Curtain rises on new Turkish football season
The title race in the Turkish Süper Lig starts on Aug. 13 under the pandemic shadow and a major change in rules on foreign players.
Defending champion Beşiktaş hosts Rizespor in Istanbul in the Süper Lig’s first game, hoping to pick up from where it left off.
The club started the post-season by extending coach Sergen Yalçın’s contract for another two seasons. Facing troubled financials, it opted for free transfers, adding Salih Uçan, Kenan Karaman, Valentin Rosier and Alex Teixeira to the squad.
With a ticket to the Champions League group stage in hand, Beşiktaş banks on its fans’ support for another successful season.
Club chairman Ahmet Nur Çebi has made a call to the fans to buy the team’s jerseys.
“I know that you will support our team by wearing your jerseys in the stands while our players compete on the pitch in the Champions League, the Süper Lig and the Turkish Cup,” he wrote in the club’s official magazine.
“Wear our new season jerseys on the street, in the market, in the office, on the ferry, on the bus, and walk around proudly with your head held high,” he said.
Last season’s runner-up Galatasaray and third-place finisher Fenerbahçe start their campaigns with away games against newcomers: Galatasaray visits Giresunspor on Aug. 16 and Fenerbahçe travels to Adana Demirspor on Aug. 15.
The third newcomer, İzmir club Altay, will play its first top flight game in 18 years against Kayserispor on Aug. 14.
In other games, Karagümrük will host Gaziantep, Hatayspor will play Kasımpaşa at home, Alanyaspor will visit Başakşehir, Göztepe travels to Antalyaspor, Sivasspor takes on Konyaspor at home and Trabzonspor starts the new season at Malatyaspor.
Unlike previous seasons, most clubs in the Süper Lig start the new season without replacing their coaches.
Only two of the clubs in the 20-team league made changes: Fenerbahçe replaced Emre Belözoğlu with Vitor Pereira and Gaziantep terminated Ricardo Sa Pinto’s contract after just 116 days at helm and signed Erol Bulut.
Eighteen of the Süper Lig clubs will be headed by Turkish coaches, with Fenerbahçe and Karagümrük, which brought in Francesco Farioli of Italy, being the only teams to prefer a foreigner.
There will also be fewer foreigners on the pitch, with the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) limiting the number of foreign players a club can sign to 14, with only eight to be allowed to be fielded.
The maximum number of foreign players allowed to play will be lowered to seven for the 2020-2023 season and to six in the 2023-2024 season.
The clubs will also continue to feel the pain of the COVID-19 pandemic, although fans will be allowed in the stadiums under certain rules.
The TFF announced on Aug. 10 that away fans will be banned from the games for the entire season based on recommendations of health officials.
Home fans will be able to watch their teams play if their vaccinations are completed at least 14 days prior to the game or if they can present a negative PCR test taken at most 48 hours prior to the kickoff.
The Süper Lig season will have a two-week winter break between Dec. 27 and Jan. 7, 2022, and will end on May 22, 2022.