Wednesday, November 25, 2009

With respect and passion in our eyes

In midst of the turbulence of writing my PHD thesis, and being involved with multiple projects three things give me the refuge I need: my girlfriend, my musical explorations and Besiktas.

Tonight we are playing against Manchester United in the Champions League. It sounds weird to German ears, to use the "we" pronoun for a game in which I will not run or sweat, but that's how we see our football teams in Turkey. They are ours... The excitement is growing by the minute, and I am finding it hard to concentrate on my work. I need to externalize this excitement somehow. I will do it by recapturing one of my saddest, yet affirming football experiences I had. How I witnessed the record breaking 8-0 loss to Liverpool in Liverpool.

It all started on the day the draws were announced. I was in Italy, in the beautiful mountain city of Trento. Looking at the draws, I knew I had to go and watch a game in Anfield, the historic and iconic stadium. It may have been a once in a life time opportunity. I bought my flight tickets on the same day, and started dreaming about beating the Reds in their stadium. Just like we did to Chelsea 4 years ago in Stamfordbrige.

First game was at home. We beat Liverpool 2-1. The crowd in the Stadium was simply unbelievable. Perhaps the best crowd performance ever seen in a Champions league game. We played with hearts, but it was obvious that Liverpool was a league better than us. So my hopes grew. As Harvey Milk once said "You cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living."

I flew to London, the weekend before the game. My sister lives in London. On Saturday, we were playing against our arch rivals Fenerbahce. I found a restaurant in Soho, which was showing the game. Unfortunately, it was packed and I had to find an alternative. I had read in a forum post from 3 years ago, that there is a Turkish Cypriot's coffee house in Soho. With the name of the street I dived into the dark and winding streets of Soho. After walking anxiously for 15 minutes, with the disappointment in my heart that the game had already started, something out of this world happened. Among the usual noise on a Saturday night, I was hearing a Besiktas chant. I was sure I was hallucinating. After all, the game was in Kadiköy Stadium, where 55. 000 Fenerbahce fans would be overwhelming 2000 or so Besiktas fans.

But it was not a dream. It was a Besiktas chant, and it was coming from a TV set somewhere nearby. I followed the sound and saw the open windows of a small room on the 3rd floor. In the entrance read : Turkish Cypriot's Local. I went in to find Besiktas leading 1-0 away, and the 2000 fans in Kadiköy silencing the Fenerbahce fans. It was unbeliveable. The game did not turn out the way we planned. Fenerbahce found 2 goals, and were leading 2-1 till the last minute. During the extra time we scored. I was shouting so loud, that I ran short of breath. However, something was not right. Besiktas players were protesting the referee. The goal was not counted. I did not understand why, the commentator did not understand why, Fenerbahce fans did not understand why. In fact it took 10 minutes or so for us to comprehend, that the referee blew his whistle for an alleged foul play leading to the goal, and the players played on, not hearing the whistle. It was normal, because there was no faul play...

I spent the day after, preparing my hand made banner. It read "132 Decibels, Beat that if you can!" I was going to place it in a place where the "legendary" Kop Stands could see. I arrived at Liverpool after a long bus ride from London, at night. It was chilling. Liverpool didn't leave a very good impression on me, but I tried not to take it as a bad omen. I toured the city with my Besiktas jersey the next day. Everyone was very friendly to me, and wished me luck. I met Besiktas supporters from all over Europe in a pub, where we started drinking and chanting. A suspicious looking guy approached us, hiding something under his coat. It was an Everton flag, the flag of Liverpool's other team. I promised him to open it in the stands. The bus ride to the stadium was great, we had outnumbered Liverpool supporters in the bus and chanted the whole way. I made into a pub where the Kop guys were filling up before the game. No adversaries whatsoever. I made them sing some Besiktas Chants. I was feeling great when the game started. Then everything toppled down in few minutes.

1st goal, 2nd goal, 3rd goal. We were completely disintegrating. I remembered our 6-0 defeat to Leads, and how I locked myself to my room and prayed for it to end. The half-time came. We wanted to cheer up our players. They clapped without any show of determination. Fear was pouring from their eyes. I knew hell was about to break loose, but I was not prepared for the things to come... Our inexperienced trainer substituted a Brazilian attacking midfielder who went to Qatar to play the next year. Our middle field was as strong as a Jellyfish. 4, 5, 6. I called my dear friend Ozan, to share my wish that it doesn't get any worse than 7-0, the largest goal difference in a Champions League game to that day. As I was on the phone, our keeper kicked a ball to clear it, the ball bounced back from a defender and went in the post. Liverpool did not even have to try scoring we were doing it for them. The game ended 8-0 on 89. minute. Referee was being protective. It was such a shock, that I did not feel the pain until 2 days later. I was floating in mid air.

I saw Besiktas players on their way to plane. I told them to raise their heads, after all it was a game and we were both unlucky, and less capable of Liverpool. I hanged the Everton flag in my room, not because I hated Liverpool fans, who were very kind to us even after the game, but because their players and their trainer did not stop after it was 5-0 or 6-0. Just as the way you loose tells much about your character, the way you win tells much about your character too.

So I hope we will win tonight. If we cannot, we should loose better this time. Not with fear, but respect and passion in our eyes.


Gurbet Kartalı said...

This was one of the best posts I've ever read.. I was thinking to do the same thing, Iean writing in English so at least some outsiders would know what we're made of. Maybe that inspiration will come later today, you never know... We shall keep hope alive!...

Ahmet C. Toker said...

then you may also like this story on bbc: