Men in suits dominate Turkish football scene after great derby

Men in suits dominate Turkish football scene after great derby

ISTANBUL-Hürriyet Daily News
Men in suits dominate Turkish football scene after great derby

Galatasaray forward Milan Baros (R) dribbles past Fenerbahçe’s Cristian (C) during the derby, which was overshadowed by the feud between Ünal Aysal (bottom left) and Ali Koç (bottom right). DHA Photo

Even though the weekend battle between Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray was the most thrilling derby in recent memory, just 24 hours were enough for the usual feuds to take over the national football agenda again.

Leader Galatasaray came back from a two-goal deficit to salvage a 2-2 draw against Fenerbahçe on March 17. Some could argue that Galatasaray was unlucky not to get all the points, while others may believe that the home team should have capitalized on the two superb goals scored early in the first half. Some could put the blame on Fener coach Aykut Kocaman’s decisions while others could heap praise on Galatasaray manager Fatih Terim, who orchestrated the visitor’s comeback. A couple of great goals and remarkable individual performances could have stood out as well.

But the men in suits dominate the agenda instead. First, Galatasaray Chairman Ünal Aysal reportedly criticized Fenerbahçe fans for not “having the same standards” as their rivals. Aysal’s words were a reaction to the missiles thrown onto the pitch during the game, causing Galatasaray coach Terim to be injured on his eyebrow.

Then, Fenerbahçe vice chairman Ali Koç hit out at Aysal, calling his remarks “opportunist.” “First of all, what happened to Mr. Terim is unacceptable. I am apologizing to Mr. Terim for that. But I cannot accept Mr. Ünal Aysal’s remarks, which are opportunist and not well thought-out.”

Koç spoke of past memories of Galatasaray fans’ violent behavior, including the May 19, 2007 derby that was played at the Ali Sami Yen Stadium under a barrage of thrown bottles onto the pitch, causing a five-match behind-closed-doors ban on supporters.

“We did not talk much about that incident back then. That is the right mentality. Taking an incident and talking about it for days to antagonize fans against each other is not responsible,” Koç said.

Aysal’s second statement on the issue was a cooler one, but he would not back down.

“Koç’s statements perhaps stem from his youthfulness,” he said. “I have never said Fenerbahçe fans are not as well-behaved as Galatasaray fans, but I see they have not matched the standards sustained by Galatasaray fans. We should erase such ugly act from Turkish football.”

Probably that debate will continue with another riposte from the Fenerbahçe bigwigs, but the real feud goes on between the fans. There will be two more games between Turkish football’s fiercest rivals in the playoffs and it is yet to be seen whether this off-the-pitch feud will be translated into even higher tension in future meetings.

If we need to talk about the beautiful moments that the beautiful game presented to us this week, we will find plenty of good goals to admire. Moussa Sow’s overhead bicycle kick that was the opener of the derby was one, and Alex de Souza’s thundering goal from about 25 meters was another.

The fluid short-passing move before Galatasaray’s first goal from Johan Elmander could be added to the list, along with Hakan Balta’s late equalizer.

But probably, Ricardo Quaresma’s goal against Manisaspor was the best of the week, if not the whole month, or even the season.

The Beşiktaş winger put a symbolic end to the month-long controversy by shooting from the far right of the goal into the opposite top corner of the net. It clinched the win for Beşiktaş and showed he still had lot to offer to the team, if he can put his feud with coach Carlos Carvalhal aside. Judging by his confident performance at the weekend, Quaresma showed he was willing to do so.