltz converted the penalty, and Gençlerbirliği got the lead 1-0 going into halftime. Smeltz became the first New Zealand native to score in the history of the Turkish Super League. Ankaragücü tried to make a comeback in the second half, but victory this day went to Gençlerbirliği. Some Ankaragücü fans reacted angrily to the result, and were chanting for the board or head coach Umit Ozat to resign.

After a 1-1 draw last week on the road against Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş were in good spirits. Coming home against Antalyaspor, Beşiktaş looked to get another three points to continue their climb up the standings. Guti did not play in this match due to an injury, but Fabian Ernst was a more than capable replacement. In the 55th minute, Ernst passed a through ball to Bobo in the box and Bobo converted the chance to put Beşiktaş up 1-0. But it seemed that Beşiktaş was going to be set up for disappointment, when in the 68th minute, a mistake from Beşiktaş goalkeeper Hakan Arikan led to Tita scoring the tying goal for Antalyaspor. This was the second gaffe in two weeks from the goalkeeper. Arikan would not become the goat in this match, as in the first minute of stoppage time Ernst hooked up with Bobo again, and Bobo scored to make the match 2-1 to Beşiktaş. Antalyaspor's Deniz Baris had a chance in front of the goal at the tail end of the game, but missed wide, and Beşiktaş won 2-1.

Eskişehirspor has been disappointing so far this season, and it seemed that Gaziantepspor gave the Eskişehirspor fans more pain. Eskişehirspor fans protested with five minutes of silence due to their team's poor form. In the 20th minute, Serdar Kurtulus scored to give Gaziantepspor the lead 1-0. During the last ten minutes of the match, the Eskişehirspor fans chanted for the board and head coach Riza Calimbay to resign. Gaziantepspor won the match 1-0 and gave Eskişehirspor even more misery. Two days after the match, it was announced by Eskişehirspor that Riza Calimbay was sacked as Eskişehirspor head coach.

The match of the week this week featured Kayserispor hosting Trabzonspor at Kadir Has stadium. Before the match, Kayserispor head coach Shota Arveladze saluted the Trabzonspor fans that made the trip to Kayseri. Arveladze previously played for Trabzonspor in the mid-1990s and is considered a legendary figure with the Trabzonspor faithful. The match itself was disappointing. A potential goal from Kayserispor's Onder Turaci in the 51st minute was called back because of an offside. Cards were abundant in this match as five Kayserispor players received yellow cards, and Trabzonspor's Giray Kacar received his second yellow card and was sent off with 10 minutes to go in the match. The match ended 0-0 and both teams had to do with a point each.

Konyaspor hosted Karabukspor this week in a battle of promoted teams. Ivan Lietava got the scoring started in the second minute as he put Konyaspor in the lead. The 15th minute saw Florin Cernat tie the match for Karabukspor, and the teams went into halftime tied 1-1. In the 52nd minute, Karabukspor's Hakan Ozmert gave Karabukspor the lead. But Konyaspor scored in the 68th minute through Peter Grajciar, and the match ended in a 2-2 draw.

After starting the season with two consecutive losses, Galatasaray recovered from that start by winning three straight. They hosted Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor, which has given the other two Istanbul giants trouble during their match. Galatasaray got the scoring started in the 5th minute, as Milan Baros put the ball into the back of the net from a cross from Serkan Kurtulus. In the 13th minute, a handball was called against Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor's Rizvan Sahin in the box and referee Bulent Yildirim pointed to the spot. Baros converted the penalty to double Galatasaray's lead. Baros got the hat trick in the 41st minute. A pass into the box from Aydin Yilmaz found Baros and Baros finished off the chance. Galatasaray played more conservatively in the second half, as their three goal lead seemed a mountain to climb. Herve Tum got a consolation goal for Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor in the 66th minute. But it was too big of a hill to climb for the municipal team, as Galatasaray won their fourth straight match with a 3-1 score.

With a win last week, Manisaspor got the Hikmet Karaman era off to a good start. Milan Baros may have gotten a hat trick for Galatasaray, but Canadian international Josh Simpson also got a hat trick himself. Simpson scored in the 14th, 90th, and the 90+2 minutes to give Manisaspor a 3-0 victory over Sivasspor. Manisaspor wins their second straight match after starting the season with four straight losses.

The immense expectations placed upon Fenerbahçe by their fans leave little to no room for error. This week Fenerbahçe faced a must win game on the road to Kasımpaşa. This match was played at Galatasaray's Ali Sami Yen stadium due to renovations at Kasımpaşa's Recep Tayyip Erdogan stadium, and it would be the final time Fenerbahçe would play at the home of their hated rivals. It didn't look good for Fenerbahçe to start off. Kasımpaşa's Sahin Aygunes scored in the 6th minute to put Fenerbahçe on the ropes early. Fenerbahçe got their opportunity to tie the match in the 15th minute. Ersen Martin handled the ball in the penalty box, and Alex de Souza converted the penalty to tie the match 1-1. Fenerbahçe got the lead through Emre Belozoglu in the 21st minute, and Mamadou Niang padded the lead in the 24th minute. But Kasımpaşa scored through Ersen Martin one minute later, and it seemed that if Fenerbahçe was to win, it would have to be in a dogfight, as the halftime score saw Fenerbahçe up 3-2. Mamadou Niang scored again in the 64th minute to give Fenerbahçe a 4-2 lead. It seemed that Fenerbahçe would cruise to the win, and they would emphatically win in stoppage time. Mamadou Niang scored in the 90th minute to give himself a hat trick, and five minutes into stoppage time, Alex de Souza scored the final goal of the match to give Fenerbahçe an emphatic 6-2 victory over Kasımpaşa. Kasımpaşa's poor start to the season continued, and they continue to occupy last place in the Spor Toto Super League.

As of the posting of this article, it is still unknown whether the Turkish Football Federation will award three points to Bursaspor in a default victory due to the events in the match against Gaziantepspor last week. Bursaspor continues to lead the league as they have not dropped points.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Gaziantepspor Issued Stadium Ban

Due to the abandoned match against Bursaspor, in which Gaziantepspor fans were throwing objects onto the field, the TFF handed down its punishment earlier today against Gaziantepspor. Gaziantepspor is to play their next home match, which will be in week 7 against Bucaspor, behind closed doors. The match against Bursaspor was abandoned by TFF referee Deniz Coban when one of the linesmen was hit by an object, reportedly a wristwatch, in the back of the head. The linesman, Muharrem Yildiz, required two stitches. It is unknown as of this point what the result of the match will be, whether Bursaspor gets a default 3-0 victory and the three points, or the match will pick up where it left off. Should previous precedent hold, Bursaspor will likely get the 3-0 default victory and three points in the standings.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spor Toto Super League – Week 5 Recap

Whenever there is an Istanbul derby, there's always great anticipation. Words are exchanged between supporters, players get psyched, and the country comes to a stop for about two hours. This week was no exception. But there were other matches in week 5 in the Spor Toto Super League that were just as important as the season's first edition of the Istanbul derbies.

