Eskişehirspor happy to be back in European challenge

Eskişehirspor happy to be back in European challenge

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Eskişehirspor happy to be back in European challenge

Eskişehirspor players are seen during a training session ahead of St Johnstone game. The club has so far played 10 UEFA Cup, four Cup Winners’ Cup and 14 Balkan Cup games, winning eight and losing 16. AA photo

Eskişehirspor will take a bow on the European stage today for the first time in 24 years when it meets Scotland’s St. Johnstone in the second qualifying round of the Europa League.

The game tonight at the city’s Atatürk Stadium will end the club’s 24 years of longing for international action, according to club chairman Halil Ünal. “We must perform accordingly,” the chairman recently told reporters in Eskişehir. “The beauty of football is scoring goals, [which results in] winning and going into the next round.”

Ünal said Eskişehirspor had the squad and the supporters to achieve success. “We can do it, and God willing, we will,” he said. “A city is in the same league as its club; with Eskişehirspor in the Europa League, Eskişehir is now in Europe.”

The Central Anatolian club had glorious days in European competitions in the 1970s, when the club was a major challenger to the Istanbul clubs in the Turkish league. Eskişehirspor’s first European game was in the 1969-1970 season, when the club played Egaleo of Greece in the Balkan Cup. Eskişehirspor held its opponent to a draw in the first game before beating them 2-0 in the return leg to advance to the next round, in which it lost to Bulgaria’s PFC Beroe Stara Zagora.

Historic performance

In the 1970-71 UEFA Cup competition, Eskişehirspor was pitted against Sevilla of Spain. Eskişehirspor lost the first match 1-0 in Sevilla, but won the second 3-1 in Eskişehir to win 3-2 on aggregate, with all three goals coming after the 80th minute by Fethi Heper, who later made a career change and became a finance professor.

 The club’s biggest achievement came in 1975 in the Balkan Cup. After knocking out Farul Constanta of Romania and Bulgaria’s Levski Sofia, Eskişehirspor took on FK Radnicki. Although it lost both ties against the Yugoslavian club, Eskişehirspor finished second in the event, which brought together some of the best teams in the Balkans.

Eskişehirspor has played 10 UEFA Cup, four Cup Winners’ Cup and 14 Balkan Cup games, winning eight, drawing four and losing 16. The club has scored 34 goals against its opponents while conceding 50.

The club, which did not qualify for Europe after finishing sixth in the Spor Toto Super League, was surprisingly included in this season’s Europa League after fourth-placed Beşiktaş and fifth-placed Bursaspor were banned from competition for financial irregularities.

Bursaspor appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over the decision and was subsequently reinstated to the Europa League but the court refused to quash the similar ban against the Black Eagles, paving the way for Eskişehirspor to play on the European stage.

The game starts at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live on TRT1.