Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fenerbahce Worldwide in Turkiye: Day One

Fenerbahce Worldwide in Turkiye: Day One
By Nathan L. Redd

My first full day of my trip to Istanbul started about as perfectly as a day can start. After arriving in my hotel in Uskudar on the Asian side of Istanbul the night before, I settled in to my pink-and-peach colored room that resembled that of a four-year-old's room and slept off some jet lag.

The next morning I was up early for breakfast at the hotel. Let me tell you, I do like some American breakfast foods, but there is NOTHING like a Turkish breakfast with olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, bread with honey and jam, and cay to drink. Add in an incredible view overlooking the Bosphorous (which I had), and it was perfect. I wondered around Uskudar a bit and found my first moment of my distorted Turkish "fame." I stepped in to the adidas store and the clerk recognized me as "Fenerbahce Nathan." I wasn't sure if it was a sign of things to come, but I definitely get more of a kick out of meeting people like this than they do by meeting me.

I talked to my friend Kivanc Ozkok that day and he asked me to come by the stadium. Kivanc hosts a show called "Mac Kac Kac" ("what is the score?") on Fenerbahce TV and co-hosts another show called "Countdown" with Ipek Ustaoglu. I was on "Mac Kac Kac" a few months ago and Kivanc was nice enough to invite me to be on "Countdown" live on Friday night. Kivanc is a good friend of mine, but he has truly treated me extremely well. I met up with him and Ipek (his co-host) around lunchtime on Friday and ended up spending the entire day at the stadium and TV studios. We had lunch together and one of the most important administrators from Fenerbahce's board of directors, Volkan Balli, came to talk to us. Volkan told us that they were aware of what we were doing and were very proud of us. Hearing this from him is sort of like getting a stamp of approval from the President. It was amazing to hear him utter those words to me. One and a half years ago I was just a weird college graduate student who happened to love a Turkish futbol team - here I was now talking to one of the men who helped make Fenerbahce one of the world's greatest club and he was telling me he was proud of Fenerbahce Worldwide. Truly unbelievable.

After lunch, Ipek and Kivanc gave me a private tour of the stadium and facilities. First, let me say that I didn't exactly have humble expectations of what Sukru Saracoglu would be like. Although I had never seen it in person, I sort of had this vision that it was some sort of palace; much like the meaning of "Fenerbahce," a lighthouse shining down. It was nothing like that, actually - it was better. Living in America, it should be noted that we Americans put A LOT of money and care into our sport facilities. I've seen a lot of them in my day, including some of the nicest that America has to offer. I've also seen a few Italian Serie A stadiums, including the San Siro - home to AC Milan and Inter Milan. Sukru Saracoglu blows them all a mile. It really is palatial - I remember walking on the pitch and thinking "how in the world does any opponent ever win here?" It's an intimidating fortress of a stadium, and I'm speaking as a fan. I can't imagine walking in here as an opposing player.
After the tour we went to the Fenerbahce TV studios to hang out and get ready for the taping of "Countdown." It was here that I learned that a few minutes after I was on the pitch, the President of Syria was there with Fenerbahce President Aziz Yildirim and their entourage. Ok, so "Countdown"......for you Americans, it's sort of formatted a little like ESPN's "College Gameday" but without fans in the studio. It's a Turkcell Super Lig / Fenerbahce weekend preview show that is taped completely live and unscripted, and fans can e-mail and phone in to get on the show and answer questions. On this particular night, they were giving away tickets to the Beyonce concert at Sukru Saracoglu, so phone lines and e-mail inboxes were jammed.

From a career perspective for me, it was great getting to see how everything works to get their network and show on the air. Kivanc, Ipek, their friends and I did a large amount of goofing around before the taping, but there were a lot of people working hard despite our slacker-ness. It was cool to see that "Countdown" really is very unscripted and impromptu - none of us knew what we were wearing on set until five minutes before the cameras rolled, and only Ipek really had hair and makeup done (as if she needed it). Fenerium decorates the set about fifteen minutes before the cameras roll, and neither Kivanc, Ipek, or I really had any idea what we were going to say before the show started.

So a few minutes in, Kivanc and Ipek bring me in as a guest. They explained to the audience a little about me and Fenerbahce Worldwide while I nodded my head and pretended to understand every word in Turkish while I really listened trying to pick up if they were dogging on me. My Turkish is improving and I can read it ok, but just when I get my confidence up, I hear someone speak at a normal pace and I'm back to just picking up words and phrases here and there. I spoke about how Fenerbahce Worldwide got started, why I started it, and previewed a little of our future plans. It was all going pretty smoothly........then I totally had a brain lapse as I began talking about how oft-criticized striker Mateja Kezman needed our support and would have a monster game against Konyaspor. The only problem....Kezman received a red card in the last match and would miss the Konyaspor game. Even worse was that I knew this and had forgotten....for the second time. I did the same thing in an article here a few days earlier. The way that Kivanc and Ipek explained it to me, they had forgotten also until the producer in the booth said "uh.....Kezman is out for Konyaspor." Fortunately Kivanc, like a good goalkeeper, made a great save and brought us around. In my head I was thinking "Hey Nathan, why don't you talk about how much Pierre Van Hooijdonk and Tuncay Sanli mean to the team also?" I was a little embarrassed by my memory lapse, but life goes on.

Overall, the show seemed to go well and just under an hour later, it was a wrap. Kivanc and his wife, as well as Ipek and her boyfriend and another friend and I all went out afterwards and had a great time. Day one in Istanbul couldn't have gone much better.....I wonder what day two would bring?
(NOTE: While I am a little shorter than the average man, the picture above is a bit misleading. Because of Kivanc's height, Ipek gets to wear very tall-heeled shoes so they look even on set. I, however, got nothing. So now Ipek, who is several inches shorter than me, is suddenly 5'10 and I look appear to be 4'9 standing between them. I'm very bitter about this....:) ).


Blogger Ozgur R. Nazilli said...

Hehehe great post Nathan. And thanks to my contributor access, I read it while it was still in draft form :)

Looking forward to reading more about your trip, especially the part where you met Kezman :)

7:36 PM  
Blogger Eski Kanka Jim said...

A belated welcome to Turkey from The Round Ball in Ankara Nathan.

We watched the 1st half last night and I gave you a thought as Washinton headed in a great goal.

However, `schoolboy stuff` from Konya for your 1st two goals saved the blushes !

Please let Chris and I know if you are coming to Ankara and we will endeavour to set up a meeting with you.

Enjoy your stay and go easy on the Raki - it is lethal for the unwary !!

All the best from Eski Kanka Jim

1:00 PM  
Blogger Erol A said...

lucky bastard

1:22 PM  

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