The week opened up with Trabzonspor hosting Manisaspor at the Huseyin Avni Aker stadium. With Manisaspor's bad start to the season, and a new head coach, people might have expected Trabzonspor to run roughshod over the bottom dwellers. It certainly looked that way in the 9th minute, as Selcuk Inan put the hosts ahead in the match. Manisaspor had other ideas. Ariza Makukula made his triumphant return to the goal scoring charts of the Turkish Super League, scoring in the 41st minute. Josh Simpson scored a goal at the 45th minute right before the halftime whistle, and Manisaspor were up 2-1 at the break. Makukula added a second goal in the 69th minute and Manisaspor gained their first victory of the season, beating Trabzonspor 3-1.

Ankaragücü hosted Kasımpaşa at the May 19th stadium in a match between two clubs off to slow starts. Ankaragücü got the scoring started just before halftime with a goal from Metin Akan. With Kasımpaşa's Gustavo Bebbe getting a direct red card in the 56th minute, Ankaragücü took advantage and scred in the 58th minute with a goal from Marek Sapara. The night would turn into misery for Kasımpaşa as Luiz dos Santos scored into his own net in the 67th minute. Ankaragücü went on to win by the score of 3-0.

Sivasspor hosted Eskişehirspor in a battle of lower table sides. In the 25th minute, Ceyhun Eris scored off a cross from Mehmet Yildiz to give Sivasspor the lead. It seemed as if that would be the only goal of the match. But there's an old saying, "football is a game of 90 minutes", and it would prove true in this match. In the third minute of three of stoppage time, Adem Sari of Eskişehirspor scored to make the final score 1-1.

Kayserispor looked to continue their run of good form, and they went on the road to Antalya. With the start Kayserispor has had, it looked to be a continuation of their good start. Antalyaspor had other ideas. Serge Djiehoua got the scoring started in the 15th minute as Antalyaspor went up 1-0. In the 42nd minute, Marcelo Zayaleta tied the match for Kayserispor as both teams went into the halftime break with the match tied 1-1. Sedat Agcay scored in the 59th minute to put Antalyaspor in the lead. Kayserispor tried to tie the match by increasing their attacks at the Antalyaspor goal. Antalyaspor held on to win the match 2-1 and gave Kayserispor their first defeat of the season.

With two straight wins to even out their two straight losses to start the season, Galatasaray were ready to make their run towards the title. They had to do it without influential Arda Turan, who continued his recovery from his ankle injury suffered in the national team match against Belgium. They went to the Izmir Ataturk stadium to face Bucaspor. This would serve as a virtual home game for Galatasaray since the Galatasaray fans outnumbered the Bucaspor fans, like the first week of the season when Bucaspor hosted Beşiktaş. Ayhan Akman scored the only goal in this match, as that goal was enough to give Galatasaray the 1-0 win. Galatasaray got their third straight win after losing their first two matches.

Kardemir Karabukspor has defied expectations so far and got their season off to a good start. Hosting Gençlerbirliği, Karabukspor continued to show good form with a 3-0 victory. Emmanuel Emenike, who lit up the goal scoring charts in the Bank Asya 1st division, scored two goals in the 23rd and 82nd minutes. Hakan Ozmert was the other goal scorer for Karabukspor as they won comfortably.

Anytime an Istanbul derby is scheduled, the eyes of Turkey are focused on that match, and with Fenerbahçe hosting Beşiktaş, this was no exception. The Fenerbahçe fans would be happy in the 26th minute. With slack defending by Beşiktaş, and bad positioning by Beşiktaş goalkeeper Hakan Arikan, Mamadou Niang scored his third goal of the season to put the hosts up 1-0. Further chances by Gokhan Gonul, Niang and Issiar Dia failed to find the net, and Fenerbahçe would only be up by one goal at the halftime break. Beşiktaş took control of the match in the second half. Guti was the midfield maestro, providing passes that set up chances for Beşiktaş. In the 86th minute, Fenerbahçe goalkeeper Volkan Demirel tripped Beşiktaş striker Bobo in the penalty area in a one on one situation, leading to a Beşiktaş penalty. Guti stepped up, and although Demirel got the direction right and got a hand to the ball, the ball went into the back of the net. The match would end in a 1-1 tie and it was obvious that Beşiktaş were the happier side after the match. Fenerbahçe's early season misery continues and fans of the club were calling for head coach Aykut Kocaman to resign.

While the derby was going on, Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor hosted Konyaspor. Ali Sami Yen stadium hosted this match, and the first half ended with a 0-0 score. Herve Tum scored in the 63rd minute for the hosts to give Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor the win 1-0.

Gaziantepspor hosted defending champions Bursaspor in the final match of the week. The halftime score ended with both teams failing to score. In the 56th minute, Bursaspor got a goal through captain Omer Erdogan. At around the 53rd minute, Gaziantepspor fans threw objects onto the field, mostly water bottles. In the 63rd minute, linesman Muharrem Yilmaz was hit in the back of the head, reportedly by a wristwatch, and had to get two stitches to close the wound. Referee Deniz Coban halted the match after the linesman got hit. This isn't the first time that a Bursaspor match has been halted early in this calendar year. Last season, a match in which Bursaspor played Diyarbakirspor in Diyarbakir was halted in the 17th minute as constant objects thrown from the stands and a rock from the stands hit a linesman. If previous precedent holds, Bursaspor will most likely be awarded a 3-0 victory by default and Gaziantepspor will have to play two to three games behind closed doors.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Turkish National Team Off To Flying Start In Euro 2012 Qualifying

A new era started for the Turkish national team on August 1st of this year. It was the day when highly regarded coach Guus Hiddink would officially begin his duties as head coach of the Turkish national football team. Many were looking forward to how Hiddink would handle being a national team coach in a country where emotions run high and expectations are great. After the disappointment of not making the World Cup in 2010, the Turkish national team would have to begin from scratch as they looked to qualify for European championship in 2012. While winning against Romania in August, that match was only a friendly, and the national team got their first real tests in games that matter this past Friday and Tuesday, against Kazakhstan and Belgium respectively.

The first match for the Turkish national team happened this past Friday, as the team flew to Astana to face Kazakhstan. While not the most glamorous opponent to start off, Kazakhstan would not let the Turks take it easy. But Turkey got the goal scoring started in the 24th minute. A pass through the air into the penalty box was headed towards goal by Omer Erdogan, who made his first international start for Turkey. The ball came off the post, but Arda Turan was in front of the goal and and tapped the ball into the net. Two minutes later, Hamit Altintop scored off a volley from a corner. It was considered one of the best goals of the night in all of the qualifiers. With Turkey going into the halftime break up 2-0, it seemed as though the Turks would cruise through to victory. Kazakhstan did give Turkey some trouble during the second half. However, Nihat Kahveci would score in the 76th minute to make the final score 3-0.

