Sivasspor enjoys redemption after overcoming ‘turbulence’

Sivasspor enjoys redemption after overcoming ‘turbulence’

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Sivasspor enjoys redemption after overcoming ‘turbulence’

Sivasspor forward Michael Eneramo (L) shoots while Mersin İdman Yurdu’s Cameroonian defender Joseph Boum. With 10 goals to his name, the Nigerian forward is Sivasspor’s top scorer this season. DHA photo

Three years ago, Sivasspor was crushing its opponents with “türbülent.” After two forgettable seasons, they have been through turbulent times and are enjoying a rebirth.

After a series of good performances, capped by last weekend’s 5-1 away win at Mersin İdman Yurdu, Sivasspor climbed to sixth, only two points behind the championship playoff spots. Maybe this can be the year “Yiğidolar” can get a shot at European football again.

For a brief two-year period between 2007 and 2009, the Central Anatolian side was the team to beat in the Spor Toto Super League. In year one of their two-year heyday, the club enjoyed a club-high fourth-spot finish, only after losing to champion Galatasaray on the last day of the season and slipping to the bottom of a three-way tie with Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş, who all finished on the same number of points.

While most people were thinking this was a one-off from an underdog having its day, Sivasspor proved it had much more to do.

In a year when the usual title hopefuls Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe were largely disappointing, Sivasspor occupied the top spots for most parts of the season and became a team to watch out for, even though the team eventually lost the title to Beşiktaş.

Back then, an overwhelmingly flamboyant Bülent Uygun was at the helm. He has said he talked with former Anadolu Efes coach Aydın Örs, the most decorated man in Turkish basketball, to learn the tricks of zone defense. He said he was using computerized statistics and altering his tactics accordingly at halftimes, to explain how his team turned games in second halves of the game. And he was naming his team’s tactics “türbülent,” with a clever pun including his name. The physical play involving a sudden increase in tempo and solid defending fit with the name well, too.

His antics were not limited to those on the pitch. He had a website where he wrote poems full of admiration for the then-Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt. He even talked a man out of a suicide attempt once. Actually, the reason some found Sivasspor an unpleasant side was mostly from the fact that Uygun was talking – a lot.

After the fairytale in 2009, the team sold the majority of its players to mid-table teams and started a battle against relegation. Then came the end of the Uygun era.

The start of the 2011-2012 season was, again, turbulent for the team. The team’s chairman, Mecnun Odyakmaz, and goalkeeper Korcan Çelikay, like Uygun, then at Eskişehirspor, were among the 31 football officials, players and coaches to be jailed pending trial as part of the ongoing match-fixing case. Police have alleged that 19 games were manipulated last season, including Fenerbahçe’s title-winning 4-3 victory over Sivasspor.

After a bad start with two defeats in a row, Sivasspor recovered from all the negatives and is now sixth. It has players like Polish midfielder Kamil Grosicki and Nigerian forward Michael Eneramo who are likely to be the most sought-out players in summer. Furthermore, it has a group of young players slowly gaining their place in the first-team, including defenders Ziya Erdal, Murat Akça and Czech midfielder Milan Cerny.

But on top of everything, the team boasts Rıza Çalımbay. The former Beşiktaş legend embodies everything Bülent Uygun was not: He likes to draw a low profile, he is humble and hardworking and a loyal coach who rates consistency over flashy results.

Maybe that is why Sivasspor is likely to win more fans this time – if not more points.