Third time's the charm: Coach Kocaman gone with the wind
Embattled Fener coach Aykut Kocaman quit on Wednesday despite winning the Turkish Cup for the Canaries and leading them to the UEFA Europa League semis this season. (Photo: Mahmut Burak Bürkük, Today's Zaman)
After a long season of ups and downs for the İstanbul club, Fenerbahçe coach Aykut Kocaman resigned from his position on Wednesday, May 29.
Fenerbahçe and Kocaman initially declined to remark on the sudden departure, but emphasized that claims suggesting internal conflict were unfounded.
“I'm worn out, so I'm leaving,” he explained. He later reiterated that troubles within the club did not lead to his departure, either. “I'm not resentful or angry with anyone. This is a change of jobs,” Kocaman said. “Any kind of dispute was never the issue.”
Kocaman had twice attempted to leave his position previously. Following a 3-1 loss to minnow Kardemir Karabükspor in week 17, the coach announced his resignation during a press conference. However, the board rejected the request, and club management and players alike convinced him to soldier on. He also tried to resign upon losing 2-0 to smaller İstanbul club Kasımpaşa in week 6, but was dissuaded by the board.
But he's nailed it on the third try. “Up until now, there hasn't been any difference of opinions between Kocaman and the chairman or management. He felt the need, meaning he took a one-sided decision to resign,” the Anatolia news agency quoted Fenerbahçe Deputy Chairman Abdullah Kiğılı as saying. “We are going to accept his resignation,” he added.
The 48-year-old has led the Yellow Canaries to 108 league matches -- a club record -- in his three years with them. He coached the club since 2010, when he made a giant leap to the Turkish football giant from Ankaraspor, which was relegated in 2009 to the lower division and then banned from the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) leagues altogether. Fenerbahçe won the league title the year Kocaman took over.
Kocaman was a long-time striker for Fenerbahçe back in his footballing years, but had no experience coaching bigger clubs or internationally, having previously coached small-time Turkish clubs Konyaspor, Malatyaspor and İstanbulspor.
Not everyone agrees that he was the best trainer for Fenerbahçe, but his accomplishments are undeniable. And his humble history makes the successes even more striking.
The club trailed rival Galatasaray by 10 points to become runner-up at the end of the 2012-2013 Spor Toto Super League season. Second may not seem so bad, but it is an unforgivable offense to Fenerbahçe's supporters. It does not help that he and the club parted ways with Alex de Souza, a Brazilian striker and fan favorite of the club.
Fleet of firsts
However, Kocaman led his team to some very important firsts. Fenerbahçe managed to snatch the Ziraat Turkish Cup for the second year in a row. Prior to its winning the cup last year, the club had not had a successful run in the competition for 29 years. This season also marks the first time in history that Fenerbahçe has won the cup for two consecutive years.
Kocaman also led the Yellow Canaries on their most successful stint in the UEFA Europa League to date. Fenerbahçe advanced to the quarterfinals and semifinals both for the first time in history before being knocked out by Portugal's Benfica.
Fenerbahçe also broke the record for longest streak of wins while playing away with 12 consecutive wins on opponents' pitches under Kocaman. He is also the only coach in the club's history to have led it to both a league and cup championship. Fenerbahçe edged Trabzonspor for the Super League silverware in 2010-2011, the same opponent it defeated to win the Turkish Cup this year. This means that Kocaman has logged a major victory in every season since he became coach in June 2010.
And what will the club do without its fearless leader? “We are starting the search for a new coach,” Kiğılı stated. That seems to be the best place to start.