The real test of Turkey under Guus Hiddink would come in their home match against Belgium this past Tuesday, which took place at the Şükrü Saracoğlu stadium in Istanbul's Kadikoy district. History was against the Turkish national team here, as the last two times they played against Belgium, they drew and lost. Both of these matches came in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, with the draw coming in the second match of the campaign and the loss coming in the second to last match of the qualifying round. While Kazakhstan isn't a formidable opponent, Belgium has been a thorn in the side of the Turkish national team in recent memory. This match would either provide Turkey with a spark going into the October clash against Germany, or provide the Turks with another Belgian jinx.

The match itself had fireworks before and during the match. Eden Hazard, one of the star players for the Belgian national team, would not be in the starting lineup due to injury. The match went back and forth, with captivating football being played from both teams. In the 28th minute, Belgium would take the lead through Daniel Van Buyten, heading a ball home from a corner taken by Toby Alderweireld. The halftime score saw Belgium up 1-0 and Turkish fans wondering if history would be repeating itself. Three minutes after the second half kicked off, Turkey responded. Ismail Koybasi attacked from the left flank, and his pass would eventually find Hamit Altintop. Altintop's first shot was saved, but he put in the rebound to tie the match at one goal apiece. In the 64th minute, Vincent Kompany picked up his second yellow card with a harsh foul on Hamit Altintop, leaving Belgium to play with 10 men for the rest of the match. His first yellow came in the first half with a foul on Tuncay Sanli. In the 66th minute, Hamit Altintop's through ball found Semih Senturk alone on front of the goal, and Senturk converted the chance to a goal to put Turkey in the lead 2-1. Belgium would answer back two minutes later. Van Buyten headed the ball into the net after Turkey goalkeeper Onur Kivrak came off his line to try and clear a Belgium free kick from Kevin Mirallas. Romelu Lukaku headed the ball toward Van Buyten and Van Buyten put the ball into the empty net. In the 78th minute, Gokhan Gonul's cross found Arda Turan, and Turan scored with a shot taken close to the penalty spot to put Turkey up 3-2. Turan's shot took a defelection off Marouane Fellaini and ended up in the goal to send the stadium into bedlam. Belgium had one last ditch effort in stoppage time, but Turkey went on to win 3-2, winning two straight matches to get their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign off to a flying start.

The Turkish national team and their fans are relieved to see two straight victories to start off. But a tremendous test will be against Germany in Berlin. It will be interesting to see Mesut Ozil, the celebrated German player of Turkish descent, playing against Turkey. Also of Turkish descent playing on the national team is Serdar Tasci, a very capable central defender. Even with Ozil and Tasci, the German team is exceptionally strong, with names such as Miroslav Klose, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, and Thomas Muller. It will especially be interesting to see the crowd makeup for this match, as Turks comprised the largest minority in Germany. For now though, Turkey will be relieved that they have achieved maximum points so far.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Turkish National Team Roster Announced For Euro 2012 Qualifiers

The roster for the Turkish national team was announced earlier this week for the Euro 2012 qualifying matches against Kazakhstan and Belgium. The team is already training for the matches as of the writing of this piece. The roster is as follows:

Goalkeepers: Cenk Gönen, Onur Kıvrak, Sinan Bolat

Defenders: Gökhan Gönül, Sabri Sarıoğlu, Ömer Erdoğan, Servet Çetin, İbrahim Toraman, Gökhan Zan, Hakan Balta, İsmail Köybaşı

Midfielders: Hamit Altıntop, Kazım Kazım, Mehmet Aurelio, Selçuk İnan, Selçuk Şahin, Emre Belözoğlu, Nuri Şahin, Arda Turan, Özer Hurmacı

Forwards: Tuncay Şanlı, Semih Şentürk, Sercan Yıldırım, Nihat Kahveci, Halil Altıntop

Looking at the roster it seems that there are several call-ups that are puzzling. For example, Gökhan Zan has not played a match for Galatasaray this season. While Turkey is not particularly deep in the center back position, Zan is known for being injury prone and not in form at all. Another puzzling call up is Kazim Kazim, who has had displinary problems with Fenerbahçe and has not featured this season either.

One interesting call up here is Ömer Erdoğan of Bursaspor. Although his age is an issue as he is 34 years old, his play for Bursaspor has attracted attention from Turkish fans. His defensive prowess was one of the factors behind Bursaspor winning the Turkish Super League championship last season.

Some glaring omissions are obvious. It is a mystery why Bursaspor's Volkan Şen did not get called up. His play in the league has been stellar and he should have gotten a look. He has only made one appearance for the national team so far, and that was in a friendly. Also not called up is Trabzonspor's Egemen Korkmaz, who could be used as the other central defender next to Servet Çetin. He has been a very capable defender for Trabzonspor this season and with Turkey not having depth at the central defender postion, Korkmaz could be a more than dependable player for that position.

Regardless of the roster call-ups, it will be interesting to see what kind of football the national team of Turkey will play under Guus Hiddink in a match that actually matters. Hiddink has been known not to change things too much starting out. So the roster seems more like a default roster at this point. But the players will have to play for their jobs, because Hiddink will not be afraid to drop anyone who isn't up to snuff.

Spor Toto Super League – Week 3 Review

Before the international break next week, week 3 of the Spor Toto Super League would be played. With three of four Turkish clubs failing to qualify for the Europa League, the league took priority. Fans would have to settle for Beşiktaş and Bursaspor to fly the Turkish flag in the Europa and Champions Leagues respectively. The three eliminated teams, Trabzonspor, Fenerbahçe, and Galatasaray, would only have the league to worry about. While it is still early in the season, the matches featured interesting action, a good amount of goals, and a blackout.

Friday's matches saw Kayserispor looking to win three straight against Ankaragücü, and Gaziantepspor hosting Konyaspor.

The second of two matches to be played behind closed doors due to fan issues in Ankara, Ankaragücü hosted Kayserispor. Kayserispor won their first two matches under manager Shota Arveladze, and drew first blood through Serdar Kesimal in the 24th minute. But Ankaragücü equalized through Mehmet Çakır, who came on as a substitute at the beginning of the second half, in the 57th minute. The match ended in a 1-1 draw and Kayserispor remains without a loss to begin the season.

Konyaspor travelled to the Kamil Ocak stadium to face Gaziantepspor. Mehmet Yilmaz put Gaziantepspor up 1-0 in the 5th minute. Konyaspor looked like they were going to go into the halftime break down a goal, but Johnnier Montano gave Konyaspor a tying goal before the break. Emre Toraman put the visitors up 2-1 in the 61st minute. It looked bad for Gaziantepspor as Murat Ceylan got a red card in the 75th minute, but Gaziantepspor would get a lifeline. Gaziantepspor won a penalty in the 85th minute, and Julio Cesar de Souza converted from the spot to make the final score 2-2.

Saturday's matches saw the defending champions in action, as well as a local Istanbul derby, and Bucaspor hosting Gençlerbirliği.

