ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish football community hopes to leave the match-fixing scandal behind as Spor Toto Super League kicks off this weekend, but the bad memories of last season still haunt the country, leading to tension between the supporters of rival teams
Amid hopes for clean football, a recent derby shows the League is far from that. DHA photo
The new Super League season will be a test as to whether or not Turkish football can begin a new life and leave the match-fixing case behind.
After the judge reached his verdict in the match-fixing case last month the trial, which long dominated Turkish football, ended and the sport was given the opportunity to move on, but is that possible?
The Super League had its most turbulent season last year between the match-fixing case, harsh statements flung between clubs, big-name signings and, finally, a playoff round that nobody – not even the winner – wants to remember. The riots that broke out after the game dominated football talk, leaving little room for discussion of the actual game.
Actually, the match-fixing case, which is still being remembered by the date on which it was made public, July 3, 2011, was supposed to be about investigating the 2010 to 2011 season. However, its impacts were not limited just to the summer season, but stained the season entirely.
For the Turkish Football Federation
(TFF), which in may cleared all clubs of charges against them, match-fixing was “not reflected on the pitch,” but the tension of the investigation inevitably was. The tension between the supporters of Fenerbahçe
and other clubs continues. While the fact that Fenerbahçe
Chairman Aziz Yıldırım
was convicted by the court is considered by rival fans as a proof that the Istanbul club “did not deserve the 2011 title,” Fenerbahçe
accusses other clubs of putting all the blame of ireegularities in Turkish football “on our shoulders to clear their own names.”
A case that intended to clear a previous season went on to stain the next one. Now, it will be hard to divert the attention back to the pitch and the slowest transfer season in recent history will not help.Silent transfer season
Apart from Galatasaray
and Fenerbahçe, the Super League clubs did not make smashing transfers in the summer. After being barred from European cups due to financial irregularities, the only way was downsizing for Beşiktaş. Simao Sabrosa, Fabian Ernst and Egemen Korkmaz left the club after not agreeing to a pay-cut, while the club is still willing to listen to offers for Ricardo Quaresma. Beşiktaş
will try to give young players more chance, but it is yet to be seen whether Beşiktaş
fans are up for being patient. Samet Aybaba’s long-sought chance to coach his playing club could be cut short. For Trabzonspor, it will be more about replacing Burak Yılmaz, its marquee striker. The Black Sea
outfit will also have an unsung downsizing period, since it did little to strengthen its squad. Bursaspor and Eskişehirspor, with their consistent squads and having two of the country’s best coaches, Ertuğrul Sağlam and Ersun Yanal respectively, will try to sneak into the top four.
Among mid-table battlers, Orduspor, Sivasspor, Istanbul BB, Karabükspor, Kayserispor and Gençlerbirliği will deserve extra attention. After half a season of decent performance, what veteran coach Hector Cuper can do with Orduspor will be worth watching.
Coached by former Beşiktaş
gaffer Carlos Carvalhal, Istanbul BB will try to survive in life without Abdullah Avcı, who left the club for the national team earlier last season. After short-lived spells with Galatasaray
and Eskişehirspor, Michael Skibbe starts his third spell in Turkey and will likely be hoping he finds long-term success this time.
Kayserispor and Gençlerbirliği are among the usual suspects of the division, and will try to build up from last year’s glimpses of positive football. Sivasspor, whose coach Rıza Çalımbay turned down an offer to return to Beşiktaş, might again be placed right below the top four with names such as Kamil Grosicki and a Michael Eneramo.
Mersin İdman Yurdu, who has survived thanks to a strong first-half performance last season, will again try to hold on to top-flight with Super League veterans. From former Trabzonspor
man Ibrahima Yattara to veteran Galatasaray
midfielder Mustafa Sarp, and Fenerbahçe
attacker Özer Hurmacı, Mersin is gambling and hoping its players perform with know-how, instead of looking like has-beens.
Fellow southerners, Antalyaspor and Gaziantepspor, barely survived in the top-flight and look to be putting up a similar fight again. Small town club Akhisar, the league’s easternmost point Elazığspor and division-bouncer Kasımpaşa are the newcomers and look like natural candidates for relegation-battling.