Final hurdle no sweat for Terim after trial by media

Sam Wallace
Wednesday 25 June 2008 00:00
Terim apologised for telling certain newspapers that they should be 'ashamed of themselves'
Terim apologised for telling certain newspapers that they should be 'ashamed of themselves'

He looks a bit like Terry Venables and he joked yesterday that he perspires so much during games that he takes three shirts to change into during the course of every match. Fatih Terim, the godfather of Turkish football management, is the colourful character who has led his team to an improbable semi-final at Euro 2008 but life off the pitch has been far from simple for the man who leads Turkey against Germany tonight.

Terim might be the most successful manager in Turkish football history in terms of recognition outside the country – he once managed Milan – but he is at war with his country's newspapers. Not even three remarkable comebacks against Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Croatia have altered attitudes back in Istanbul, where the attacks on the Turkey manager are making the travails of Graham Taylor and Sven Goran Eriksson at the hands of English newspapers look like a bit of harmless fun in comparison.

The dispute has become so vicious that Terim felt it necessary to apologise to the Turkish press the day before the quarter-final against Croatia because he judged he had gone too far in his attack on them earlier in the week. In a country where nationalism runs strong – there are major Turkish communities in Switzerland and Austria who have noisily celebrated every victory – it is extraordinary that the media and the manager of the national team should find themselves at odds again.

Terim apologised for telling certain newspapers that they should be "ashamed of themselves". The crime in question had been them interviewing the players' mothers back in Turkey who had in turn criticised Terim for his tactics and, more specifically, not selecting the sons in question. The reporters took their lead from a television commercial for one of the team's sponsors, that was broadcast before Euro 2008, in which the players' mothers were interviewed about the tournament. Not all of them were complimentary about Terim. By all accounts the reserve goalkeeper Volkan Demirel's mother was very cutting. At least Terim could see the funny side. The victory over the Czech Republic in Group A fell on Turkey's equivalent of fathers' day and he dedicated the win "to all fathers".

Surrounded by such chaos, it is a wonder that the Turks have got this far. Suspensions and injuries have reduced Terim's pool of outfield players to 12 for the game tonight. He has a team in which five players were born outside Turkey – Hamit Altintop (Germany), Hakan Balta (Germany), Colin Kazim-Richards (England), Mevlut Erdinc (France) and Mehmet Aurelio (Brazil) – and has weathered the early storm of protest that accompanied the inclusion of Aurelio. A naturalised Brazilian, who was originally called Marco, he now bears the affectionate nickname of "Marco Turko" in his adopted country.

Terim is something of a Luiz Felipe Scolari figure in Turkish football, with an emphasis on the togetherness of the group rather than tactics. Some, but not all, of the players have boycotted the newspapers in support of their coach. Not that any of this is new; the Turkey team that reached the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup took a similar stance at the time over criticism of Hakan Sukur, their captain.

That 2002 squad, which lost out to England in qualification for Euro 2004, was famously divided between the younger generation of players who were raised outside Turkey – such as Yildiray Basturk and Ilhan Mansiz – and the older guard led by Sukur. A devout Muslim, Sukur is a huge figure in Turkish football, even at 36, but Terim resisted calls to bring him back for the last two crucial European qualifying games against Norway and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

The team he has built is very different to the one which did so well in 2002 and then failed to qualify for Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup. A whole generation of players has moved on, including Blackburn's evergreen Tugay, Sukur and Mansiz, who retired two years ago at the age of 30. Basturk pledged never to play for Terim again after being left out the current squad. Alpay Ozalan is, unlike his bête noire David Beckham, marooned two caps short of 100. Hasan Sas has not played for Turkey since 2006.

In 2002, Muzzy Izzet was the Englishman with a Turkish passport and only a very rudimentary grip of the Turkish language. This time around that role falls to Kazim-Richards, the Leytonstone boy born to a Turkish-Cypriot mother, who may be one of the few to profit from the injury crisis by keeping his place tonight thanks to Emre Belozoglu's failure to recover from a hamstring injury.

Turkey's star is Hamit Altintop, who was born in Gelsenkirchen near to the stadium of Schalke 04, for whom he played until last summer. Now at Bayern Munich, he has flourished and, at Euro 2008, looked like one of the most promising young attacking midfielders. Like the rest of the estimated 2.5 million Turkish "Gastarbeiter" expat community who live and work in Germany, he knows just how much beating Germany will mean to Turks at home and abroad.

Reasons to be tearful for Terim

Fatih Terim has a depleted squad for tonight's semi-final against Germany. In addition to the injuries – so severe that the third-choice goalkeeper Tolga Zengin may be named as an outfield substitute – four players are suspended. Terim will be relieved that single bookings were cleared after the quarters.

VOLKAN DEMIREL (GK) Suspended, red card v Czech Rep.


All suspended, two yellow cards


Out with a calf injury


Doubtful, hip and knee injuries


Doubtful, groin injury


Out with a hamstring injury


Out with a thigh injury

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