With a shocking victory over Beşiktaş last week, Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor looked to continue the good run of form against Kasımpaşa. Iskender Alin and Ibrahim Akin, whose goals took down Beşiktaş the previous week, continued their goal scoring ways. Alin scored in the 12th minute, and Akin scored in the 50th minute. Herve Tum put the game out of reach with a goal in the 68th minute, five minutes after coming into the game as a substitute. Kasımpaşa would get a consolation goal in the third minute of stoppage time.

Bursaspor has not given up a goal so far this season, and with the champions finding out who they would face in the Champions League, they would want to send a message to their opponents that they would not be pushovers. Bursaspor travelled to the September 4th stadium to face Sivasspor. While the home team did a good job keeping Bursaspor off the scoreboard for the majority of the match, Bursaspor proved too much in the last ten-plus minutes of the match. Volkan Sen scored in the 81st minute to put Bursaspor ahead. With Sivasspor looking to tie the match in the last minute, all the Sivasspor players, including goalkeeper Sead Ramovic, crowded the box for a corner. Bursaspor goalkeeper Dimitar Ivankov caught the ball, threw it out to Ali Tandogan, and Tandogan scored into an empty net to make the final score 2-0 to Bursaspor. Sivasspor lost for the first time under the reign of manager Mesut Bakkal.

Bucaspor came back to Izmir looking to gain their first win in the Turkish top flight. They would have to do so against Gençlerbirliği. Orhan Ak put Bucaspor up 1-0 in the 24th minute. Gençlerbirliği tied the match in the 55th minute via Ermin Zec. But Bucaspor got goals by Koray Çölgeçen and Manucho in the 63rd and 90th minutes respectively to get the 3-1 victory.

The Istanbul big three were all in action on Sunday. Fenerbahçe looked to recover from a disappointing elimination in the Europa League. Beşiktaş looked to put the loss last week to Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor behind them. Galatasaray looked to avoid the worst start in their history of league play, trying to avoid three consecutive losses to start the season.

Fenerbahçe came home to host Manisaspor, the second of two home matches played behind closed doors due to the events at the end of last season. Alex de Souza put Fenerbahçe up 1-0 in the 17th minute, after Manisaspor goalkeeper Ilker Avcibay mishandled a cross by Fenerbahçe youth product Okan Alkan, who was making his first start at right back in place of Gokhan Gonul. Promise Issac tied the match for Manisaspor in the 48th minute. Diego Lugano put Fenerbahçe back into the lead in the 62nd minute off a free kick by Alex de Souza. Okan Alkan made another good cross into the box in the 69th minute, and Mamadou Niang scored his first goal for Fenerbahçe off a header to extend Fenerbahçe's lead to 3-1. Niang struck again in the 73rd minute to give Fenerbahçe a 4-1 lead. Manisaspor got a consolation goal in the 76th minute though Josh Simpson, but it was too little, too late. Fenerbahçe beat Manisaspor 4-2 and seemed to get their swagger back.

Beşiktaş travelled to Karabuk to face Karabukspor. With Beşiktaş the only Turkish club this season to make it to the Europa League; Beşiktaş looked to get another victory to continue their run of good form. It didn't look for them early on, as in the 2nd minute, Emmanuel Emenike scored to put Karabukspor up 1-0. Beşiktaş responded in the 10th minute, as Mert Nobre scored off the result of a Rodrigo Tabata corner kick. Nobre struck against for Beşiktaş in the 26th minute to put Beşiktaş up 2-1. Beşiktaş kept the goals coming in the 76th minute, when Guti scored off a penalty as a result of Armand Deumi brought down Ricardo Quaresma in the 18 yard box. Quaresma would score in the 83rd minute to make the final score 4-1 to Beşiktaş.

If there was one team that had to win this week, it was Galatasaray. Off to their worst start to a season in 20 years, and with a disappointing exit in the Europa League, Galatasaray faced a must win situation against Eskişehirspor. Otherwise, it seemed that heads would explode at Galatasaray. Galatasaray breathed a temporary sigh of relief in the 4th minute, as Milan Baros scored off a botched clearance by Eskişehirspor goalkeeper Vanja Ivesa. Luka Vucko tied the match for Eskişehirspor in the 37th minute and it seemed that Galatasaray was set up for more misery. But Arda Turan put a smile on the face of Galatasaray supporters in the 68th minute, as he went one-on-one with Ivesa and Turan's attempt was mistakenly put into the net by Eskişehirspor's Volkan Yaman, ironically a former Galatasaray player. Galatasaray got the clinching goal by Servet Cetin in the 71st minute to make the final score 3-1 to Galatasaray.

Only one match was played on Monday, and it matched up Antalyaspor against Trabzonspor. Recent transfer Jaja made his Trabzonspor debut in this match. The only highlight in the match was the electricity going out 39 minutes into the match, leading to a 30 minute delay while everyone waited for the lights to come back on. No goals were scored and both teams had to settle with a point.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Spor Toto Super League – Week 2 Digest

Week 2 of the Spor Toto Super League featured two important matches that pitted previous champions against each other. With the excitement of the opening weekend gone, the second week featured matches that normally would happen later in the season. With the way that the schedule came out, week 2 would whet the appetite of the Turkish football fan.

Friday's action saw a newbie beat a dark horse, and an Anatolian team continue its good fortune early in the season. Konyaspor had their home opener against Eskişehirspor, and got off to a good start when Ivan Lietava scored in the 2nd minute. Eskişehirspor attacked more frequently after the goal but went into the half down 1-0. Pele would equalize for the visitors in the 51st minute. But Konyaspor took the lead for good in the 78th minute, when Adnan Gungor scored off a free kick from Ramazan Kahya.

Kayserispor had their home opener against Karabukspor. Kayserispor looked to give their home fans something to cheer about after they opened with a win against Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor. Kayserispor didn't disappoint. In the 26th minute, Selim Teber made a cross from the left wing, and the cross was headed home by Franco Cangele. Kayserispor nearly made it a two goal lead when in the 30th minute, Cangele made a cross to James Troisi from the right flank, but Troisi's header barely missed. Karabukspor tried to make a comeback through their star Emmanuel Emenike, who had several opportunities, but Kayserispor held on for the win 1-0.

Saturday's matches saw a draw and an upset. Antalyaspor and Sivasspor played to a 1-1 draw after goals by Tita of Antalyaspor and Sedat Bayrak of Sivasspor. As for the other match, Beşiktaş had their opener against Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor. With a strong victory the previous week, it seemed that the fans of Beşiktaş would be well on their way to win again. Somebody should have given Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor the message. The municipal club went on to defeat Beşiktaş by a score of 2-0 with goals from Iskender Alin and Ibrahim Akin. Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor has received a reputation for upsetting the big 3 Istanbul clubs on occasion, and this was no exception.

Anatolian matches on Saturday resulted in the following: Gençlerbirliği and Gaziantepspor played to a 0-0 draw, and Ankaragücü thrashing Manisaspor in Manisa 3-0 with goals from Stanislav Sestak, Ozgur Cek, and Guven Varol.

