This is not a fan article; it is an article of awareness. I hope you do not get caught up in the color bias.
We were in the town of Dikili. The year was 1987, the month was June … I was 13 years old.
I had a yellow-red towel on my left wrist. It seemed to me like the most precious jewelry in the world. Galatasaray became the champions, after 14 years in the Turkish football league. I wanted everybody to look at that wrist band and understand that I was a fan of Galatasaray. Those were the days when there was a rumor that no yellow-red thread left in Istanbul; Dikili was not that bad though. There were flags everywhere.
I was a fan of Galatasaray and Galatasaray became the champions!
Why am I a fan of this team? How would one choose their team? Why does one take to heart when their team becomes the champions? Why would one be so willing to carry those colors on them and show off their team to everybody?
I wasn’t old enough to think of any of this.
Those were the days when Jupp Derwall started a new era both at Galatasaray and in Turkey. Success in Europe was the next target. We were in such a mood that our chests were unable to hold our hearts. I started to archive newspaper cuts, posters, and postcards… And of course, there must be at least one football player admired so that the picture is complete. My hero was the Yugoslav football player Cevad Prekazi… We did not have the chance to watch the players everywhere and listen to their interviews like today. For some reason, I used to like him very much and everyone around me knew it.
The team came to Izmir for a match with Karşıyaka probably in 1988. With my classmate Didem, we learned that they would stay at Balçova Geothermal Facilities. We did not go to the school that day with permission from our mothers. The house of my aunt was very close to the facilities, my mother took us there, and we had to walk the rest of the way. Could we see them, was the place crowded? Would we get attention? Our chests were unable to hold our hearts… Again…
Where did we find these pieces of paper, bill pages, and got them signed? Why did not we take proper paper and pen? I do not know. 🙂
We waited for a little at the door of the hotel. Inside, a friend of a friend of ours and her mother were chatting with Prekazi at the table. We slightly got annoyed. We had no sociable mothers who would give us this privilege. Fortunately, nobody was waiting at the door. Then the players started coming out one by one. Simoviç, Erhan, Tanju, Uğur, Tugay were the ones I remember… Probably Cüneyt and Semih were also present. They were the great footballers of that time. None of them turned us down; we took photos one by one with our snapshot camera. The bus was about to leave… Just then, the door of the hotel opened and Prekazi came out. He had black sunglasses, a black suit, a white shirt, and a black tie … At that moment, I felt that there was a difference. Yes, all the footballers we just talked to were on the bus with their shorts, t-shirts and even slippers, but Prekazi was in a suit! At the time, I thought the difference was his appearance.
I was not old enough to grasp beyond.
We took him in the middle for a photoshoot and we stood on both sides. In Izmir, the weather was still warm, and he put his other arm on Didem’s shoulder as he put his jacket on one arm. Then he stopped for a moment and put the jacket on his other arm and put his empty hand on my shoulder. Probably, he was not even aware of it but I was attributing a lot of meanings to that situation, of course, but I did not say anything until we arrived at our own home for my friend not to resent.
We fell victim to the snapshot camera; the photo is half … I removed Didem from the photo because I lost track of her and did not get her approval. 1989, Izmir
I don’t even remember whether we talked or not; a thank you, maybe a wish for success… They got on the bus and we stared at them. We went back to my aunt’s house with Didem talking about how great it would be if we could go to the match because we were offered to go to the stadium by bus and we did not accept it. As we entered the door, the people in the house were worried about our screams for a moment but then they cheered up with our excitement.
The rise of Prekazi and Galatasaray continued. We beat Switzerland’s Neuchatel Xamax team 5-0. We were at school because European matches were not played in the dead of night. Our lesson was a physical education and we are comfortable. After a while, we realized that there was no lesson in most classes. Mesut from the upper class was leaning out of the window of his class with a pocket radio and shouted “Goal!” again and again. Years later when I reminded Mesut of this memory, he was quite surprised that I remembered this, whereas I can even find the video of that day, even that garden on YouTube.
Good days, good matches, good goals continued. Prekazi scored that wonderful free-kick goal in the match with Monaco. We wanted to cry… And we did…
A long time afterward, many matches were won, many matches were lost, many players joined the team and left. We returned from the borders of fanaticism and were took offense at football due to unpleasant incidents.
