[Review: Fener women clinch seventh straight title] Who can stop the unstoppable Queens of Turkish basketball?
The Fenerbahçe women’s team celebrates with the trophy after beating Galatasaray last month to clinch their seventh consecutive Turkish league championship. (PHOTO SUNDAY’S ZAMAN, SELMAN EŞTÜRKLER)
Fenerbahçe’s women’s basketball team has done it again, taking home its seventh consecutive Turkish Women’s Basketball League (TKBL) trophy and causing many to wonder if there is any stopping the Queens of the Net, as they are affectionately known, who are on their way to a record dynasty in Turkish basketball history.
The women were up against archrivals Medical Park Galatasaray in the final on April 19, making a last-minute comeback to win. Galatasaray was ahead for the first three periods, leading Fenerbahçe by as many as 10 points in the third, before the Queens decided to get their heads in the game. They scored an amazing 34 points and held Galatasaray to just 14 in the fourth period, leaving the score 86-96 in Fener’s favor.
“My players demonstrated their truly incredible character. I am so proud to have players like these. I am also proud to go down in Fenerbahçe’s history,” Fenerbahçe coach Georgios Dikaioulakos said after the match.
Road to record books
It was a sweet victory, as Galatasaray is also the most successful team in the history of the league, winning a grand total of 12 championships, nine of which were in a record string of cups won from 1989-1998. It was Fenerbahçe who finally dethroned them in the 1998-1999 season. Galatasaray exacted its revenge the following year, but its women’s basketball team has not won a title since.
The title changed hands for a few years after that, but beginning in 2005, Fenerbahçe began its current winning streak, apparently bent on breaking the record for number of championships won consecutively, as well as taking away from Galatasaray the honorary title of most successful team in the league.
Galatasaray currently holds 11 of the cups, and Fenerbahçe has 10. Galatasaray’s streak lasted for nine seasons, Fenerbahçe’s for 7.
Fenerbahçe’s Dikaioulakos is well aware of the significance of defeating a team like Galatasaray, especially in the finals. “We showed that we are the best. We also showed this on the court, beating Galatasaray,” said the most successful coach in the history of Greek women’s basketball after winning the hard-fought victory. “The performance and quality of the players really shows in matches like these. My players were very successful tonight.”
“The value of every cup is distinct, but this one is singular,” agreed team manager Didem Akın. “We believed and we won. I congratulate our coach and everyone else. In spite of everything, we knew they would win,” she added.
To dethrone the Queens
Some are beginning to wonder, when will it all end? Who can dethrone the Queens of the Net? After all, it was they who first knocked Galatasaray off its pedestal all those years ago. It still seems that Galatasaray has the best chance of returning the favor.
For starters, Galatasaray has made four nearly successful attempts at returning to its former glory, as it managed to be runner-up in 2007-2008, 2009-2010, 2010-2011 and, finally, this year. Note that Galatasaray had never settled for second before Fenerbahçe’s reign, making it seem that the team is desperate to save its status as the best in the league.
Beyond Galatasaray, can anyone even hope to snatch the dream out from under Fenerbahçe’s feet? The only two other teams that have won a championship title even remotely recently are BOTAŞ and Beşiktaş Cola Turka, who have won two and three championships, respectively. Other former champions have not tasted victory since the 1980s.
In fact, Beşiktaş was the last team to win before Fenerbahçe began its winning streak. One can even say they interrupted it, beating defending champions Fenerbahçe in the finals of the 2004-2005 season. Had Beşiktaş not won that game, Fenerbahçe would have a nine-year streak right now -- right on par with Galatasaray. Beşiktaş was also runner-up for two years in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008, however, the team has not fared so well recently. They did not even qualify for the final eight this year, while BOTAŞ, whose titles came in 2000-2001 and 2002-2003, failed to advance past the quarterfinals.
The teams who did make it to the semi-finals were minnows Mersin BŞB and Kayseri KASKİ, which were easily defeated by Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray, respectively, before the two sporting giants went on to duke it out in the fateful finals. Neither team seems Fenerbahçe-beating material at this point.
Thus, we come back to Galatasaray, which still shows the greatest potential to overcome the Queens of the Net. Not only do they have the second-best recent record, Galatasaray’s women also have the most to lose should Fenerbahçe continue to rule the court.
In fact, they are already making what they hope will be the necessary changes to overcome their rivals next year, parting ways with coach Ceyhun Yıldızoğlu, who failed to deliver for the past two years and thus became a target for disappointed fans, who called for his resignation.
Will the new coach of Galatasaray be able to overthrow the defending champions within the next two years to preserve their privileged position in history, or will Fenerbahçe win their way to a new record? The future is full of surprises, but don’t hold your breath.