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.

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