In this process, I started to realize that Galatasaray has become a form of communication in our family. My grandfather Cemil Gökçen graduated from Galatasaray High School but died when my father was eight years old. Over time, I began to think that my father continued his relationship with his father through the love of Galatasaray. Although he masters football in every respect at an intellectual level, Galatasaray creates another state at him. Although we live in separate cities with my father from a very young age, the transfer has inevitably been passed on to me. I live my attachment with my father through Galatasaray. My mother got married again and my stepfather is a Galatasaray fan as well. I have two fathers who always like and respect each other. And besides all the positive features of my stepfather, my father emphasizes: “Moreover, he is a Galatasaray fan…”
As time went by, my father moved to Hamburg about 28 years ago. In my opinion, not only his bond with his daughters and grandchildren but also with his country has continued through Galatasaray. If we want to communicate, we talk about Galatasaray. If we are in high spirits, we share a nostalgic memory of Galatasaray; even the yellow-red heart emojis replace many sentences. If we have a jersey, we print our father’s last name on the back, the number is of course 8. (I did this :)) My 12-year-old daughter at the time said: “Did you print your maiden name to impress your father?”
As I watched all of this in the family history course, on the other hand, the meaning of football and the meaning of Galatasaray have started changing as I realized that people tried to enhance their self-worth and sense of belonging in ways such as property, position, money, spouse, child, the team they support, etc. As I realize that there are different meanings for each fan, under the supposedly automatic, immutable supporter regardless of which team they support, the layers below the desire for a win, a championship, joy, and frustration when it cannot be achieved attract my attention more.
If we go back to Prekazi … He left after a short while. This is football, maybe sometimes dirty because of politics. Fans are sometimes quite ungrateful… I grew up, the admiration of young girls passed by but I have a feeling; I always remember him.
Almost 30 years later, Onur Bayrakçeken wrote a book: Prekazi Shot and Scored the Goal (Mylos Publishing).
On the first page of the book, he describes the first moment they met with Prekazi in Belgrade:
“You know, there are some people, the season changes when they pass by; the birds are silent, the city is silent, even the world stops and watches him for a moment. This was what happened to me when Cevad Prekazi got off his car and walked into the café we met. No, it is not difficult to reach him. No, he doesn’t live in ivory towers. Cevad Prekazi is just a special person. There are magic halos around him; he is a man away from the boringness of the world.”
In the first sentence, with the eyes of an arrogant editor, even though I almost would think “What cliché words…” but understood that he mentions exactly what I felt when I was 14 years old.
He is a football player who reads Dale Carnegie (the father of personal development) on his way to the matches, lets himself into his room and buried in books or music while everybody horses around, returns to his country when the civil war started just to be there, always says “Read and read” while training young footballers, does not regret not having played in greater football clubs, has no “I wish I…” expressions, even though there are people who call him grumpy, knows what he wants, very respectful of himself first and then his profession, who is determined in his way, who does not compromise his discipline even when playing in a small club after years, who is socialist and who is in love with his wife as the first day after 42 years…
It seems that he has the state, which I am trying to achieve at this age, as a gift since birth.
In fact, he is a mirror who said “If I have it, you have it, too” a long, long time ago…
While reading the book, I also thought about Lady Diana. You can think ‘what does she have to do with the topic?’ Because she is the one my husband has always admired. I learned this when we met; everybody in the workplace already knew. He had a photo in his belongings; I saw it when we moved to the same house. It is a beautiful photo with her sad eyes… Years later, one day at a second-hand bookselling event, I got a giant album of Lady Diana’s photos for him as a gift. My uncle Omar, who was a guest in our house at the time, was very surprised by this gift and said, “Congratulations. Not every woman does this because she is jealous.” I have the potential to be jealous, I know what he meant, but being jealous of Diana has never occurred to me. Why not?
I think I’m not jealous because I feel what my husband admires in Diana. Because I admire my husband for the same reason; a huge, clean, compassionate heart and beautiful eyes with a deep look that reflects compassion.
Diana is his mirror saying, “If I have it, you have it, too.” I know this from the very beginning, although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, so I’m not jealous. If you ask me, he is still not aware of it.
I realize that one of the many letters that life has written to us, such as our favorite dishes, the music we are affected the most, the books we love, the childhood memories that suddenly come to our minds, some words, the team we support, and not supporting any team, are people we truly admire since childhood. I don’t mean admiring somebody because he is handsome, she is beautiful or sexy, but I am talking about a deeper admiration. So how do we discover this and when?
I guess when we dare to get out of the admiring state and see ourselves at that value.
As Prekazi said for that free-kick goal that all of Europe watched with amazement:
“Whenever you are confident, it happens.”