Friday, March 7, 2008

The Barbers of Seville

I can’t watch football anymore. I mean, sure, I can; I am physically able to; my eyes don’t give when I sit down in front of the telly, or in a stadium, to immerse myself in the delights of 22 sweaty men charging after a ball. It’s just that whenever it’s a team I support, be it Fenerbahce, Turkey, Newcastle, or England (an embarrassment of riches, eh), I simply lose any sense of reality, betray all my convictions, lose all my mirth, forgo all custom of exercises. I get taken over by obsessive-compulsive idiosyncrasies, which hound me like the Furies did Orestes, and get reduced to an arbitrary combination of random ticks, routines, and chants. Double that, if you please, when what’s on the table is something that’s important. Say, qualifying for the last eight in the Champions League. Which, incidentally, is the predicament I found myself in on Tuesday Night, that glorious, beautiful, divine Tuesday Night. It was the second leg of the Knockout Phase to qualify for the quarter finals, and Fenerbahce were going in with a 3 – 2 first leg victory over Seville, UEFA Cup winners of the previous two years. For those of you who aren’t aware (and most of the readers of this blog are from the US and Canada so I feel I should explain), that’s not the greatest of results. It’s a victory, sure, but scoring two away goals would mean that a one goal lead at home would be enough to qualify for Seville. Within the first 10 minutes, they had two.

I wasn’t going to watch it. I’d stopped watching the first game after Fenerbahce’s hopelessly unlucky defender Edu tiptoed in an own goal in the first leg, only to wake up to go to work the next day, stop by at the cornershop for some gum, and discover Fenerbahce’s wonky 3 – 2 win. The thing is, the last 15 minutes of Pushing Daisies (a show I still like, but one that needs to get on with telling its weekly stories – I spent most of the hour worrying about Anna Friel’s complexion, for God’s sack) coincided with the first fifteen minutes of the game so I simply had to switch back and forth between the two. Fine. That wasn’t something I could help. To recap my reactions to those formative minutes of the game, I shall now refer back to my journal, in which I was taking notes on Pushing Daisies:

Hmmm, that wig, or wig-like hair do, on the lovely Ms Chenoweth is not that fetching – oh well – let’s see what’s going on with the game – CLICK – ooh, four minutes in and – Hell – Selcuk tackles Keita (or was it Kanoute) to concede a dangerous freekick to Seville, 25 meters from the goal. Right, not to worry. Volkan, the Fenerbahce keeper, should be ready for crap like this from their opponents – Or maybe not. Shit. We’re down one nil after Alves machetes the ball through Volkan’s fingertips and right into the goal. Great. CLICK.

I switched back to catch the remaining few minutes of Pushing Daisies, though exactly what the hell was going on, I couldn’t tell you. My ears were poised to take in the hysterical cries of victory that were sure to emanate from my neighbours. I live on the Asian side of Istanbul, close to Fenerbahce’s home ground, and it’s a positively fanatical neighbourhood. Thunderous, animalistic chants reverberate through walls whenever Fenerbahce scores a goal, which is exactly what I was anticipating. Alas, no joy – an eerie silence, and nothing else. Oh, sod it – I thought; everyone’s watching the game, I shall do, too. Ticks, tricks, warts and all…

Seville’s second goal arrived like a bolt of lightning a scant 30 seconds after I switched back to the game. A misunderstanding between Fener’s middling midfield and drowsy defense was spotted by Keita, who picked up the ball a good 30-meters from the goal, and thumped it with the drive of a thousand monster trucks towards Volkan, who gently caressed the ball into the back of the net. Fuck. I was distraught. “So this is as far as we can go,” I thought. But Fenerbahce had other ideas. The boys stuck to it, and I almost destroyed my vocal chords when, 20 minutes in, Deivid’s half volley bounced past Seville and Fener players alike to defeat the home team’s keeper. Get in! We can do this. Come on, lads. You can see how easily my opinion can sway…

For the rest of the first half, Fenerbahce had impeccable control at times – I counted 18 passes between the players before Kezman tested the Seville keeper (either just before the the Fener goal, or just after – don’t remember), and it felt to me like that most important second goal, which would have confirmed Fenerbahce’s place in the quarter-finals, was imminent. Shows you how much I know – just before half-time, it was Seville scored their third goal of the game, sending me into a lethargic acceptance of a grim fate that must now surely await my beloved team. I brushed my teeth, and got ready for bed, waiting to pounce into a depressed slumber after the fourth goal.

Oh, but wait – the second half started, but Fenerbahce had not given up. It was the industrious Alex who tested Palop first, and then Aurelio, and Ugur had a go, too. But, only fifteen or so minutes from the final whistle, Deivid scored his second goal of the match to bring the aggregate result to a draw, thus confirming extra time, which was lacking in decent football, but not in decent drama. By the time of the penalty shout out, I was a nervous wreck, unable to sit down, pacing round my living room, praying to all gods man had hitherto prayed to, and making up my own ones just for extra good luck. I can’t really recall what happened – I had my back towards the telly most of the time – but that final save by Volkan is etched forever to the back of my eyeballs, as well as his subsequent manic sprint around the pitch, chased by his jubilant team mates. Gosh – it was a sight to see.

Now this is actually not a huge thing to celebrate. Any of the other big teams in Europe, in fact the other six who have so far qualified for the quarter finals, would have been only mildly happy, already thinking of the next round. But not us. Fenerbahce have always had a chequered past in Europe, and this was a glorious victory for us to remember in years to come. I still don’t have all that much faith that we can go any further than this. If we do, that’s great. And if we don’t… Well, we’ll always have Seville.
(Photo Credit:


Oz Kanka said...

Ali Arikan said: "Fenerbahce have always had a chequered past in Europe".

I think the word you are looking for is not "chequered" but "shit".

Ali Arikan said...

Heh. Fuck you, Mr The Only Glory We Have is The Parma Game in 2004!