The fans of both teams started to queue up at the New Erzurum Stadium on Wednesday evening for Super Cup final tickets that were scheduled to go on sale at 11 a.m. on Thursday, which serves to show the interest this match has subsequently generated in the city.
The Super Cup, the traditional curtain-raiser to the new season between the domestic league champion and the Turkish Cup holder, returns after a one-year break following the unprecedented match-fixing scandal that swept across the nation like wildfire last year.
Several top club administrators, including Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım, were arrested and put in jail in connection with the scandal. Though everyone incriminated was released and the case seemingly closed exactly a year later --- in July of this year to be more precise -- penalties nonetheless were meted out to those convicted and appeals have been launched by those who were not happy with the verdicts.
Both last season’s league champion Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe, which won the cup for the first time since 1983, have embarked upon expensive transfers to improve the standard of play of their respective teams.
Galatasaray has already acquired Real Madrid midfielder Hamit Altıntop, Trabzonspor forward Burak Yılmaz, Kayserispor’s Moroccan winger Nordin Amrabat, Gaziantepspor’s Cameroon center back Dany Achille Nounkeu Tchounkeu and Turkey international striker Umut Bulut on loan from FC Toulouse.
The Lions are still negotiating with Serie A side Juventus over Brazil midfielder Felipe Melo. Nicknamed “Pitbull,” Melo was on loan from Juve to Galatasaray last season and played a big role in the team winning the 2011-12 league championship.
And with star players like Sweden striker Johan Erik Calvin Elmander; midfielders Engin Baytar and Selcuk İnan; defenders Hakan Kadır Balta and Ivorian Emmanuel Eboue and Uruguay goalkeeper Nestor Fernando Muslera Micol -- or simply Fernando Muslera -- already on the team, no nonsense coach Fatih Terim plans to form a team that will also be successful in Europe.
“We tried to see our flaws during the warm-up matches,” said Galatasaray assistant coach Ümit Davala, whose team has not lost a single pre-season friendly. “Our aim is to come out prepared against Fenerbahçe [on Sunday].”
Uruguay keeper Muslera concurred with his assistant coach. “Beating Fenerbahçe would mean starting the season with a trophy, and that’s the reason this match is of utmost importance. And we are taking it very seriously,” he noted.
Goal-king Burak is suspended due to an offense from last season, and coach Terim may opt to start with Elmander and either Umut or Necati Ateş upfront. Another noticeable absentee will be suspended Czech defender Tomas Ujfalusi.
The Lions, as Galatasaray is also called, have almost sunk into oblivion in continental football ever since they won the now-defunct UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup in 2000. Now with Terim, who led Galatasaray to the unprecedented UEFA Cup triumph, back at the helm, diehard fans are talking about another European cup championship.
As the Turkish champion, Galatasaray will be starting in the UEFA Champions League proper this coming season and will not have to go through the qualifying rounds. No one -- even coach Terim -- expects Galatasaray to win the Champions League, but the ambitious coach has said he is eager to go as far as the quarterfinals of this competition in 2012-13.
Fener also jumps on transfer bandwagon
Fenerbahçe, the wealthiest sports club in the land, just could not watch the transfer race from a distance. Withdrawn from last season’s UEFA Champions League competition due to allegations of match-fixing and with no revenue coming from the lucrative premier European club competition last season, Fenerbahçe -- to stay afloat -- had to sell star players like Nigeria striker Emmanel Emenike, who was named in the rigging scandal, as well as Uruguay defender Diego Lugano, Senegal striker Mamadou Niang and Brazil defender Andre dos Santos.
The Yellow Canaries have been re-admitted into the Champions League fold in the wake of the İstanbul court’s match-fixing ruling and the buying spree is on. They have made several important transfers so far, acquiring former Galatasaray midfielder Mehmet Topal from Valencia; 18-year-old Turkey international midfielder Salih Uçan from relegated Bucaspor; Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt from Liverpool; left back Hasan Ali Kaldırım from Kayserispor and center back Egemen Korkmaz from Beşiktaş.
Serbia winger Milos Krasic was acquired recently from Juventus, and Nigeria defender Joseph Yobo was officially signed after being loaned out to the Canaries from Everton in the last two seasons. Krasic and Yobo did not play against Romania’s Vaslui in the Champions League third-round qualifiers on Wednesday because their names were not on the list of players that had been sent to UEFA. Fenerbahçe, nonetheless, swept aside the little-known Vaslui 5-2 on aggregate (1-1, 1-4) to march majestically into the playoff stage of the Champions League.
Krasic and Yobo, however, will be eligible against Galatasaray in the Super Cup on Sunday.
The Fener newcomers will be joining old-timers like veteran Brazilian captain and playmaker Alex de Souza; Alex’s compatriot and midfielder Cristian Baroni; Senegal forward Moussa Sow; Slovakia winger Miroslav Stoch; Mehmet Topuz; keeper Volkan Demirel; and a host of other stars. Fenerbahçe coach Aykut Kocaman will very likely start with Kuyt and Sow upfront and bench off-form Semih Şentürk. Fener morale is sky-high after advancing in the Champions League; now they want the Super Cup at all costs.
It promises to be a thrilling, well-matched encounter, no doubt about it. Sparks usually fly wherever and wherever Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe meet and Sunday will no be different.
Host Erzurum has done everything to avert any acts of violence. The teams and officials arrived on Saturday, and Fenerhahçe was hosted at the Xanadu Hotel in Palandöken, while Galatasaray stayed at the Polat Renaissance Hotel. It is worth noting that the hotel owner, Adnan Polat, is a former Galatasaray chairman.
The Erzurum Municipality also plans to host a fast-breaking dinner for both Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe supporters at the same place on Sunday to promote friendship. Hopefully the fans will reciprocate by being on their best behavior and refraining from all acts of violence.
Kickoff is at 8:55 p.m. The match will be refereed by Cüneyt Çakır and his assistants will be Bahattin Duran and Tarık Ongun, while the fourth official will be Süleyman Abay. And for the first time in Turkish football there will be goal line officials -- Bülent Yıldırım and Hüseyin Göçek.
Galatasaray vs. Fenerbahçe