Bend it like Metin Oktay

Bend it like Metin Oktay

Bend it like Metin Oktay

Using the game of football as a metaphor for the mating game, ‘Aşk Oyunu’ (Game of Love) steers toward romantic comedy, with Galatasaray and football fandom a major backdrop throughout the film.

In this week’s new release, “Aşk Oyunu” (Game of Love), directed by Umut Yüksel, the leading man Cevat (Kemal Uçar) sees his late father, Ekrem, in a dream. Ekrem tells his son that if he wants Galatasaray to win the title after a few years in the wilderness, he has to be in their hometown with his buddies during the final match against Fenerbahçe. Only then will Galatasaray win.

Using the game of football as a metaphor for the mating game, the film steers toward romantic comedy, with Galatasaray and football fandom a major backdrop throughout the film. The film begins with the famous voice of veteran sports commentator Orhan Ayhan, along with news clippings taking us to Galatasaray’s championship in May 2012.

But it is not the first time Galatasaray has been a major player in a feature film in Turkey. Half a century ago, the legendary football player Metin Oktay played himself in a biopic, adapted from an interview he did with the writer Safa Önal. “Taçsız Kral” (King without a Crown), directed by the late Atıf Yılmaz, plays more like a linear narrative of the life of Oktay, who was still a popular player when the film was released in 1965.

Footage from football matches

The movie includes footage from football matches (far too many for non-fans of football), along with storylines of Oktay’s popularity among women, starring three beautiful actresses of the time, Ajda Pekkan, Gönül Yazar and Ayten Gökçer. There are no plot twists in this biopic, amid rumors that Oktay’s wife strictly oversaw the whole production associated with the film’s backstory. As expected, the film features plenty of cameos, with teammate Turgay Şeren and coach Gündüz Kılıç among others.

There are other notable football films in the last two decades that do not focus on a specific player or team, but rather use football as a broader theme. The 2000 Turkish film “Dar Alanda Kısa Paslaşmalar” (Offside), tells the tale of the trials and tribulations of an amateur football team in the 1980s. Directed by Serdar Akar, the film stars Müjde Ar, the most famous Turkish actress from the decade.
Bend it like Metin Oktay
Life is 90 minutes

Once again, memorable cameos from former players like Rıdvan Dilmen, Tanju Çolak and Feyyaz Uçar turn the film into a delight for football fans. Becoming a cult football hit instantly, the film went on to win four awards at the Istanbul International Film Festival, including best film, director and actor for Savaş Dinçel. The tagline, “Life is like football,” pretty much summarizes the philosophical undertones of the movie.

Director and writer Volga Sorgu’s debut feature of 2011, “Kaledeki Yalnızlık” (Loneliness in the Goal) tells a memorable story that uses football as an instrument of play, passion and heartbreak. From the very first minutes, the film touches on subjects as diverse as coping with death, dysfunctional family relations, class differences, the decay of urban life, poverty, fraud and even touches on the lives of third-generation migrant Turks in Germany.

Football as a metaphor nearly brushes all of these themes, the major one being the heavy burden of being a goalkeeper in a team sport. In a perfect case of art imitating life, the ex-goalkeeper Numan Çakır, who had to end his two-decade career following a traffic accident, plays Nurettin, a goalkeeper who loses his wife and a bright future in football after a traffic accident. The film accomplishes even more with its use of football language in a clever and subtle way.


Taçsız Kral

“It was the best goal, love” is the tagline of “Kaledeki Yalnızlık.” “Life is not 90 minutes” is the tagline of another football film, Suat Oktay Şenocak’s “Camcı / Adı Aşk Bu Eziyetin” (Glassmaker / Love is the Name of this Torment) of 2010. The film features a die-hard Bursaspor fan Metin (named after Metin Oktay of “Taçsız Kral” fame) who finds himself in some shady money transfer linked to football matches. The film tackles the psychological dynamics of fandom, as in the words of director Şenocak, “similar to the film ‘Green Street Hooligans’ on West Ham United fans.” What makes the film stand out is its focus on the fans of Bursaspor, known as the Crocodiles, not the three big Istanbul clubs we are used to seeing in pop culture. Check out these films that blend cinema and football in an earnest way.