Turkish Football News

Turkish football review of 2018

Turkish football review of 2018

It has been a year full of records and surprises but not without a fair share of disappointment. Read below the breakdown of the highlights of Turkish football in 2018.

The football world of Turkey bid farewell to 2018 with mixed results that brought cheer to underdog teams and puzzled the fans of the traditional giants of Turkish football.

Football is the most beloved sport of the Turkish nation and, naturally, it dominated headlines year round. There was a particular focus on the downfall of the “Big Three” in the Turkish Super Lig, namely, Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Galatasaray. These three Istanbul-based clubs ended the year on a gloomy note with their standings in the league on the decline.

The year had started with good news for players. Premier League side Everton signed Besiktas forward Cenk Tosun for €22 million, the highest fee paid by a foreign team for a player coming from any Turkish league. Midfielder Arda Turan, who made waves in Spain’s La Liga during his prime returned to Turkey for a deal with Istanbul Basaksehir, joining from Barcelona on a two-season loan and ending a tenure of more than six seasons abroad.

Tosun all smiles at his new club.

Galatasaray were crowned champions of the Super Lig for a record 21st time in May after defeating Izmir’s Goztepe 1-0 in their final game of the season. The victory sealed a triumphant return for veteran coach Fatih Terim, known as “The Emperor.” Terim took the reins for the fourth time in 2017, months after leaving his job as Turkey’s national team coach amid controversy over a street brawl.

Yet, neither Galatasaray, nor any of the Big Three have managed to live up to expectations in the first half of this season, faltering more often than not in a league dominated by minnows. Istanbul Basaksehir ended the first half of 2018-19 season in December as the league leaders with 35 points.

Malatyaspor, another club on the rise, wrapped up the first half in third place, just behind Trabzonspor who have struggled against the Big Three for years but have seemed to overcome that jinx, at least for now.

Former league champions Fenerbahce remain in the relegation zone with just 16 points while Rizespor find themselves at the bottom of the table with only 12 points.

2018 was a year of radical change for the Yellow Canaries. The club ended a decades-old reign of veteran chairman Aziz Yildirim in the summer. Ali Koc, an energetic businessman who excited fans with his promises to return the team to their glory days, faced a major crisis in the first half of the season due to financial troubles and has failed to satisfy fans. Fenerbahce have failed to perform amid a lack of fervor in the team, leading to more tension in the club. A streak of defeats cost Dutch coach Phillip Cocu his job after just four months. Out of desperation, Koc brought back former title-winning coach Ersun Yanal just a few weeks before the winter break.

Koc celebrating after his landslide victory.

The year also brought one of the most controversial changes in recent memory to Turkish football. The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system further fueled the debate over controversial referee decisions, an excuse for most clubs to shift the blame for failing to perform away from themselves. VAR was a dominant force on the pitch, with 98 decisions changed in total, affecting the outcome of numerous matches. The system canceled 24 goals and awarded 7 to teams during the first 17 games of the season.

Kasimpasa striker Mbaye Diagne, the player to watch this season, racked up 20 goals in the first half of the season (17 games), breaking the previous record of 18 goals which was set by Mario Jardle in 2000.

Last season’s top scorer and former Galatasaray hitman Bafetimbi Gomis also made headlines by setting a new record. The Frenchman bagged 29 goals to make him the all-time top foreign goalscorer in Turkish football.

On the international level, Galatasaray, Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Akhisarspor were the only representatives in the Champions League and the Europa League. All of them failed to impress with less than stellar results. One little solace for Turkey was being awarded the 2020 UEFA Champions League final, an event that will be watched by millions.

Turkey, however, failed to secure the right to host EURO 2024, losing the bid to their only rival, Germany, in September.

Germany also figured in another disappointment for Turkey after mistreatment of Mesut Ozil, a German-born player of Turkish origin, by the German Football Federation. The Arsenal star quit the German national team in July, citing racial abuse soon after what he called unfair criticism over his photos with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The president’s photo-op with Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan, another German player of Turkish origin, during the former’s visit to London, triggered scandalous comments amounting to racism by German Football Federation officials. Mesut accused far-right politicians and media for questioning his loyalty to Germany and using his picture with Erdogan “as an opportunity to express their previously hidden racist tendencies.”

If 2018 was anything to go by, one can only wonder what 2019 has in store for Turkish football. Here’s to another year of records and plenty of stories to talk about.

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