While the under-20 play ball

While the under-20 play ball

Under-20 means the beginning of post-adolescence. Post-adolescence is when adolescence is behind but when its issues are still ongoing. It is a period when one is autonomous but not fully autonomous; it is the infancy of transforming into adulthood. The U-20 championship is the summer camp of youngsters who live this complicated mood in the fascinating and tense world of football. Names such as Maradonna in 1979, Bebeto in 1983, Figo in 1991, Riquelme, Trezeguet in 1997, Casillas in 1999, Messi in 2005 and Agüero in 2007 were noticed in this championship in their kiddie state.

The U-20 is the top stage of young teams starting from under 14. In the new approach to young teams’ football coaching, while the team spirit is trained it is important to process each individual talent separately. Switzerland, which was the world champion in 2009 in U-17, focuses on coach training. The coach of that team, Dany Ryser, said, “In the past, we used to hunt only for talented players; now we have a special focus on coach selection and training.”

The Colombia team’s coach, Carlos Restrepo, is looking forward to the game on June 25 in Rize with Turkey. “Two football crazy countries will face each other.” He has a net answer for the secret of their success: “Our secret is our mental coach and sports psychologist Rafael Sabarain.” A coach who considers a psychologist more important than himself, one who deals with young players one by one! He knows that it takes a special knowledge and care, beyond conventional coaching, to maintain the mental “fitness” of players at this age.

It is said that this championship is the most top-ranking organization in Turkish football history. The time corresponds with the time of the Taksim Gezi Park resistance when the urban post-adolescents (between 18 and 29, technically) released their energies, wisdom and honor and met maltreatment. It is a time when the “authority” did not treat the under 20 very well, not at all. FIFA said it did not see any security problem stemming from the Taksim incidents. I’m sure security measures will be taken. Well, the influence of the young soul which shook the country, will it not leak into this young team championship, even if it were to be seen waving a corner flag? At least, while watching the games, we should keep in mind what has happened and that particular spirit.

Gençlerbirliği is proud to have the most players from their team in the national team of U-20. One of the team’s fans, 26-year-old Murat Özdemir also bears this humble pride. I don’t know if Murat is going to watch this championship, which comes at a time of a famine of football; because his right eye becomes exhausted very quickly. Murat lost his left eye, hit by a gas capsule during the Taksim Gezi protests. He is one of the 10 people who have lost their eyes because of gas bombs fired at the level of people’s heads. He had the red and black Gençlerbirliği jersey on him when he was trying to run away from the gas attacks and he stopped to look back and see if they continued, only to be hit by one of the capsules in his eye. They are trying to save his eyesight, whatever the percentage may be. He is expected to undergo a third surgery.

I would not ask for a gesture from young players, so that they do not get into trouble. But just for myself, I dedicate each good move of Gençlerbirliği players in the national team to Murat, in advance.

Tanıl Bora is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece was published on June 19. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.