Galatasaray had their home opener against defending champions Bursaspor. With some poor results in the last two competitive matches, Galatasaray looked to get back on track against Bursaspor. Bursaspor had other ideas. In the 15th minute, a Volkan Sen cross was punched away by Galatasaray goalkeeper Ufuk Ceylan, making a rare start. The cross ended up with Ivan Ergic, and Ergic scored to put Bursaspor up 1-0. A bit of controversy happened in the 45th minute. After Volkan Sen went down, Sen touched the ball with his right hand. Sen had previously received a yellow card in the 19th minute. Referee Abdullah Yilmaz did not make the call, leading to a flurry of protests from the Galatasaray players. Ayhan Akman and Milan Baros would both receive yellow cards resulting from this missed call. Bursaspor cemented their lead in the 83rd minute. Ivan Ergic shot the ball from outside the penalty area, the ball took a deflection, and there was nothing Ufuk Ceylan could do to save it. Bursaspor won the match 2-0 and won at Ali Sami Yen stadium for the first time in 18 years.

Monday's featured match was Trabzonspor playing their home opener against Fenerbahçe. While this was going on, Kasımpaşa and Bucaspor played to a 0-0 draw. But everyone had their eyes on the Huseyin Avni Aker stadium for this big match. Trabzonspor would strike first, sort of. A 14th minute Selcuk Inan free kick was attempted to be cleared by Fenerbahçe's Mehmet Topuz. The ball would end up at the back of Fenerbahçe's goal, giving Trabzonspor the 1-0 lead. Trabzonspor scored again two minutes later, when Ibrahima Yattara got through the Fenerbahçe defense and lobbed the ball over Mert Gunok to double Trabzonspor's lead. Gunok was starting in place of the injured Volkan Demirel. Fenerbahçe got one back in the 28th minute, when a Semih Senturk cross was headed home by Diego Lugano. Trabzonspor fired back immediately in the 29th minute, when Arkadiusz Glowacki headed in a Yattara free kick. It seemed that Trabzonspor would cruise to victory. Fenerbahçe got a second goal from Mehmet Topuz, after receiving a pass from Miroslav Stoch. Fenerbahçe attacked more often in the second half, while Trabzonspor seemed to lay back and attack on the counter. Trabzonspor held on for the 3-2 victory and gain momentum going into their 2nd leg UEFA Europa League playoff round match against Liverpool.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Spor Toto Super League – Week 1 Digest

After a long wait in the summer, the Turkish Super League got back to business. With a new sponsor in government-run betting company Spor Toto, and new transfers, and with two Anatolian teams as defending league and cup champions, this may be the most interesting season in quite some time. While the excitement of last season won't be forgotten soon, it's time for a new season to begin. Will another champion come from Anatolia or will the league go back to the status quo with one of the Big 3 Istanbul teams winning it all?

Anatolian matches on Saturday were fit to be tied. Both Gaziantepspor – Kasımpaşa and Eskişehirspor – Gençlerbirliği ended in a 0-0 score. One of the more interesting highlights was from Eskisehir, where the floodlights went out in the stadium. In the stands, the Eskişehirspor fans decided to put on their own lights show before the floodlights came back on. Ermin Zec of Gençlerbirliği had a chance at the end of the match to steal the win for Gençlerbirliği, as he went one on one with Eskişehirspor goalkeeper Vanja Ivesa. Zec's effort was wide.

Galatasaray came into this season with high hopes for this season. Coming off a disappointing season in Frank Rijkaard's first year, mostly due to injuries, Galatasaray looked to start off this season off on a high note. They went to the September 4th stadium to take on Sivasspor, who avoided relegation last season by the skin of their teeth. It looked good for Galatasaray in the 7th minute as Mustafa Sarp scored from a cross from Arda Turan. In the 43rd minute, Lucas Neill pulled down Sivasspor's Mehmet Yildiz near the penalty area. After arguments from the Galatasaray players and coaches, the free kick by Ceyhun Eris was headed home by Bruno Zita to tie the match. Sivasspor took the lead for good in the 60th minute, when Ceyhun Eris made a run toward the penalty area, and laid off a pass to Cihan Yilmaz. Yilmaz put it home to make the final score 2-1 to Sivasspor. Sivasspor manager Mesut Bakkal continued a streak of sorts continuing from last season. Sivasspor has not lost a match in their past seven league matches, including this match, since Bakkal took over the reins with six weeks to go last season. It was a disappointing start to the season for Galatasaray, while it may provide a spark to Sivasspor, picked by some to be a relegation candidate for this season.

The most anticipated match Saturday was Bucaspor against Beşiktaş. The match was held at the Izmir Ataturk stadium because Buca Arena would've been too small to hold this match. Both teams made many transfers during the offseason, but many wanted to see how Beşiktaş' star signings, Ricardo Quaresma and Guti, would do in league play. Guti was mostly invisible during the match, which Quaresma had many opportunities on goal, but couldn't find the back of the net. Bucaspor held Beşiktaş to a 0-0 score at halftime. But in the first minute of the second half, Guti delivered a through ball to Bobo and Bobo put it home to give Beşiktaş the lead 1-0. Only 14 seconds had elapsed from the start of the second half and the goal. Bucaspor tried to come back, but their fate was sealed in the 75th minute when Ediz Bahtiyaroglu received a direct red card. Beşiktaş got their season off to a good start, while Bucaspor will have to recover for next week.

Kardemir Karabukspor practically ran away with the Bank Asya 1st division championship last year. Retaining last year's manager Yucel Ildiz, and making many transfers to beef up the squad, Karabukspor looked to get their Super League season off to a winning start at home against Manisaspor. Manisaspor escaped relegation last year, and hoped to get off to a good start as well. Although starting only three starters from the previous season, Karabukspor were the victors with a 2-1 score. Emmanuel Emenike picked up where he left off last season, where he led the 1st division in goals scored, and scored in the 46th minute. Emil Angelov, transferred from Denizlispor, scored the second goal in the 82nd minute. In an ironic twist, Angelov came on for Emenike in the 73rd minute. Manisaspor got a consolation goal from Kahe in the 90th minute, but it was too little, too late.

After winning the Turkish Super Cup the previous week against Bursaspor, Trabzonspor looked to continue their recent run of form, starting off their season against Ankaragücü at the May 19th stadium in Ankara. Due to crowd trouble in the previous season, Ankaragücü have to play their first two home matches behind closed doors. Both teams seemed to feel each other out in the first half, and the first half ended 0-0. Trabzonspor turned up the pressure in the second half. Teofilo Gutierrez scored both goals in the 70th and 82nd minutes. Both goals were set up by Gustavo Colman's through ball passing and the resulting crosses from Umut Bulut. With a UEFA Europa League playoff round date against English giants Liverpool this coming Thursday, Trabzonspor got off to a flying start, and Gutierrez may be finding his scoring touch at the right time.

