Wednesday, September 26, 2007

So What Is Up With Fenerbahce Anyway?


So What Is Up With Fenerbahce Anyway?
By Ozgur R. Nazilli

Okay the picture is like this: On the one hand, we have the worst start of the last 17 years. A Fenerbahce who still has a zero average (goals scored equals goals conceded), 7 points behind the league leaders Galatasaray, and who ended more games with a draw than a win.

On the other hand, we have a Fenerbahce who won 3 out of the possible 3 in the latest European games, qualified for the Champions League, pushed Anderlecht, who has a steady success graph in Europe, out of the Champions League, and beat Inter, one of the top 5 or 6 teams in Europe in today's futbol.

So, what is up with Fenerbahce anyway?

Well, for starters, Fenerbahce is a team whose performance is largely determined by the other team's behavior on the pitch. When a team actually tries to play good futbol against Fenerbahce, we see the full extent of what Fenerbahce is capable of. We have seen many examples of this lately: The Turkish derby matches against Galatasaray and Besiktas, Anderlecht matches, Inter match...

However, when the opposing team bases their strategy on "not letting Fenerbahce play", we have troubles accommodating for this change, and nowadays many Turkish teams have become aware of this fact and they are basing their tactics more and more on this strategy. The latest game against Bursaspor is a perfect example for this. Whenever our players got the ball, the Bursa players decided that it was a good time to practice some martial arts skills and fouled down our players. Even Alex, who as we know is one of the most calm players in the Turkish league, had enough of Bursa fouls and argued with the referee, earning himself a yellow card. You know that if Alex gets a yellow card for arguing with the referee in a game, there is probably something wrong with the opposing team's style.

Many people see Zico as the source of everything that is wrong with Fenerbahce right now, and they claim that someone with no futbol experience can do a better job than Zico at the reins. It is not as simple as that. Managing a team is about a lot more than just picking the first eleven players and choosing between 3-5-2 or 4-4-2. Interactions with the players, how he handles him in front of the media, preserving a positive team atmosphere, strengthening the bonds between the team players, giving morale to the players, in short, getting the best out of the players is what being a manager is really about. It is very easy for us to look at Fenerbahce from the outside and criticize Zico and blame him for the poor performances in the Super League, however, we do not know what is actually taking place on that training ground. And from the positive atmosphere of the team that I have seen on Fenerbahce TV, I think Zico is doing a good job at making Fenerbahce players a "team", instead of eleven players on wearing the same jersey. This is a more important accomplishment than deciding whether to play with two strikers or one. Before Zico, we used to complain that the team players were "too professional" and were not involved with the team as much as we would like them to be. Now, even Kezman, who I personally like but who has been targeted by an endless stream of criticisms lately, is doing his utmost for the success of the team on the pitch. And we have Zico to thank for that.

The poor form of Fenerbahce in the Turkish Super League has more to do with how the opponents choose to play against Fenerbahce than with the decisions of Zico. We have all seen what Fenerbahce is capable of when the opponent does not play "dirty" and instead tries to play their own game. If we cheer and celebrate when Fenerbahce does well in Europe, and it is a first in many years that Fenerbahce has done better in the European competition than the Turkish League, we should be supporting and defending our team and it's members when they achieve poor results in the Turkish League. I know that the team's performance has not been flawless and the only problem Fenerbahce has is not the way to opposing team plays, but it definitely has a major role in our mediocre performance in the Turkish League.

We, as the Fenerbahce fans, should start thinking outside the box. The current Fenerbahce team is not a bad or a weak team, on the contrary, they have been doing extremely well in the Champions League. Therefore, we should be more patient and continue our unfaltering support to our team. After all, we are the 12th member of our beloved Fenerbahce.

(photo courtesy of fenerbahce.org)

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