Is The Turkcell Super Lig Underrated?
If you aren't living in Turkiye or don't speak Turkish, try finding some information on the teams in the Turkcell Super Lig. Go ahead.....and good luck. It isn't easy, which I have learned first hand because A). I don't live in Turkiye and B). I don't speak a great deal of Turkish. In my short time as a Fenerbahce fan, I've learned that the Turkcell Super Lig isn't viewed as premier European futbol league. I've even heard this from fans of Turkish teams. I had accepted this as truth....until recently.
I don't have Digiturk, so I rely on the internet for all of my Turkish futbol viewing. I don't get to see nearly as much as I'd like, but I've seen other teams play over the last few years in addition to my beloved Fenerbahce. I do have Fox Soccer Channel here in America, which should really be called "The English Premiership Network." As a result, I've seen a lot of English football, and a good deal of Italian football as well. I've seen some German games, a few Dutch games, some Argentine and Brazilian games, etc. After watching all of these games, I've concluded this: The Turkcell Super Lig is underrated and (gasp!) may be one of the better leagues in Europe. Yes, you read that correctly.
Let's look at Fenerbahce. We Fener supporters tend to believe we have one of the greatest clubs in Europe. Our rival Galatasaray supporters argue that we haven't done much in Euro competition. And....well....we're both right. A month ago I was having dinner with a friend of mine, who is a huge Barcelona fan. I told him I was a Fenerbahce fan which is usually followed by a list of strange questions. Instead, when I told him I was a Fener fan, he said "Yeah, Fenerbahce is becoming one of those great, big European clubs." At first I didn't think I heard him correctly. He isn't Turkish and is a follower of Barcelona. Sure enough, that's what he said. No, Fener hasn't won Champions League or even the UEFA Cup (yet), but you'll be hard-pressed to find any club in the world with a more loyal and passionate fan base.
Fenerbahce's recent European jaunts include a 3-0 thrashing of then-Italian Serie A leaders Palermo. They are currently third in Serie A sitting behind only Roma and the invincible Inter Milan. Fenerbahce also got past Eintracht Frankfurt earlier this season, as well as Holland's Ado Den Haag. Despite losing 1-0 to England's Newcastle United, many critics and even Newcastle fans argued that Fener outplayed the Magpies at St. James Park. Last week, Fenerbahce scored three goals (two in the second half) to draw 3-3 with Eredivisie third-place side AZ Alkmaar. AZ currently sits only six points behind league leaders PSV Eindhoven and one point behind Ajax Amsterdam. Not spectacular, but Fener has also just edged last-place Turkish rivals Sakaryaspor, and recently dropped a game to bottom-feeders Caykur Rizespor. Does Fener play up and down to their competition, or is the Turkcell Super Lig better than it gets credit for?
Ofcourse, Galatasaray owns a UEFA Cup championship in the last decade, and squads Besiktas, Trabzonspor, etc. have had some degree of good fortune in European competion. But think back to last year's World Cup in Germany. Besides Italy GK Buffon, Ghana's Richard Kingson may have been the second-best goalkeeper in the World Cup, and without question one of the top five. His teammate, Stephen Appiah, gave a magnificent performance as well and had a spectacular match-winning goal against the Americans allowing Ghana to advance. Both Appiah and Kingson play their futbol in the Turkcell Super Lig.
Don't get me wrong - Fenerbahce, Galatasaray, Besiktas, Vestel Manisaspor, etc. all have a lot of work to do before we can call ourselves some of the best sides in Europe. When I was in Italy in December, I got to see Fiorentina play Messina in a crucial Serie A game. Watching spectacular playmakers such as Luca Toni and Adrian Mutu was wonderful, but the whole time I kept thinking "Fenerbahce is better than this. Fenerbahce would beat this team." I think the same thing when I watch some much of the Dutch league, the Spanish league, the French league, and even the German Bundesliga. I'm not saying those leagues are rubbish, but I do think the top half of the Turkcell Super Lig would match up well with most of their clubs.
Maybe I am crazy, and maybe we play down to our competition. I do think the Turkcell Super Lig is a much better league in terms of talent than we get credit for. But let's face it, we don't get much credit, so maybe that isn't saying much...