For Fener, Trabzonspor win was unlike any other

For Fener, Trabzonspor win was unlike any other

For Fener, Trabzonspor win was unlike any other

Fenerbahçe’s Mehmet Topuz celebrate his goal against Trabzonspor. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Usually derbies against Galatasaray have a pivotal quality in Fenerbahçe’s fixtures, but this time the Trabzonspor game was the real match of the year for the defending Turkish champions.

Fenerbahçe beat Trabzonspor 1-0 Dec. 18 in the Spor Toto Super League game. It was not a title-decider, it did not help the team climb to the top of the league and it could even have been regarded as a normal win given Trabzonspor’s poor form. But the meaning of the game surpassed the simple three-point accounts. For Fenerbahçe fans, it was the justification of its league title, which is subject to an ongoing investigation.

The Yellow Canaries have been playing the season in the most peculiar circumstances. Starting with the first arrests July 3, the team has been living through speculations of a punishment of relegation based on allegations that some games were manipulated on the way to last year’s title. Chairman Aziz Yıldırım and four other club members are behind bars pending trial as part of the match-fixing case.

Several players, including forwards Mamadou Niang, Emmanuel Emenike and Daniel Güiza, winger Andre Santos and defender Diego Lugano left the team with virtually no replacements on the squad. To top it all, a UEFA request executed by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) deprived the team of the chance to play in the Champions League. To make things worse, the European football’s governing body decided to replace the Istanbul team with Trabzonspor, who played in the preliminaries as the Turkish runner-up and lost.

No phone calls, just the on-pitch battle
That was why the buildup to the Dec. 18 game was close to being a season finale for the team: Fenerbahçe, which showed total domination to win 16 of its 17 matches in the second part of the last season, was eager to show that it won the title not thanks to some purported phone talks between Yıldırım and other chairmen.

Truth be told, pre-July 3, Fenerbahçe was accepted as the country’s best team. They had several options in every part of the pitch and were winning their games, either comfortably or with a last-minute goal. On Dec. 18, it was all about Fenerbahçe reminding the football world that it was actually the players – not the alleged phone calls – that won the title. And it was their way of saying,
“Form is temporary, class is permanent” to Trabzonspor – which was materialized in a pre-game choreography by the fans.

The fans showed a gigantic silhouette of Aykut Kocaman with the phrase “You have a huge mark on your history” along with the years 1996 and 2011. The pun on the Turkish word Kocaman, which means huge, was exhausted by the Turkish media, but this time it was an apt use: Kocaman, the scorer of the winner in the title-deciding clash between the two teams in 1996, was the coach ending Trabzonspor’s title dreams earlier this year.

Apart from the win, Fenerbahçe had some other reasons to be proud of. Fullback Gökhan Gönül warned referee Cüneyt Çakır that he did not have to show a card to Aykut Akgün in the 55th minute. Çakır, Turkey’s highest-rated referee, (but apparently too interfering in domestic games – there were 38 foul whistles during the game) did not listen to Gönül and sent Akgün off. Of course, while Gönül received credit for his fair play, Mehmet Topuz, the scorer of the game-winning goal, was discredited for trying to pull his teammate to prevent him from warning the ref.

That was the third defeat in a row for Trabzonspor, whose last win came against Kayserispor Nov. 6. After losing many players, this was only a shadow of the Trabzonspor team that brought the title race to the wire. But even last season’s Black Sea side would probably not have been strong enough to beat Fenerbahçe that night given their commitment.