Fenerbahçe: From Favourites to Flunkers!

Ask any Galatasaray supporter – including me –  what we would like to see happen to Fenerbahçe (our biggest rival) and the likely response would be a ton of expletives before concluding with:

“I want to see them relegated.” 

A comment that would probably be delivered with a little snigger … and absolute zero confidence that it would ever happen.

Yet, this year, the second-most decorated team in Turkey is facing the prospect of being relegated for the first time in its history. 

(For frame of reference: This is far more unlikely than when Leicester won the Premier League.)

Fenerbahçe – a.k.a. The Canaries –  is a team that has challenged for the title consistently ever since I could walk. In the last nine seasons alone, their league placings have been as follows:

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Actually, come to think of it, ever since the inaugural season of the Turkish Super League (1958/59), Fenerbahçe have only ever finished outside of the Top 4 on six occasions (with the lowest placement being 10th in the 1980/81 season). 

How bad is it?

Oh, it’s bad!

Well, you see, Fenerbahçe entered this season with the hope of finally securing their 20th Super League title, and with it a fourth star to put on their shirts. (A star is awarded for every five titles that a team wins.) This would have brought them within touching distance of the 21 titles that Galatasaray has. Couple that with a good showing in Europe, and they would have been very happy.

Unfortunately for Fenerbahçe, they had already confirmed the departures of the Brazilian trio Guiliano, Fernandao and Souza, who were all first-team regulars last year. By preseason, all three were on a plane to Saudi Arabia for a combined $28 million. This left the Canaries with some gargantuan holes to fill in the midfield and forward positions. 

Despite this, in an attempt to achieve their goals, Fenerbahçe brought in Dutch manager Philip Cocu, who had won the Dutch League thrice in five years with PSV Eindhoven. Cocu’s arrival was soon followed by a whole host of players from many different nations, the most important ones being: Jailson from Brazilian club Gremio for €4 million and both Andre Ayew (Swansea) and Islam Slimani (Leicester) coming on loan from Premier League clubs.

Fenerbahçe started the season with an unconvincing 2-1 win at home to Bursaspor, but followed this up with three consecutive defeats. Already, a gap was beginning to develop to the top of the table. The fifth game was an away win at Konyaspor. Fenerbahçe was in 11th place, and everyone was expecting a gallant push from the team.

That never happened …

The win against Konya would be Fenerbahçe’s last win in the league for a while. They entered what was to be a torrid run, one which shocked everybody.

And as for the next 13 games:

Played 13. Won 1. Drew 8. Lost 4.

 

Phillip Cocu (Left) and Ersun Yanal.

Cocu was sacked on 28th October, 2018. His assistant took control until December 14th, and currently Ersun Yanal has returned to the team for his second spell in charge. Yanal managed to galvanise the team a little. Under his control, they won back-to-back league games for the first time this season, but then followed it up with a draw and loss.

 

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Not looking good for Fenerbahce, is it? (Via Wikipedia)

Currently, Fenerbahçe sits in 17th, with only 12 games left of the season. Three of those games will be against Istanbul Başakşehir, Galatasaray and Beşiktaş. In the meantime, they have also been eliminated from the Turkish Cup by lower-league opposition, and beaten by Zenit St. Petersburg in the Europa League.

It truly is turning out to be a shambolic season for Fenerbahçe. 

 

Will Fenerbahçe actually be relegated?

There’s absolutely no chance they will finish in the bottom three.

Reason: The Turkish FA will not let it happen.

It is common knowledge among Turkish fans that the Turkish Football Association is as corrupt as you can get. I can see the governing members having a weekly meeting about the possibility of Fenerbahçe getting relegated, and sweating at the thought of losing out on all the TV money that is generated by the local derby matches between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe. The FA are probably just hoping that the Canaries improve their own results without a helping hand from the referees.

(Anyway, that’s my dig at the shoddy refereeing standards and all the cheating that occurs in the Turkish Super League.)

In all seriousness, the real reason why Fenerbahçe won’t get relegated is because they are not deserving of their dismal league position. They are competing in most games and creating enough chances to win games. The problem is that they have been absolutely woeful at converting the chances into goals. There have been games this year in which they ended up hitting the woodwork two or three times and then lost. They are not the same ruthless team they have been in the past.

When current manager Ersun Yanal came to the club, he said that they were looking to finish fourth. It is only a ten-point gap to fourth, after all. But how is a team who couldn’t score a goal in 180 minutes of football against lower-league opposition going to win games against their league rivals?

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Yes, I did use Galatasaray colours. Because I can!

What’s the likely outcome?

Fenerbahce will likely finish around 13th, and finally be able to relax knowing that they avoided huge embarrassment. One that they would have never been allowed to forget. However, that poor position would mean that they have no European football to look forward to for at least a couple of years.

Based on history, teams that perform so poorly end up going for a complete overhaul of players and spending beyond their means in a hope to avoid similar problems. Well, Fenerbahçe can’t actually do that because they are completely and utterly broke! They are on the brink of bankruptcy and are up to their receding hairline in debt. Without any European football, they won’t be able to generate any funds, or attract the type of players that they would require to mount a title challenge.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the end of Fenerbahçe as a sporting organisation, but this year could be the start of a treacherous decade ahead. A decade which could see their biggest rival Galatasaray adding a fifth star before Fenerbahçe can even come close to securing their fourth!

