Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Trabzonspor won the Turkish championship and took a revenge on Galatasaray, by beating them at the Supercup challenge. It was so strange, that most observers considered the victory of the unknown just a freak. Nobody outside Istanbul ever won a title, if the status quo was to be disturbed, the possible candidates were other Istanbul clubs or someone from Ankara or Izmir. Surely these boys from the Black Sea coast were not to be taken seriously…
Trabzonspor were new club in every respect – founded in 1967 in the ancient city of Trebizond, or Trapezus, or Trapezounta, Trabzon in Turkish. History apart, it was hardly a city coming to mind by the 1960s – even tourists did not flock there yet. The birth of the new club was difficult one: a merger of 4 local clubs, which went into two stages with lawsuit in between, which nullified the first merger and the concocted new club. Not exactly a beginning suggesting glory days ahead. As for the name, it was rather typical for Turkish club: the name of the city with additional ‘spor’ – the corrupted Turkish version of ‘sport’ – at the end. Trabzon Sport Club, in other words (‘club’ is present in the full name – again in the Turkish version: ‘kulubu’ – but hardly ever mentioned). The new club started in the lower levels, as newcomers should, so nothing to brag about at first. But they steadily climbed up and got promoted to First Division in 1974. Normally, a club of such brief and shaky history, goes down quickly – may be a season or two desperately trying to survive, and then the plunge down almost in free fall to debts unknown… Trabzonspor finished 9th in their first season, midtable, but still in the lower half of the league, which was pretty much the normal scenario – now the plummeting was coming… Instead, Trabzonspor finished first in their only second season! Three points ahead of the second best, Fenerbahce; winning 17 out of 30 championship matches and losing only 4. They also had the best defense, allowing only 14 goals. What a surprise! The first provincial champion!

Top: Tuncay, Huseyin, Necati, Bekir, Senol, Cemil
Bottom: Kadir, Turgay, Ali Kemal, Mehmet Cemil, Ali Yavuz
Just by the look of them, one can tell there was quality: remember, the longest the hairs, the better the players in the 1970s! Trabzonspor were more bearded and more long-haired than Galatasaray, so clearly the better team! As for names – one has to look years ahead perhaps… remember the coach leading Turkey to bronze at the 2002 World Cup? Senol Gunes? Here he is – the goalkeeper of the new champions. The two greatest Turkish coaches clashed in 1976 and Senol got the upper hand… which in a way is true for their coaching credentials as well. But the future was unknown in 1976, and Trabzonspor were considered just to be one-time wonder by observers. A freak accident, then everything going back to normal… how wrong observers were… Trabzonspor was there to stay and win. 1976 was just the beginning and especially remarkable beginning: barely 10-years old club was already a champion. If anything, it was a sign of general improvement of Turkish football: new and provincial club was challenging the monopoly of the big old Istanbul clubs. However slowly, something is happening; something positive was happening. It is hardly incidental that the best Turkish coaches came from the best teams of 1976. It may have been unknowable in 1976, but Trabzonspor are still among the best Turkish clubs, ranking among the big 4 clubs, and recently coached by… yes, Senol Gunes.