With an embarrassing elimination by Swiss side Young Boys from the UEFA Champions League still fresh on their minds; Fenerbahçe looked to put that behind them as they would open the season at home against Medical Park Antalyaspor. The match was played without spectators as punishment for the events that took place at the Şükrü Saracoğlu stadium at the end of last season. Fenerbahçe's newest transfer Mamadou Niang would observe the match from the VIP box as Fenerbahçe looked to start their season off on a winning note. It wouldn't take long as Semih Senturk, starting over Gokhan Gonul and Dani Guiza, scored in the 8th and 13th minute to give Fenerbahçe a quick 2-0 lead. Alex de Souza would make it 3-0 in the 24th minute and the rout was on. Gokhan Gonul scored in the 28th minute with a chip over the Antalyaspor goalkeeper to make the score 4-0. Fenerbahçe took it easy the rest of the game and won 4-0. One highlight of the match that wasn't goal scoring related was Volkan Demirel being substituted at the beginning of the second half, replaced by Fenerbahçe youth product Mert Gunok. It was later revealed that Demirel has a slight tear in his right quadriceps, making his status questionable for the 1st leg of the UEFA Europa League playoff round against PAOK Thessaloniki of Greece.

With a new coach in Shota Arveladze, Kayserispor looked to improve on their eighth place finish last season by getting off to a winning start. Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor also wanted to get off on the right note, and potentially contend for a European spot this season improving upon their finish of 6th last season. The first half was nothing to write home about, as Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor practically didn't have a right flank, and Kayserispor didn't get off the blocks either. Kayserispor would takeoverin the second half. Franco Cangele put Kayserispor up 1-0 in the 66th minute. One of Kayserispor's newest transfers, Jonathan Santana of Paraguay, put the match out of reach in the 82nd minute, making the final score 2-0 in favor of Kayserispor.

Bursaspor, the defending champions, started off their season at home at the recently renovated Bursa Ataturk stadium. The opponent for the defending champions was Konyaspor, the Bank Asya 1st division playoff winners. Bursaspor was on the attack for most of the first half, but couldn't find the back of the net. But in the 41st minute, Sercan Yildirim, who came into the match in the 17th minute when Turgay Bahadir picked up an injury, scored to put the home side up 1-0. Bursaspor kept up the offense during the second half. Although Konyaspor had their chances, the final score ended up with the champions getting the three points with a 1-0 victory. The central defense of Milan Stepanov and Omer Erdogan impressed many in this match, while recent transfer Leonel Nunez also impressed with his attacking prowess, hitting the woodwork in the 63rd minute.

Next week features some important matches. Fenerbahçe travels to Trabzon to face Trabzonspor in a featured match next Monday. Next Sunday, Bursaspor travels to the Ali Sami Yen stadium to face Galatasaray in Galatasaray's home opener.

Friday, May 21, 2010

News around Turkish football including Fenerbahçe’s punishment

The images of the aftermath in Fenerbahçe's Şükrü Saracoğlu stadium after the events of this past Sunday sickened and shocked many Turkish football fans. With Fenerbahçe supporters burning seats and getting into scuffle with the police while chanting for the Fenerbahçe board to resign, many seemed to shake their heads and some fans of rivals Galatasaray and Beşiktaş mocked them. The TFF handed down Fenerbahçe's punishment on Friday. Fenerbahçe will be playing their first two home games next season behind closed doors. With schedule's alternating week to week between home and away matches, Fenerbahçe now runs the risk of playing a derby match between Galatasaray, Beşiktaş or possibly both, behind closed doors. This sort of punishment harkens back to the 2007-08 season. That year, Galatasaray had to play their first five home matches behind closed doors. This was because of Galatasaray fans throwing foreign objects onto the field against Fenerbahçe at the Ali Sami Yen stadium. This match happened the week after Fenerbahçe had clinched the title in the 2006-07 season the previous week before the derby. Some may see this as a slap on the wrist punishment, but considering that this deals with an Istanbul big three club, and that none of the players were on the receiving end of the anger of the Fenerbahçe fans, it's not surprising that the TFF may have let Fenerbahçe off easy.

There have been some coaching changes for Turkish teams this past week. Gaziantepspor released their manager Jose Couceiro from his contract. While it was a disappointing season for Gaziantepspor, Couceiro tried to make due with what he had at his disposal. But with a disappointing 13th place finish in the standings, Gaziantepspor decided to make a change. The man replacing Couceiro is former Sivasspor manager Bulent Uygun, signing a two year contract with Gaziantepspor. Uygun may be best known for leading Sivasspor to second place in the 2008-09 season, in which Sivasspor slipped from title contention in the waning moments of that season, after holding the lead for many weeks. The previous season before that, he led Sivasspor to fourth place. In the 2009-10 season, Sivasspor did not get off to a good start, and he resigned on October 4, 2009 after a 2-0 win against Antalyaspor. Uygun is known for being a bit of a hothead, and he'll have to keep his temper in control because he will experience growing pains while with a new club. After Tolunay Kafkas left his post with his contract expiring, Shota Arveladze signed a two year contract with Kayserispor, who finished 8th this season, to become their new manager. Arveladze, who previously was the assistant coach at AZ Alkmaar, takes over his first managerial job on July 1st. This is an interesting hire for Kayserispor, considering that Arveladze is still popular in Turkey, especially in Trabzon where he played for Trabzonspor, and that he is inexperienced when it comes to the top job. Kayserispor should be looked upon as one of the teams to watch in the upcoming season, for either the right or wrong reasons. This will depend on their transfers for the upcoming season.

The Turkish national team recently arrived in the United States for their three friendly matches. Emre Aşık ve Okan Buruk will be making their final appearance in a Turkish national team uniform against the Czech Republic on May 22nd. Both men were part of the 2002 World Cup team that finished in third place. The match, to be held in Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, will have about 18,000 Turkish fans attending. This is due to the Fenerbahçe USA fans association buying those tickets and distributing them to fan associations of Galatasaray and Beşiktaş located in the US. This marks, according to Major League soccer and its marketing arm, Soccer United Marketing, the largest group purchase of tickets associated with the league and its marketing group. This also coincides with the annual Turkish Day Parade and Festival in New York, organized by the Federation of Turkish American Associations, which the players will attend.

In concordance with the USA-Turkey connection, according to Turkish sports daily Fanatik, that Heath Pearce, currently playing for FC Dallas in Major League Soccer, is rumored to be watched, and potentially signed, by current Turkcell Super League champions Bursaspor. Pearce had been previously signed by Bursaspor last year. However, the FIFA transfer deadline had passed when the contract was signed, and in turn, Pearce signed with FC Dallas. In the same article, Fanatik also reports that Pearce himself is interested in signing. Pearce could potentially shore up a good defensive line for Bursaspor, and be able to play in at least six games in the Champions League group stages. He'd be joining a club in which the league they play in is pretty physical, but has the opportunity to establish a new revolution in Turkish football, if Bursaspor's historic championship hasn't done that already.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Turkish Football Weekly - Episode 16

Turkish Football Weekly this week has coverage of the historic championship that Bursaspor won this past week. Also, Turkey's chances for hosting Euro 2016 are discussed with the guys from the Round Ball in Ankara blog.

