Lifting league trophy at Kadıköy battleground

May 13, 2012, Sunday/ 13:27:00

When Galatasaray's Scottish coach Graeme James Souness planted a giant Galatasaray flag in the center of the field at FB Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium in the 1995-96 season -- after the Lions drew with the Canaries in the second leg of the Turkish Cup final but still clinched the silverware -- the Fenerbahçe followers were furious, to say the least.

But Galatasaray lifting the 2011-12 Super League trophy at Şükrü Saracoğlu on Saturday was more than Fenerbahçe, or anyone associated with the club, could bear.

The “mother of all derbies” between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe at Kadıköy on Saturday was to determine the 2011-12 Turkish champion, and leader Galatasaray was one point ahead of Fenerbahçe going into this match.

Turkish Football Federation (TFF) leaders, who like the mystical Epimetheus act before they think, had decreed that the championship trophy be handed to the champion at Şükrü Saracoğlu on Saturday. Though this idea was put forward by Galatasaray Chairman Ünal Aysal, the TFF was under no pressure to accept it.

Maybe the TFF was under the illusion, like some in this country, that Fenerbahçe would win on Saturday, and the trophy would be handed amicably to the host by the TFF. But the Epimetheus-like TFF never had a plan B, just in case the Canaries failed to win. In other words, how the Fener fans would feel as their eternal foe Galatasaray lifted the league trophy at Şükrü Saracoğlu never came into the minds of the TFF policy-makers.

What those who understand Turkish football feared did, in fact, happen after the match ended 0-0, and Galatasaray was declared champion. The Galatasaray players could hardly celebrate at the stadium, let alone lift the league trophy. They fled to their dressing rooms, and there are reports that the TFF suggested the trophy be handed to the Galatasaray players in their dressing rooms. This was categorically rejected by the Galatasaray camp.

And in the end, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had to intervene and instruct the İstanbul governor to make it possible for the Galatasaray team to receive the trophy at Şükrü Saracoğlu.

And this materialized after three hours (about midnight), and it took the bus carrying the Galatasaray players, under heavy police escort, another three hours to get to their headquarters in Florya, where tens of thousands of adherents were waiting to receive the triumphant team.

The end justifies the means, and so the Galatasaray players and fans celebrated until Sunday in scenes of wild delight.

There were violent incidents across İstanbul as angry Fenerbahçe fans clashed with police. Police cars were overturned, several police officers were injured and dozens of hooligans arrested.

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