Now that would be something.

Wouldn’t it?

 

Manfriend’s Mumblings | Sports Chat: The Champions League 2018

[Hey everyone! Manfriend, here. So, I’m sure people have been worried about my absence, but I decided to take a short break off from blogging after this summer’s awesome World Cup. I wasn’t really sure when to start back up again, but then I got a request from my partner about writing something for the Champions League, so here I am! Let’s get to it.]

The Champions League.

In 1955, what was originally named the European Cup was established. In 1992, the tournament changed its name to Champions League. Today (and in all the years of its history), this tournament is one that excites most football fans around the globe. It is Europe’s No. 1 club competition, and it gives every football club on the continent a “chance” to lift the trophy. Whether you are from one of the big footballing nations, such as, England, Spain, Italy or Germany, or from minnows like Luxembourg or Andorra, as long as you have a recognized domestic league, your clubs have an opportunity to be victorious.

Well, kind of.

Let me explain this thing.

First, how to qualify:

This takes care of itself, really. Every recognized European nation, apart from Liechtenstein (who don’t have a domestic league) will be assigned places in the two European competitions, the other being Europa League, Europe’s second-tier club competition. The allocations are based on the performances of that nation’s domestic clubs over the last five seasons. So, the better your teams perform in Europe, the better your ranking is as a nation, which leads to more spots in the larger competitions. As a result, England and Spain are given four spots apiece, whereas San Marino only get one.

Those allocated spots are filled by clubs who win their domestic leagues or finish in the top four. This all also depends on how many places you have been allocated. For example, the top four teams from England qualify, whereas only the champion from San Marino gets a spot.

On its surface, it may seem unfair. However, it may also be OK. Ultimately, though, the chances are that you will never see that team from San Marino compete, as they have to enter in at the qualification rounds. Think of it as a “getting rid of the trash” round. A nation with one qualifier will need that team to play three to five home and away matches in order to get to the competition proper, while three-quarters of the teams from England qualify automatically for the group stage, with the fourth team having to play just one home and one away tie to make it.

Alas, that’s just how it goes.

(Still don’t get it? Here’s my friend, Wikipedia, to help explain.)

Anyway, once you get to the group stage, that’s when the competition really sets in. Groups are decided with a random draw based on seedings. Once assigned, things kick off!

Eight groups of four teams play in a league format. Each team plays the other three teams both at home and away. The points system is as follows: 0 for a loss, 1 for a draw and 3 for a win. The games are played on a weekly or fortnightly (that’s every two weeks for friends in America) basis, with the top two teams advancing to the knockout stages. The third team drops down to play in the knockout phases of the Europa League. The fourth team is eliminated.

Then there’s a winter break from December to February.

Once we reach the knockout phase, all eight teams who finished first will play the eight teams that finished second, in accordance with another random draw. The games take place at home and away, with the advancing team being decided on by an aggregate score. Winners go into the quarters. The draw repeats, and things go on until there are two left for the final. This year, that match will take place in Madrid.

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Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid, where this season’s final will be held. (WikiCommons)

I realize the Champions League may sound no different to any other football tournament, and that’s partly true. But once again, the drama, talent and unpredictability makes this a great spectacle. The past has seen teams like Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa, Celtic, Red Star Belgrade, Feyenoord and Steaua Bucharest achieve greatness. Unfortunately, these teams will be very unlikely to repeat such triumphs again, as money has taken over. That doesn’t mean, though, that predicting the winner is easy. It’s predicting the country of origin that’s not so difficult. The last time a team from outside the top four nations (England, Spain, Italy, Germany) won was in 2003/04: Porto of Portugal.

Since then, the top four nations have monopolized victory:

  • England took home three, with Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool;
  • Spain nabbed eight, with Barcelona and Real Madrid each winning four times;
  • Italy took two, with AC Milan and Inter Milan;
  • Germany won one with Bayern Munich.

The last time a club outside one of those four countries even reached the final was in 2003/04, when Monaco lost to Porto. This year, the only chance of it happening will be if PSG (Paris Saint Germain) make it (which wouldn’t shock anyone, as they are filthy rich). Money has completely eradicated the “fairytale ending,” yet, as always, I’m excited.

Why?

Just look at the teams that are involved: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich, and the list goes on.

More importantly, my team, Galatasaray from Turkey, are involved again, following some tumultuous years for the club.

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Galatasaray fans in London, cheering the team on in a 2004 match against Chelsea. (WikiCommons)

(Much to my partner’s chagrin,) I will be up at 3 a.m. with my club’s colors on, willing the boys on to victory through the screen of my iPad. I hope you will join me and my team from wherever you are, ideally all the way through the knockout phases (but more likely to the end of the group phase.)

The Champions League is exciting, with a caliber of football skill on show that’s no less fantastic than that of the World Cup. Matches can be full of drama. If that isn’t enough to hook you, then maybe you should listen to the best intro music of any sporting event!

I mean honestly, how could anyone not be a fan of the Champions League?


As of this article’s publishing (Sept. 18, 2018), the Champions League is set to begin. Find information on the tournament here. And from our little home in Beijing: Go Galatasaray!