Youth development is needed to help Turkish football
by Kenny Laurie
ISTANBULJan 07, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Kenny Laurie
Jan 07, 2015 12:00 am
Few topics stir perpetual debate like the subject of foreign player restrictions. Does it stifle local talent, or does it create a rising tide that demands more of the players that come through that previously had complacently thought their spot on a team was assured thanks to their passport?
The debate will rage in Turkey now that the Turkish Football Federation has decided to allow teams to field an entire team of foreigners, even if the full squad can't be completely foreign. While the effects of mass player movements are still unquantified, hence the debate, there is one truism of lax foreign player regulations: The league product improves. Football in Europe saw a dramatic improvement in its footballing output when players were allowed the freedom of movement around the continent thanks to EU regulations and the revolutionary Bosman Rule, which allows players to leave clubs once their contract expires.
Since the 1990s, foreign player movement around Europe has become so common that eyebrows are raised higher if a domestic player is transferred than if a foreign one is. In the heyday of Serie A in the late '80s and early '90s, Italy had the run on other countries because of their willingness to incorporate foreign talent. From the mid-'90s onwards, the Premier League in England evolved from a mildly outdated league with a somewhat agricultural mindset and tactical stance to the most popular league in the world, replete with the world's best players -for, where there are great players, there is money, investment and trophy-winning potential. The new move will undoubtedly give Turkish clubs a leg up in European competition. At the moment, Galatasaray's UEFA Cup win remains the sole European triumph by a Turkish team. There isn't a football fan in Turkey who wouldn't want that stat to be consigned to history, if only to stop the never-ending nostalgia Yellow-Reds' fans like to indulge in.
At the moment, Turkish clubs are on the outside looking in when it comes to European competition. As the last few seasons have shown, Turkey has its place in European football; Gala made the knockout stages of the Champions League a year ago while Beşiktaş trumped Tottenham Hotspur to take the top spot in their Europa League group. But never is a Turkish team even considered an outsider in European competition, just another tough team that needs to be negotiated en route to a deeper place in the tournament. In terms of domestic football, any viewer of Sunday's match between Beşiktaş and Galatasaray will confirm that the league could do with a shot in the arm. Looking outside of the major clubs, an influx of foreign players could help draw more support for the Anatolian teams that routinely find themselves playing in front of a crowd of security, press and club staff rather than supporters. Of course, the big clubs will have first dibs on the best talent, but good scouting from the small clubs could help pull in the crowds and raise the general interest of the league. Much like the aforementioned English league, Turkey is currently in something of a tactical malaise. I doubt this is due to a lack of talent; it likely has more to do with a lack of infusion of new ideas. As seen in England, when foreign players arrive, they tend to respond to foreign techniques and, as expats, are often more willing to try new things and ideas. Where there are more ideas, there is more innovation and thus more development as well.
Of course, the elephant in the room is what will happen to the best domestic talent. Will the heightened quality force Turkey's youth to improve or will they get in the way? The answer is probably neither. England claims to be stifled by foreign players, but Spain is full of foreign players and it has hardly held them back. The fact is, a country's youth output is only as good as its youth systems, coaches, policies and infrastructure. The Turkish national team is hardly flying at the moment while there are few foreigners in the league, and it probably won't improve once they arrive en masse. Spain is awash with foreign players, as is Germany and others, but they produce good players because of their youth policies and quality academies, not because of restrictions on foreign players.