It may be the time for a look at the matches, not the fixing
ÇETİN CEM YILMAZ ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
This file photo was taken during the Galatasaray vs. Fenerbahçe derby at Istanbul’s Türk Telekom Arena on Dec 7, 2011. Galatasaray’s midfield maestro Selçuk İnan (L) was instrumental in his team’s transformation from a group of newly-acquired players to an harmonious outfit. Fenerbahçe’s Brazilian captain Alex de Souza was hardly at his stellar best but still contributed to his team’s cause with his goals and assists. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜRELAsk any football fan in the country what sticks in their minds from the last six months and they will answer “match-fixing.” Maybe it is time to remember there has been more to the season than this now the first part of the Spor Toto Super League has wrapped up.
Since the match-fixing investigation was made public with the first detentions on July 3, the focus of the football talk steered from on-the-pitch to behind bars. It was not footballer’s goals, tactics, attacks or fouls people were talking about, but it was the prosecutor, suspects, the indictment, allegations, wiretapped conversations, incentives; all the law terms the fans of the beautiful game were only used to reading in the first pages of newspapers. After July 3, they jumped to the back pages to invade sport news as well.
Truth be told, the football agenda was given no chance to dwell on the actual game itself. After the detention of officials from several top-flight clubs, including Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş, Eskişehirspor and Sivasspor, and the start of the league was pushed a month forward following a decision by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF).
From the start of the season on Sept. 10 to Dec. 22, 17 match days have been squeezed in. Remarkable given there were two lengthy international breaks during this period. Turkish teams, who notoriously underperform when it comes to playing two matches a week, had to adjust to this high-tempo. But it was even worse for the fans, who were also trying to adapt to this grueling schedule.
Some players relished the prospect, however. Galatasaray’s midfield maestro Selçuk İnan was on the pitch for his team and was instrumental in Trabzonspor’s runner-up finish last season, scoring five goals for his new team and breathing life into Galatasaray’s midfield. His partnership with Felipe Melo was crucial to leading Galatasaray to the top of the league, following six wins in a row. No doubt Galatasaray’s stealing of him from a rival was the purchase of the year.
Speaking of best purchases, Eskişehirspor’s veteran winger Dede, who was also on the pitch on every minute for his team, should be added to the list. The Brazilian arrived to the Red-Blacks carrying 13 years of Bundesliga experience on his shoulders and was one of the main reasons Eskişehirspor could finish the half-season on fourth.
Trabzonspor goalkeeper Tolga Zengin added six Champions League games to his 17 Super League performances, and did his best to keep his team standing, however, Trabzonspor was shadow of last year’s team and Zengin’s efforts were not enough.
A Trabzonspor player on the other end of the pitch deserves mention nevertheless. Burak Yılmaz scored 16 goals in 14 matches, which is better than six teams in the division. It was almost certain Trabzonspor attacker would miss Selçuk İnan dishing out assists to him, but Burak was even more efficient than last year.
Sadly, Fenerbahçe forward Henri Bienvenu was the biggest disappointment of the first half. The Cameroonian forward scored only four goals as the only striker the club, along with Semih Şentürk, and could not pass wingers Alex de Souza and Miroslav Stoch or even defensive midfielder Cristian Baroni in the tally.
Maybe it is all about adaptation. Stoch was highly criticized last year but upped his game this year to become the primary reason Fenerbahçe were able to keep up with high-flying Galatasaray. Bienvenu’s Cameroonian compatriot Pierre Webo, however, did not lose time for adaptation. The Istanbul BB forward scored seven goals in his first season after nine years in Spain.
Football fans should also be credited for adaptation. It was not an easy task to focus on a game after days of being subjected to the speculations and allegations that have been marring the sport.