At Euro 2008: Game of the Tournament

Being able to witness first hand the Turkey-Czech Republic match was one of those rare experiences that football fans live for. A European Championship match where both teams needed a win to advance or go home early and face the disappointment of a nation. The atmosphere in the Stade de Geneve was only enhanced by the two strong and vocal groups of supporters which represented both nations.It was to my surprise that I was able to find a ticket the day of the match for a reasonable amount of money. Despite neither team being a favorite and the absence of a star studded squad, I was expecting the ticket to go for more than 150 Euros considering that I bought it 4 hours before kick-off. This obviously wasn’t in the range of what scalpers were asking for the Netherlands-France game in Bern, but even 200-300 Euros seemed to be appropriate for a contest of these proportions.

Pregame

My ticket placed me 30 rows deep behind the goal in the heart of the Turkish supporters section. Even during the warm-up the fans set the tone for what was to be a loud and vibrantly supported match. The acoustics of the Stade de Geneve were perfect for this one-upsmanship displayed early on by the fans, a sub plot which continued for the whole of the match.

The Czechs may have won the decibel contest and had a better showing in terms of number of fans, which saw half the stadium bouncing during a particular chant; but it was the Turks that were more diligent and varied when it came to their chants and songs. That is, of course, until the 61st minute when Turkey went 2-nil down. The Turkey supporters were temporarily deflated and the Czechs sensed their advancement to the knock-out rounds. The sounds from the crowd for the next 15 minutes were decidedly pro-Czech Republic but the Turkish side showed no signs of quitting and their fans responded likewise.

Perhaps it is the inherent, but unspoken, selfishness of an Ultra that causes us to believe we can sing and chant our loudest with the wholehearted belief that we will help will the ball into the back of the net. Regardless, the comeback that followed was a perfect case where players put forth unending effort and intensity to survive and the fans responded accordingly. Turkey responded with a goal and in the true reciprocal nature of that unique relationship, the fans obliged and upped the intensify to an even greater level.

The stadium

What followed on the pitch will surely be remembered as some of the most exciting and scintillating football played in the entire tournament. Or, without a doubt, the most devastating showing the Czech Republic will see for sometime. With his Champions League defeat fresh in recent memory, a neutral could only feel for Peter Cech as he bobbled the ball and allowed Turkish captain Arda Turan to score the equalizing goal in the minute. But you cant fault Cech for the fabulous winning strike by Turan in the 89th minute, which brilliantly played out in a manner plucked straight out of scenes imagined by children on the streets and playgrounds across the whole of Turkey. As the ball hit the crossbar near the upper right corner and bounced straight down, the capacity crowd collectively froze until the ball rebounded into the top of the net.

The Turkish players and supporters broke in to an understandably euphoric celebration, while the Czech side of the stadium looked on in absolute disbelief. Turkey held on to advance and their and the party continued as the players walked to the Turkish end to acknowledge the maximum effort put forth in their respective role. The walk back to the train station was not a quiet one. The streets displayed the classic celebratory scenes – Turks in thier cars, flags out the windows, and the horn blaring without pause. The fans on the sidewalk showed their pleasure in response, while the Czech fans held their heads low in what can only be described as complete and utter dejection at what they just witnessed.

Turkey players applaud fans

This was certainly one of the most entertaining and exciting sporting experiences that I have ever witnessed. Much thanks to Gary from Liverpool who sold me the ticket before the match and repeatedly assured me, in his Scouser tone, that I would be witness to a “great match with a cracking atmosphere.” That billing certainly did not disappoint.

13 thoughts on “At Euro 2008: Game of the Tournament

  1. emrihno

    Hi!
    Nice article. I am from Turkey and I must say that I am proud of my team. We were amazing that night. We showed that we won’t give up till the last whistle. But Czech are played well of course. For Nick’s question: Believe me we aren’t used to them yet. The guy played next to Aurelio in last matches: Mehmet Topal he is far better than Aurelio and he is %100 Turkish. I want him to be in first eleven not only because of that, also because he is playing for Galatasaray. :) Also homeland players are easy to motivate. We, Turkish people are emotional so when you say “Play for your countries honor” You’ll give those players a vital boost. Thats what Terim does and he does it well. Remember Leeds and Arsenal?
    Cheers

  2. bruce

    Yup i agree but Colin Kazim-Richards wouldn’t make the England team,well actually at this rate any odd ex-Brighton player could.
    I am a Brighton supporter and was unpleased to see the Coca-Cola kid go.
    He is up to Championship standard at the moment and could potentially be in the Prem in the next few years.
    He was loaned out to Fenerbache in Turkey and went from playing teams like Crewe Alexandra in League 1 to playing Chelsea in the Champions League.

  3. Mandy

    Just for interest, Colin Kazim-Richards,although born in London, has a Turkish mother through whom he qualified for Turkish citizenship. However, the fact that he did not grow up in Turkey, but in the UK, reminds me of Zola Budd, the South African runner in the days of apartheid, who was given UK citizenship because of her British Grandfather so she could run in the Olympics (South Africa was excluded from the Olympics at that time). I recall she didn’t do very well and accidentally tripped up the favourite American runner.

  4. Hakan

    Great article (still enjoyable reliving the game). For the record (sorry to be pedantic) the captain and goalscorer was Nihat Kahveci (Arda scored the first for the Turks).

    In regards Mehmet Aurelio; I believe he’s the first non-Turk (in terms of ‘blood’) to have played for Turkey and did split football fans. Although, those that supported him, did so for the fact he’d played for quite a long time in the country and speaks the language (his singing of the national anthem may have swayed some of the anti-brigade). He recently moved to a team in Spain and is already allegedly homesick (wanting to return to Turkey). I do think that he is an exception however as a lot of the pro-brigade don’t particularly want to see the Turkish team over-run with Brazilian born players (quite a few have now gained citizenship due to the limit on ‘foreign’ players available to play for the clubs).

    Again, great article again Marc; I envy you for being there! :)

  5. reklammatik

    Best match in the tournament I think..Nihat scored fantastic goal..And It’s best working for Turkey after Galatasaray won UEFA Cup….Also,I am supporter of Galatasaray..

  6. ONUR

    Equalizer was Nihat (also the captain), not Arda.. It is obvious that you will never learn anything from Turkey..

  7. MahmutCemgil

    Onur don’t be a prat.

    It’s a great article, Mr Bahnsen, thanks for sharing your experience. Yeah the names are a bit off here and there but the vibe is brilliantly reflected in the text, which is the hardest thing of all to do. I really enjoyed reading it along with the pics. Thanks.

    As for the argument over the players of foreign origin playing for the Turkish national side, I say by all means. Whoever wants to play for Turkey and is invited, they are more than welcome.

    There are many people I know in Turkey whom are not ethnically Turk, but have been living there for hundreds of years as Turkish citizens (and I’m not talking about Kurds there, by the way) so who are we to judge who is Turk and who is not?

    If it is up to the people themselves to wish to be part of that identity and the Board of Ministers to put the final seal of approval on, then the others should mind their own businesses and stop making hurting comments about those whom may have been born abroad under different circumstances but finally ended up under one jersey and flag with their own free wills.

    I also happen to be a naturalised British citizen alongside my native Turkish citizenship, and none of the people I’ve met in the UK made an issue about it from the moment I was granted the citizenship, whether to me or behind me, which is a pretty good example for me in judging how others should be treated. There are many good things to learn when one is willing to open the eyes and see.

    Thank you.