Kocaman crisis prevails after Fener is over Alex controversy

Kocaman crisis prevails after Fener is over Alex controversy

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Kocaman crisis prevails after Fener is over Alex controversy

Fenerbahçe coach Aykut Kocaman (R) reacts during his team’s 3-1 defeat to Antalyaspor in the Spor Toto Super League. Fenerbahçe fans protested Kocaman in the latter stages of the match. AA photo

Just when Fenerbahçe is starting to find some relief after the Alex de Souza saga, it is now surrounded by another major problem as pressure mounts over Aykut Kocaman.

Coach Kocaman came under fire during the Istanbul giant’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Medical Park Antalyaspor in the Spor Toto Super League, with women and children fans filling the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium calling the former club legend to resign.

After the game, Kocaman’s remarks clearly indicated that it was hard to cope with the pressure. “I have to say it is not easy to cope with the pressure for 34 weeks.” He added that he would “wait for the right time” when asked if he was mulling resignation.

“Of course it is not nice [to hear calls for resignation],” Kocaman said. “But that is one of the bitter truths about football. When things do not go well, coaches attract all the lightning. That’s natural.”

Credit fading out

Coaches being subjected to blame is natural, as Kocaman puts it, but it is more than that at Fenerbahçe. As a club which likes to experience all its glories and agonies to the most extreme, everybody pays the price. Kocaman, actually, is the only Fenerbahçe coach during the presidency of Aziz Yıldırım who managed to keep his job despite not winning the title.

It could be argued that last season’s runner-up finish was almost as valuable as a title, since it came in a year when the club was sweating under match-fixing allegations that put its previous title in question. The club boasted about the way it coped with the adversity and of course, in a year when Yıldırım was behind bars due to match-fixing allegations, it was Kocaman who stood up and acted as a leader.

However, Kocaman’s credit is quickly fading out, especially due to his fallout with captain Alex. After the fan-favorite Brazilian was left out of the squad, he had requested the termination of his contract, turning supporters against Yıldırım and Kocaman.

After a few victories came in the wake of Alex’s departure, including a 3-0 derby win over Beşiktaş and crucial away victories at Borussia Mönchengladbach and AEL Limassol in the Europa League, fans were starting to buy the idea that parting ways with the Brazilian superstar was the painful but right decision. However, the bitter 3-1 defeat at home, which brought Fenerbahçe’s two-year unbeaten streak in home games to an end, quickly brushed out the belief.

Kocaman, a Fenerbahçe legend and the holder of the team’s national league goal-scoring record, has been a respected figure in Turkish football. Even during his playing days, he managed to be a standout with his character, which was epitomized by his famous remarks, “I cannot feel happy, thinking how my Trabzonspor counterparts are feeling right now,” right after scoring the winning goal in a game that would win the title for Fenerbahçe.

During his coaching years, he has endured some of the worst management crises, including working at a bankrupt İstanbulspor club, which hit bottom after the departure of chairman Cem Uzan, tycoon-turned-politician that would eventually be convicted of establishing a crime ring. He managed to help the club survive during a time when the players were not paid and the club had to take buses to away matches instead of flying.

Considering his very high standards, Kocaman saying that the pressure is not easy to cope with is quite a telling statement. He is facing hard times at Fener, and it remains to be seen whether he can win this fight.