Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Kezman's Struggles Provide Big Test for Fans

Kezman's Struggles Provide Big Test for Fans
By Nathan L. Redd

Mateja Kezman or George W. Bush? If you were to poll people on the street in Istanbul, you might find an equally unfavorable approval rate of the afore-mentioned men. Kezman was brought to Kadikoy before last season to bring increased scoring to the club. Fenerbahce rolled the dice on hoping Kezman would be the player Chelsea signed him to be. Instead of being a hit in Turkiye, he's been taking hits. Last season was considered a disappointment for the Serbian striker; this season has been a near catastrophe. With one-fourth of the season under their belts, Fenerbahce sits in fifth place, seven points behind first place rivals Galatasaray. Fenerbahce has struggled offensively in the eight Super Lig games, with much of the offensive criticism pointed squarely at Kezman.

Kezman's struggles provide a big test for fans. There's no doubt that Kezman is struggling. The fans know it, the club knows it, and most of all, Kezman knows it. Last week his frustration culminated in a bizarre send-off against Manisaspor, in which Kezman received a red card for a challenge and left the pitch in tears, leaving fans in disbelief. The tears were certainly a sign of frustration and anger, but they were also a sign of passion. Unless you know something I don't, Kezman has never intended to wreck Fenerbahce. He was brought here from Atletico Madrid for another chance, and Kezman knows it could be his final opportunity to show he's worthy of playing in a top European league. Kezman wants success for himself and Fenerbahce, and no one is more disappointed with his performance than he is.

So, as Fenerbahce fans, we are faced with a dilemma. We can reign boos and taunts down on Kezman, which unless UEFA has instituted a new statistic, does not result in an increase in goals. The other option we have is one of support. Strikers are like sharpshooters. I'm not terribly familiar with a sharpshooter's tactics, but I can say I've never heard one booed or taunted while their focusing on their target. If they were, their sharpshooting results may take a big hit. Futbol is a game of concentration, and no position on the pitch requires more focus than the forward position. Much of the position of striker is also based on confidence and support.

Kezman's struggles present one of the few opportunities that we, as fans, have to influence the outcome of a match. Kezman knows he hasn't lived up to expectations. Increased criticism isn't likely to change that. Confidence and support may, and we as fans have the chance to deliver that. Kezman has the increased stress of playing for a club that has some of the highest expectations in the world. Playing for Fenerbahce is a great honor, and fans expect immediate success. One of the biggest assets the club has is its fans, which can be the world's best or the world's most critical. In Kezman's case, it's time to be the world's most supportive.

The season is still young and despite Fenerbahce's struggles, the team still finds itself only seven points out of first place. Both legs of the Galatasaray derby still loom, so it's certainly not a mountain that can't be climbed. For the team to improve down the stretch, Mateja Kezman will have to play a pivotal role. As fans, it's time to set our criticism aside and cheer loudly for him. As long as Kezman wears the yellow and navy #9, he deserves our support and adoration. We don't have to be pleased with the performance, but we do need to support the player who can turn things around for himself and the team.

Kezman's confidence is rattled, but it's nothing that 55,000 screaming Fenerbahce fans can't help with. Fenerbahce has plenty of time to make up the ground in the standings. The Fenerbahce fans can help by buying a ticket to the Konyaspor match next weekend, showing up in force, and applauding for Kezman. Struggles or not, he's one of our own. He has to live up to the expectations placed on him as a striker. Now it's time for us to live up to our expectations of being the world's greatest fans.


Blogger Erol A said...

Nicely done Nate. Just one thing to correct - we won't be able to applaud Kezman next weekend because he'll be suspended :)

Have a good trip. If you make it to London, message me and we'll meet up!

12:52 PM  

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