Turkish Football Weekly - Episode 16

If you like the show, subscribe to Turkish Football Weekly via iTunes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bursaspor Becomes The 2009-10 Turkcell Super League Champions

Perhaps the most anticipated moment in Turkish football occurred this past Sunday. For years, Turkish football fans have wondered if there would be a fifth team to win the Turkcell Super League championship. Since Trabzonspor last won the league in the 1983-84 season (their sixth title), only the big three Istanbul clubs, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, and Beşiktaş, have had a stranglehold on Turkish top flight football championships. It seemed that the only way that any player could win a league title, was to play for either of the previous championship winning clubs. That was true, until now. Bursaspor became the champions of the Turkcell Super League, winning their first title, after never having even finished in the top three in previous years.

The situation coming into the final day was simply this. Bursaspor had to win its final match against Beşiktaş and hope that Fenerbahçe would drop points at home to visiting Trabzonspor. With Fenerbahçe's home ground being a virtual fortress, it seemed as though the people of Bursa had to wait and hope that some good news would filter out of Istanbul. With both matches being played at the same time, the excitement over who was to be the champions of the Turkcell Super League would reach a crescendo until the final whistle.

Bursaspor kicked off against Beşiktaş with the possibility of a title on their hands. They would have to do without the influential Volkan Şen in the lineup due to suspension via yellow card accumulation. It did look good for Bursaspor in the 32nd minute. Pablo Batalla scored for Bursaspor after Beşiktaş goalkeeper Rustu Recber was caught off his line. In the 44th minute, Bursaspor would get their second goal via an own goal by Beşiktaş defender Ibrahim Toraman. Beşiktaş would pull one goal back in the 85th minute, as Uğur Inceman scored off a rebound when the ball came out of Bursaspor goalkeeper Dimitar Ivankov's hands. Bursaspor held on for the 2-1 victory. But whether there would be wild celebrations in Turkey's fourth largest city depended on what happened in Istanbul.

Fenerbahçe came home looking to clinch a record 18th Super League title. The opponents would be Trabzonspor, the same team that denied Fenerbahçe the chance to break their Turkish Cup curse. The match started off with Fenerbahçe coming at Trabzonspor hot and heavy. In the 14th minute, Dani Guiza scored to put Fenerbahçe up 1-0. Fenerbahçe continued with their heavy attack towards the Trabzonspor goal. But in the 23rd minute, Burak Yilmaz put in a volley over the head of Fenerbahçe goalkeeper Volkan Demirel, and into the net to tie the match for Trabzonspor, 1-1. In the second half, Fenerbahçe looked to score, and had much of the offense during the second half. But if there had to be a man of the match, it would have to be Trabzonspor goalkeeper, Onur Kivrak. Kivrak made crucial save after crucial save keeping Trabzonspor from losing. What is funny about this match was the announcement at the third minute (of four) of stoppage time. The stadium public address announcer announced that Beşiktaş had scored in order to tie the match at two goals apiece in Bursa. With that, Fenerbahçe seemed to just lay back and not attack as emphatically as they were during the match. When the final whistle blew, fans rushed the field thinking that Fenerbahçe clinched the title. It wasn't to be. This echoed the final game of the 2005-06 season for Fenerbahçe. Needing a win to clinch the title, Fenerbahçe drew at Denizlispor, while archrivals Galatasaray beat Kayserispor 3-0 to capture the title on the last day. Ironically, that match four years ago ended the first run of Christoph Daum as manager of Fenerbahçe. With rumors swirling that he may not be brought back to coach the team for next season, it seems as if history could repeat itself.

With the news filtering in that Fenerbahçe did not win the league title, some Fenerbahçe fans decided to take out their frustrations on the stadium. Tempers flared, literally, as fires were lit in the stadium. Seats were torn off their bearings and thrown out onto the field. The Istanbul police were called in and had to fire water cannons to break up the angered crowd. Some fans were detained by police and many people were injured.

With the news that Fenerbahçe was held to a draw, Bursaspor players went ballistic, knowing that they had achieved a historic title. Becoming only the second team to break the Istanbul championship deadlock, Bursaspor can be able to lift their heads high, knowing that they beat the odds to claim a championship. Bursaspor manager Ertuğrul Sağlam said that by becoming champions "we have brought success back to Anatolia." With this historic title, Bursaspor now qualifies directly for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. But whether Bursaspor can be able to continue this success is the question.

But for now, Bursaspor, and the city of Bursa itself, can and should revel in the fact that for now, they are the champions of Turkey. Not only did they defy the odds, but perhaps have opened a new chapter in the history of Turkish football. With what seems, or seemed, to be a championship hot potato played by the big three Istanbul clubs, its refreshing to see that a team from Anatolia came in and finally broke through to the promised land. It could send a message to other teams in Turkish football as a whole that if Bursaspor could win the title, then any club could. Perhaps there will be the biggest crocodile walk in the world with Bursaspor winning the Turkcell Super League championship.

A few weeks ago, there was an article entitled "Bursaspor's Final Exam" (written by myself). Bursaspor had the toughest road ahead of them four weeks ago if they wanted to clinch the Turkcell Super League championship. With two of the big three Istanbul clubs to play, it seemed as though it was an impossible task. Now four weeks later, Bursaspor has not only passed that exam, but has become the valedictorians of Turkish football. If any club deserved the title, it was Bursaspor, and they have earned the title of Turkcell Super League champions.

Congratulations Bursaspor!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Turkish Football Weekly - Episode 14

With two weeks to go in the Turkcell Super League season, the action is heating up, and Turkish Football Weekly is right on top of it. Bugra and Ata go over the results of week 32 of the Turkcell Super League. The Ziraat Turkish Cup final between Trabzonspor and Fenerbahce is analyzed, along with news from around the league, which this week includes a rumor that a beloved former Trabzonspor player may return to Turkey to coach a team. The hosts wrap up the show with a preview and predictions for week 33 of the Turkcell Super League.

Make sure to subscribe to the show via iTunes.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Turkish Football Weekly - Episode 12

On tap for Turkish Football Weekly this week, Ata and Bugra discuss the results for week 30 action in the Turkcell Super League, including the Fenerbahce-Besiktas derby in detail. The hosts analyze the final four matches for championship contenders Bursaspor, Fenerbahce, and Galatasaray. Chris Wade (a.k.a. Oz Kanka) of the Round Ball in Ankara blog joins the podcast for a special interview. On the “Get to know…” segment this week, Genclerbirligi and Colin Kazim-Richards are featured. The show wraps up with predictions for week 31 of the Turkcell Super League.

Subscribe to Turkish Football Weekly via iTunes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Beşiktaş file appeal for annulment of the Fenerbahçe match.

