Monday, March 14, 2011

A step up – Turkey. By 1975, in the micro-pyramid of European football – the Balkan states – Turkey was above Albania and below everybody else. Larger picture shows the same… Turkey was not 100% outsider, just 95%. Not long ago the Turks were roughly equal to the Greeks, so it looked like slipping down than going up. Turks are passionate about football, but they are also very patient people – their big clubs were probably as rich as the Greek big clubs, but instead of importing foreign stars (or players perceived wrongly as stars) and coaches, the Turks imported only foreign coaches, betting on eventual development of local talent. So far – nothing really happened, except of tiny stir: along with the big three from Istanbul – Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, and Besiktas – a provincial club was rising its head – Trabzonspor. However, their time was coming, but not just yet. Fenerbahce won the championship, like the previous year.
The happy winners were: Adil Eriç, Yavuz Şimşek, Ilie Datcu, Yılmaz Şen, Niyazi Gülseven, Alpaslan Eratlı, Serkan Acar, Ersoy Sandalcı, Erdinç Sandalcı, Önder Mustafaoğlu, Zafer Atamer, Emin, Ziya Şengül, Selahattin Karasu, Ender Konca, Cemil Turan, Osman Arpacıoğlu, Mustafa Kaplakaslan, Aydın Çelik, Eyüp Odabaşı, Recep
Well… some Turkish national players, but hardly any internationally recognized name. They still featured the last player from the Romanian imports in the long gone 1960s – Ilie Datcu – but he hardly mattered even as an import: by now, he was a reserve nearing retirement and more importantly – he was going Turk. Soon he got Turkish citizenship and by the law of the country changed his name with Turkish one. Hard to count him as a foreign player anymore. The real foreigner – and the only really famous name in the team was Didi, their coach.
Didi in his playing days for Botafogo (Rio de Janeiro). Now, Didi is a legend: one of megastars in the 1950s; two times world champion with Brazil. Huge aura, therefore, but it was not only Didi-the player. Didi-the coach had also strong reputation: he led Peru at the 1970 World Cup. He coached River Plate (Buenos Aires) in 1971 and Fenerbahce employed him after the Argentine stint. With such reputation and biography, Didi was to inspire and vastly improve if not the whole Turkish football, then at least Fenerbahce. He stayed from 1972 until 1975 and delivered: in 1974 his team broke the three-years long yoke of British coached arch-enemy Galatasaray. And he established Fener’s yoke by repeating the success in the 1974-75 season. Happiness in the yellow-blue camp; tears elsewhere. Didi left after the second title, but the real point here is the Turkish approach: they tried to get coaches from the best schools of football – British, Brazilian, German – in order of developing their football. It was long, long process – the results came in the 1990s and later, but would you believe today that Turkish football used to be in the bottom ranks of European football for many decades?