Galatasaray taking a trip down memory lane in England

Galatasaray taking a trip down memory lane in England

Galatasaray taking a trip down memory lane in England

Galatasaray players celebrate a goal during the team’s 4-0 victory over Antalyaspor in the Spor Toto Super League. Tonight, Galatasaray goes back to Old Trafford where its glory days on the European stage Champions League started, to face one of the strongest teams in the continent but it has reasons to be optimistic. DHA photo

Arif Erdem receives the ball from teammate Hakan Şükür, way outside the box. He looks toward goal and sees goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel way off his line. Erdem fires a classy lob over the towering Dane. The ball crosses the line, allowing Galatasaray to claw one back against Manchester United. In hindsight, though, the goal was so much more than just one goal.

That was the course of Turkish football history changing – in just a few seconds.

Tonight, Galatasaray will meet Manchester United at Old Trafford in the first game of its Champions League campaign, revisiting the “Theater of Dreams,” where its Champions League dreams began in the first place.

Arif’s wonder strike against the English giants on Oct. 20, 1993, was one of the landmarks in the history of Turkish football. That goal gave Galatasaray some hope after conceding two goals in just a quarter of an hour in the first leg of a Champions League qualifying tie. More than that, it kick-started a new era.

After the goal, Galatasaray found two more thanks to Swiss-born Turkish forward Kubilay Türkyılmaz, taking a previously unthinkable lead of 3-2. Had Eric Cantona not saved the day for Manchester United in the last minutes of the game for a 3-3 draw, it would have been the end of Manchester United’s 40-year unbeaten streak at home in European games. The record would fall a few years later at the hands of another Turkish club, Fenerbahçe, but for Galatasaray, the draw was good enough. Two weeks later, Galatasaray would hold onto a goalless draw in Istanbul, thanks in part to a highly intense atmosphere at the now long-gone Ali Sami Yen Stadium. The atmosphere was so hostile in Istanbul that United manager Sir Alex Ferguson still remembers it to this very day.

“We have the experience of playing against Galatasaray in the past and will always remember the ‘Welcome to Hell’ banners,” Ferguson said after this year’s draws were made. “It’s always a difficult type of match.”

Legendary United winger Ryan Giggs, the only remaining member of the squad that experienced that day, says his memories of that day are no fun at all.

Hostile atmosphere
“I remember it vividly. It’s one of those memories that will always stick with you,” Giggs said. “There were things thrown at us when we were driving away on the coach, fans outside the hotel chanting all night making sure we didn’t get any sleep and people phoning the hotel rooms. It had everything.”

With the 0-0 draw at Ali Sami Yen, Galatasaray became the first Turkish team to qualify for the Champions League group stages. The same feat was repeated the following year and after a two-year hiatus, Galatasaray managed to repeat it for the following six years. That laid the foundations for what would make Galatasaray the first Turkish football team to win a continental trophy with its UEFA and Super Cup victories in 2000. All that could be traced back to that very day, and that comeback.

“For Galatasaray history, the biggest outcome of the season was two things that nothing can buy,” annals read on the club’s official website. “Pride and honor.”

Galatasaray hopes that its return to Old Trafford will be equally prolific and open a new door to the club’s future. The Lions return to the top-level European club competition after a five-year absence, but the drought felt longer since appearances after 2002 were not as positive as the previous decade.
“Galatasaray made history [at Old Trafford] then. The club is used to achievements like that, so why not [win]?” coach Fatih Terim said after his team warmed up for their United test by winning 4-0 away to Antalyaspor on the weekend in the league. “We respect Manchester United highly, but we are not afraid to lose. We are going to Manchester to get the best positive result. We are going there to win.”
Portugal’s Braga hosts Romanian champions CFR Cluj in the other game in the group.