Fenerbahçe passes test of character

Fenerbahçe passes test of character

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Fenerbahçe passes test of character

Fenerbahçe full back Gökhan Gönül (C) scored a rare double during the team’s 3-0 win over Beşiktaş. Fenerbahçe players up their game in the absence of Alex de Souza. AA photo

Fenerbahçe managed to get two valuable wins during turbulent times after it parted ways with the club’s most successful player in recent history.

On Oct. 1, Alex sent shockwaves through the Fenerbahçe republic with his statement that he had asked for the termination of his contract following the club’s decision to leave him out of the senior squad. Three days later, Fenerbahçe crushed Borussia Mönchengladbach 4-2 in the Europa League. And on Oct. 7, the Yellow Canaries beat their Istanbul rival, Beşiktaş, 3-0 after another confident display.

It was certainly not a feat to be understated: At times when nearly all of the fans were championing the idea that Alex was wrongfully suspended and were blaming Chairman Aziz Yıldırım and coach Aykut Kocaman, the players definitely had to play with their backs to the wall.

It was not an easy task in terms of the technical aspects of the game as well: For the last eight years, Alex had been the first – and for many times, the only – option when the going gets tough for Fenerbahçe. He was the guy that created magic and scored with a stunning 25-meter shot against CSKA Moscow when the 2008 Champions League knockout spots were at stake. He was the guy that scored a goal and dished out an assist to help Fener come back against Galatasaray for a pivotal win for their 2011 title. Alex had rightfully earned “the savior” reputation through various Fenerbahçe squads, which had boasted several stars such as Nicolas Anelka, Mateja Kezman, Pierre Van Hooijdonk or Roberto Carlos.

Needless to say, the current Fenerbahçe squad has the quality to cope with the star’s absence. Dirk Kuyt has been a revelation for Fenerbahçe with his goal-per-game ratio while Moussa Sow upped his game this season. Raul Meireles immediately started to make an impact and Milos Krasic, finally, showed signs that he could play like he did four years ago. With Mehmet Topuz, Caner Erkin and Miroslav Stoch also in the rotation, it is clear that Kocaman boasts options that will be more than enough for Fener to live up to its contender status with rival Galatasaray.

The first two tests would always be the hardest, and Kocaman’s boys passed the test. With the international break giving the team a much-needed break, everyone, Fenerbahçe fans included, will slowly recover from the wounds caused by the absence of the Brazilian superstar.

Dire circumstances

Apart from the players’ character, the last week went to show that Fenerbahçe, as a club, can thrive traditionally well under dire circumstances. Last year, Fenerbahçe used the match-fixing case, and the jailing of Chairman Aziz Yıldırım as a motivating factor. The players and Kocaman stressed the club’s problems were boosting the team, who have proudly used the slogan “Us against everyone” from time immemorial – either right or wrong.

Ali Şen, the most famous Fenerbahçe chairman before the Yıldırım era, was one to know that short-term shocks work very well at the club. Days before the Fenerbahçe vs. Galatasaray derby on Sept. 8, 1996, he had signed Saffet Sancaklı, a former Galatasaray forward, from Kocaelispor. Sancaklı was on the scoresheet as the game ended 4-0 for Fenerbahçe.

“You should know how to distract a rival,” Şen would later say.

That is not to say that sending Alex was a shock tactic, but still, shocks can work pretty well with Fenerbahçe.