Beşiktaş has appealed to the Turkish Football Federation to annul the result of the week 30 match between them and Fenerbahçe. Beşiktaş has accused Fenerbahçe of violating rules as it pertains to Fenerbahçe defender Fabio Bilica's digging of the penalty spot during the 64th minute of the match, in which Beşiktaş was awarded a penalty. Beşiktaş has noted that Bilica's actions violated the spirit of fair play. Beşiktaş has also claimed that Bilica violated the 22nd and 24th provisions of the TFF code, which means that Fenerbahçe would automatically be declared the losing side.

Now regardless of Bilica's idiocy, I think this has to fall on referee Huseyin Gocek's shoulders. Gocek could clearly see that Bilica was digging a divot in the penalty spot, and yet did nothing about it. Bilica had already gotten a yellow for taking down Ugur Inceman in the box, so Bilica should have been sent off as he should have gotten a second yellow in succession. Now it isn't as if this hasn't happened before. I can remember a match in Major League Soccer some time back where a player for the Columbus Crew made a divot on the penalty spot in order to make the opposing spot kick taker miss. It worked. So I don't blame Bilica for trying to keep the advantage for his team. What I have a problem with is Bilica's blatant actions.

I highly doubt that the TFF would even bother with this case. It seems like such a non-issue. However, if the rules have been violated then Fenerbahçe, and Bilica, should be punished for it. Whether the TFF will take up the case is a different story altogether.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bursaspor’s Final Exam

With the Turkcell Super League season now going into its last four weeks, the usual contenders are in the race for the title.  With Beşiktaş losing to Fenerbahçe over the weekend, it seems as though Beşiktaş is out of the title race, leaving Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray to slug it out over the title.  What has been a refreshing surprise, however, is the performance of Bursaspor.  Bursaspor currently lead the Turkcell Super League standings, with a gap of one point over Fenerbahçe and four points over Galatasaray.  With emerging stars such as Volkan Sen, Sercan Yildirim, and Ozan Ipek, and veterans such as Huseyin Cimsir, Leonardo Iglesias, Omer Erdogan, Dimitar Ivankov, and Ali Tandogan, Bursaspor look to be the first team since Trabzonspor last did so in the 1983-84 season to break the Istanbul big three stranglehold on the Turkcell Super League championship.  But with the way their schedule looks in the last four weeks, it looks to be a tough road for Bursaspor to win the title.  These last four weeks may be looked at as Bursaspor's final exam in their quest to be called champions.

Bursaspor's first test will be this coming weekend against Galatasaray.  This will be Bursaspor's only road match to be played in the next four weeks.  Going to Ali Sami Yen stadium is never easy for any opposing team, much less an Anatolian team who have never, before this season, led the standings in the Turkcell Super League at any point during the season.  With Galatasaray still having an outside shot at taking the title, Bursaspor will have to get past a loaded Galatasaray team.  With the likes of Arda Turan, Milan Baros, Abdul Kader Keita, Giovani dos Santos, and Sabri Sarioglu, Bursaspor will have to be on it's A game.  The intimidating atmosphere of the Ali Sami Yen has earned its nickname of "Hell" for good reason.  Galatasaray's home record is outstanding, with only one loss at home in the entire season, with that one loss coming against Fenerbahçe a few weeks ago.  But it should be stated that Bursaspor's road record isn't too bad either, with their road record of eight wins, four draws, and three losses, the best road record in the league.  The pressure will be enormous for Bursaspor, and should they get the win here, it would go a long way for their challenge for the title.

The second part of their test will come the following week against Kayserispor in Bursa.  Kayserispor have perhaps one of the best forwards in the Turkcell Super League in Ariza Makukula.  The defense for Bursaspor will have to find a way to shut him down, because Makukula has exposes many a defense in the Turkcell Super League with his size and scoring prowess.  Also, another player for Bursaspor to watch out for is Franco Cangele.  Cangele is at his best as a support striker for Makukula, and should Bursaspor tightly mark Makukula, it could leave openings for Cangele to leave his mark.  Don't count out Kayserispor's defense either, led by Kayserispor captain Aydin Toscali.  What is advantageous for Bursaspor is that this match, and its last match to be played this season, will both be home games.  Bursa Ataturk Stadium has been a fortress for opposing teams.  With the famed Bursaspor supporters group Teksas (and yes, they are named after the state in the USA, but replace the x with ks due to the letter x not being used in the Turkish alphabet) leading the chants, Bursaspor can count on great home support.  Bursaspor's home record is also very good, with a current record of twelve wins, one draw, and two losses.  With the home crowd support, Bursaspor will be inspired and this can light a fire under Yildirim, Sen, Ipek, and the rest of the team.

Bursaspor can take solace in the fact that in these last four weeks, they are guaranteed at least three points in the standings.  In week 33 they get the bye as they would have taken on Ankaraspor, but Ankaraspor's disqualification gives them three critical points at potentially a critical junction of the season.  The last week of the season will see Bursaspor have another huge test, and considering there is the possibility that they might be leading at this point in the season, this match will prove their character.

This is because Beşiktaş comes into Bursa for the final match of Bursaspor's season.  Playing one of the Istanbul big three in one week is tough as it is.  However, playing two of them, in a span of four weeks, makes Bursaspor's work cut out for them.  With this match, there is the possibility that Beşiktaş will be out of contention for the title by this time, if their loss to Fenerbahçe this past weekend is any indication.  With such attacking presence with Rodrigo Tello, and Bobo, Beşiktaş is still a threat to any team during these last few weeks.  Ibrahim Uzulmez, the ageless wonder of Beşiktaş, leads a stout defensive team that features Matteo Ferrari and Tomas Sivok.  But with the match to be played at Bursa Ataturk Stadium, Bursaspor will have all to play for and will be looking over their shoulder at the other title contenders.  Bursaspor is under the gun as it is already.  Should they be leading the standings going into the last week of the season, and there is a good possibility of that happening, Bursaspor will be under tremendous pressure to finally win a championship.  Many of their younger players in their squad will certainly be under the microscope.  With this match as their final match of the season, those players will have to shoulder the pressure and make sure that they don't get affected by it.

Bursaspor have the toughest road ahead of them if they want to claim the Turkcell Super League title.  Manager Ertugrul Saglam is perhaps the one manager that is under the most powerful microscope.  He will be the one who will have to handle the pressure of trying to lead his club to heights they have never achieved.  Considering that Saglam is not the typical over-emotional Turkish coach, and him having experience coaching one of the big three (Beşiktaş), and having Champions League experience (coached Beşiktaş in the 2007-08 Champions League), he will most likely relish the pressure of trying to lead Bursaspor to its first title.  No Anatolian teams, other than Trabzonspor, have ever won the Turkcell Super League since the league was established in 1959.  Perhaps if any team deserves to win it this year, it should be Bursaspor.  Bursaspor is the team to watch going into the last four weeks of the season, because they could finally break the Istanbul deadlock, and it would be a great story, and perhaps benefit Turkish football as a whole.  If they do win the Turkcell Super League title, considering their last four weeks is the toughest schedule out of all the championship contenders, Bursaspor can definitely say that they earned it.