This weekend we will see the kick-off of the new football season in Turkey. As always, millions of Turkish soccer fans are speculating on which team has the best chance of winning the Süper Lig title this time around.
Not surprisingly, it will most probably be a race between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe again. Being a Fener fan myself, I have to admit that the Lions were quite successful on the transfer market with the acquisition of Burak Yılmaz, by far the most prolific goal-scoring forward playing in Turkey at the moment. The Yellow Canaries bought Dirk Kuyt, and although I have always been a big fan of Kuyt, I wonder whether he will be a match for Burak. Whatever the case, we will soon see which team made the best deals.
It is only natural that when talking football, all the attention goes to the players and, to a lesser extent, the coaches. However, without good referees every football league would soon face tremendous problems both in and outside the stadiums. Turkey is lucky to have some outstanding referees, Cüneyt Çakır being the most prominent of them.
In the Netherlands, the football season started last week. In a few weeks, the best player of last season will be announced and decorated. We already know who will receive the Golden Card for being the best Dutch referee in the previous year: Serdar Gözübüyük.
In the last couple of months, for understandable reasons, Gözübüyük has received a lot of attention in the Dutch media. Being 26 years of age, he is easily the youngest referee in the Dutch league, and the youngest ever Dutch referee nominated for European matches. As his name clearly indicates, he is of Turkish origin, although few Dutch realize that his family name (Big Eye) seems to have foreordained a career as a referee. Apart from his achievements on the pitch, one of the other reasons for all the media attention is of course the fact that his success seems to belie all the prejudices about and among Turkish migrants in the Netherlands.
About his roots and the obstacles facing many Dutch Turks, Gözübüyük has always been very outspoken. In a four-page interview with one of the leading Dutch newspapers, he recently said: “When I grew up, the dominant feeling around me was that being a Turk or a Moroccan or someone from Surinam it would be impossible to achieve anything in the Netherlands. The only thing I heard from my friends was that they were rejected and could not find a job, even if they had a university degree. Everybody always told me: A Turk never got anywhere in Dutch football. The special thing was that I did manage, proving all these fixed opinions wrong. I never had the experience of obstacles being put in my way. I got promoted every year. I am convinced that if you work hard, opportunities will present themselves. You can create them yourself if you stop hanging around in the same old circles where hardly anyone speaks Dutch, creating a big distance between yourself and Dutch culture. It is easy to say that you did not get a job because your name is Ahmet or Mohamed. But my father always told me that the same happens to guys with a very Dutch first name. My parents always warned me against this kind of prejudice and self-pity. They told my brothers and me to be proud of our Turkish roots but at the same time work hard to adapt to Dutch culture. We live here, these are the rules.”
Gözübüyük has set up a company called “Sport Connecting Us,” through which he tries to inspire and motivate other migrants, pushing them to follow their dreams and ambitions in sports and in life.
The young referee is a role model for many Turks in the Netherlands, showing them that it is possible to be successful if they believe in themselves.
The good thing about Gözübüyük and his positivity is that he offers powerful arguments against the idea among many Turks living abroad that racism and discrimination will always hold them back. The problem is that Gözübüyük seems to think that these obstacles do not exist because he himself was not hindered by them. The truth is that Dutch or German Turks can become successful referees or politicians while at the same time in the same place others are still faced with discrimination and racism that prevents them from doing the things they would want to do. Maybe the man with the sharp view should develop a slightly better eye for these dual tracks.