Turkey always plays against the wind
The football match between Iceland and Turkey on Sept. 9 showed once again the problems of the Turkish way of dealing with sports, or even in life in general.
Iceland got a very well deserved victory, destroying Turkey 3-0 and achieving a very significant success. But there were no people celebrating on the streets, or it was not what everybody talked about in Reykjavik the next day. The television stations were not broadcasting live for hours before or after the game, while the newspapers did not dedicate their front pages to the story of a great national success.
The Icelanders were happy, of course, but they did not live their happiness to the extreme, like the frenzy we would have in Turkey if we beat, for example, Spain or Germany 3-0.
The fans at the stadium were mostly families, happy to be enjoying an activity together, rather than shouting slogans for the entire game at the expense of missing all the fun. They were not “theatergoers” either, a term we like to use to define the silent football fans in stadiums who watch the games silently.
They made noise, they cheered and played a role in their side’s victory, although there were no more than 9,000 of them at Reykjavik’s Laugardalsvöllur Stadium.
What brought victory to Iceland against Turkey was preparation, as coach Lars Lagerback said after the game.
“Having watched Turkey trying to implement a new system in the friendly game against Denmark, we knew what to expect,” he said. “I am impressed by the players, we prepared the whole week and the first half was maybe one of the best halves since I came to the team.”
On the Turkish front, instead of looking into what we really can get out of such a failure, the blame game is on. Of course, it starts with the population cliché: Many pundits have been asking how the team from a country of a population of 325,000 could win against a country of 77 million people. That would have been a valid point if China and India had been the dominant forces in sports, especially in football.
A pundit worth noting here is Hasan Şaş, a former Turkish international and Galatasaray player and a former assistant coach for the national team, who predicted before the game that Iceland would "not be able to bring the ball to our goal three times even if they carry it with their hands.” Much to Şaş’s surprise, the Icelanders knew how to kick the ball.
Then comes the “blame it on the players” part, starting with how they do not give their all when it comes to the national team and questioning the “real reason” between the significant differences between their performances for the clubs and Turkey.
Under normal circumstances, pundits would then question the ability of the coach, probably demanding his resignation. But this part is out of question if the coach is Fatih Terim, who currently holds all the strings in Turkish football and whose career achievements cannot be questioned.
But even a coach with a brilliant career such as Terim is not immune from the mentality of blaming a loss on outside factors.
“In the first half, strong winds blew against us, helping Iceland,” Terim said after the game. “We thought the wind would be on our side in the second half and help us, but at halftime, the wind stopped.”
Turkey always “plays against the wind” - whether it be a football game, its accession bid to the European Union, its foreign policy, the Kurdish problem, and so on. Instead of changing its game plan according to the situation, it waits for the day when the winds will blow from behind.