Alex loses Fener ego wars, but wins hearts
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily NewsA well-documented fact is that new footballers are welcomed to Istanbul in big numbers, but are left all alone when they leave their clubs. That was not the case for Alex de Souza.
Hundreds flocked to the Brazilian’s door late Oct. 1 after hearing the news that he was no longer a Fenerbahçe player and tens of thousands took to social media networks to show how frustrated they are. Souza announced that he wanted to terminate his contract with Fenerbahçe in the wake of a harsh club ban that left the Brazilian superstar out of the squad. Instead of training with the Fenerbahçe reserves until the transfer window, Souza wanted to cut to the chase and did not want to stay at a club where he felt unwanted.
Maybe he would be relieved with the fact that it was not millions of Fenerbahçe fans that did not want him, it was chairman Aziz Yıldırım and coach Aykut Kocaman.
In fact, Souza entered a fierce poker game with the boss and the manager, but lost the game.
However, the thousands of support messages and fans gathered outside his house, with one even burning a t-shirt with Yıldırım’s face on, showed that Souza is not the real loser of that game.
Yıldırım and Kocaman face bigger pressure with a crucial Europa League game at Borussia Mönchengladbach tomorrow and a domestic derby against Beşiktaş looming large over the Istanbul club’s fixture. Two negative results could rock the two men’s positions.
It should be noted that Souza was not faultless during this process.
Kocaman has never hidden his intentions to prepare for life without Souza and he has said he could limit the playing time of the Brazilian “step by step” this season. With Dutchman Dirk Kuyt making a storming start to the season, Souza was no longer the go-to guy – a role that he was not used to in his eight years at Fenerbahçe. After not starting the Champions League playoff game at Spartak Moscow, he took to Twitter and complained about the coach’s decision. He used the word “jealousy” and it was all downhill from there. He was left out of the squad to face Kayserispor. Thousands of fans chanted “Fenerbahçe is here, where is Alex?” during their team’s win, and Yıldırım tried to interrupt the slogans, calling the fans to “support the players on the pitch.”
It was the perfect epitome of a crisis handled wrong. Souza taking it to Twitter, Kocaman harshly punishing a player and Yıldırım intervening with the situation were all lived in front of the public eyes – apparently the trio never sat down altogether to sort out their differences.
Now, Yıldırım has a mutiny on his hands. He has seen Fenerbahçe fans standing by his side during the year he was behind bars as part of a match-fixing case. Now, he has to face the fact that the tides have turned dramatically after showing the club’s most prolific player in the last decade the door. On the other hand, he stood by Kocaman to give him some credit in the wake of the club’s gruesome performances, but everybody knows that he would not be patient with the manager if the results do not come.
Kocaman, similarly, has no room for error now. A defeat in the Europa League can be overseen, but a home match against archrival Beşiktaş is likely to decide his fate as the Fenerbahçe coach. Largely lauded for his leadership in a rough year while the chairman was in the Metris Prison, Kocaman saw his credit dramatically decreased near zero during the Alex crisis.
And for Souza, the brilliant magician, who has been the most entertaining and aesthetically filling experience in Turkish football since Gheorghe Hagi’s farewell in 2001, it was an abrupt and underserved ending. A few weeks ago, Fenerbahçe fans were lamenting the fact that his time at the club was limited, say, for a few years at best, but now they are shocked with the fact that it is all over. No more the skinny Brazilian guy would do his magic to turn a game dramatically and then run to his favored corner to celebrate.
“I will never forget those fans,” he tweeted yesterday. “Thanks for everything.”
Needless to say that football fans, even the fiercest of Fenerbahçe’s rivals, would remember Souza as well.