Prime Minister of Fenerbahçe

Prime Minister of Fenerbahçe

“The year was 1942 … My father was the prime minister … At the same time he was the chair of Fenerbahçe [football club]. We lived in Ankara.

“There was a Fenerbahçe match in Ankara. My brother and I, together with my uncle, all wanted to go the match, but we wanted my father to take us there because it would look ‘cool’ that way. Because we shied away from my father we couldn’t ask him directly. So we told our mother and she conveyed to my father to take the kids to the match. My father said OK.

“We all together took a ride in his official vehicle and arrived at the stadium. While we were thinking we would take our seats in the VIP box and watch the game from the best place … My father told the driver to stop, took some money from his pocket, gave it to my uncle, and said, ‘OK kids. Here’s the ticket office, go and buy your tickets.’”

His son was telling this story, the son of Şükrü Saracoğlu. The prime minister, the chair of Fenerbahçe was saying, “You do not receive freebees.”

It was only a ticket, but he didn’t even arrange that for his sons. He was giving the message: “Whatever you want to buy, you will pay for it yourself.”

The year was 1946. The elections were over. Şükrü Saracoğlu was visiting his hometown, Ödemiş, in a tour to thank the people of İzmir for electing him as a deputy. His son was accompanying him. They were eating dinner at a restaurant. Naturally, they were being served rakı and beer. The ex-prime minister started drinking beer and his son was drinking soda. The Ödemiş mayor then told the son, “Dear son, you are older than 18, why are you still drinking soda?” The son of the ex-prime minister replied, “At a table where my father is drinking beer, it is only appropriate for me to drink soda.” The ex-prime minister, hearing that, called over the waiter and ordered him to remove his beer and bring him rakı. This was so that on a table where the father is drinking rakı, the son can drink beer, which is one grade lower than rakı.

Look at this tolerance. Look at this elegance.  

Prime Minister Saracoğlu attended the ball of the Political Sciences Faculty in Ankara. Music was playing and people were having fun. A young girl approached the prime minister and asked him to dance. The prime minister refused the girl and told her, “It should not be this way.” The environment became icy and the girl, extremely upset, went back to her table. After two minutes, the prime minister got up and approached that girl and asked her to dance with him. Everybody was astonished. The prime minister smiled and said, “The man asks for a dance. Just because I am the prime minister, I wouldn’t make a young girl come up to me and ask.”

(The young girl who the prime minister asked to dance with was Feriha Sanerk, who became Turkey’s first female security director. In Turkey, where nowadays girls and boys being together cannot be tolerated, this happened once upon a time.)  

Years passed by. Prime ministers changed, the chairs of Fenerbahçe changed. There was another a match in Kadıköy. Fenerbahçe chair Faruk Ilgaz was about to enter the stadium (which will later be renamed the “Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium”) and he spotted an elderly gentleman waiting in line to buy a ticket. He looked carefully, who was it? That gentleman was Şükrü Saracoğlu.

Because even though years have passed, the mentality of the prime minister who does not offer a freebee even to his sons stayed the same: Whatever you want to buy, you must pay for it.
Because those are men who have lied on a bed of nails, who have been molded with blood and gunpowder in the national struggle, who have not swallowed one bite of ill-gotten food, who have always put the interests of the nation before their family, their sons, themselves. They were proper men.

Turn around and take a look at today’s fathers and sons.

The father calls his son to tell him to “zero” the money; the other replies, “I have taken care of the money cases, dad. Only 30 million euros are left.” The dad says, “Tell the chair candidate of Fenerbahçe to say this and that. These people should be in the club management of Fenerbahçe. Deal with the ones who aren’t from us”; to which the son says, “Yes, dad, roger that…”

Yılmaz Özdil is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on March 5. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.