The Istanbul derby between Beşiktaş and Galatasaray was a prime example of where Turkish football is headed right now. Everyone is accusing each other of stealing their hard work but no one is revealing who, while there is simply nothing valuable for football on the pitch. Both Beşiktaş and Galatasaray displayed some horrendous performances and the game was close to unbearable. With some exceptions in the media, no one really questioned these performances, rather the only trending topic was how biased referee Cüneyt Çakır was. This attitude, ladies and gentlemen, do not take Turkish football to a better place.
First and foremost, as one of the trademark events of any footballing nations, big derbies should always be examples of high-quality football. People around the world get to know your country's football through these games and the impression you leave on them is crucial for building a football character. Imagine a foreigner watching the Beşiktaş versus Galatasaray game, thinking that it is one of the biggest derbies in the country. What do they see? Lots of arguing with the referee, players harassing each other on every possible occasion and no good football to watch.
Do not get me wrong, a fighting spirit is necessary for competitive games and a league. But when football becomes fighting only, there is a problem. The big games in Turkey are not grand strategic battles between teams, but rather a skirmish of cheap tactics. No wonder referees are the center of attention in Turkish football, because in this cheap brawl they are seen as the determining figure of the result. Big teams kick the ball into the air and hope that it will land on the right player's foot and then wait for the referee to call a penalty.
The only topic being discussed in newspapers, on websites and Twitter after the game was: Was it a penalty? I am going to write a piece on the roots of the referee-centered commentary in the upcoming days, but for the time being, we can say that the Turkish media and fans talk about everything, but football. No one asks why Galatasaray started with five men in defense, practically making themselves a purely defensive team. Is it possible that because Galatasaray was playing so defensively that they could not create opportunities to score a goal? Or why was Beşiktaş not able to score a goal except the one that came from a penalty?
Why did Beşiktaş coach Şenol Güneş take a young striker Güven Yalçın off and replaced him with defensive midfielder Atiba Hutchinson when his team could have easily destroyed its opponents if it was more daring?
These are questions worth asking, questions that can make the gameplay improve. Keep strangling the referees, and you will get even more distrust in football. But keep strangling bad football and you will see good football coming out of it, even if it is a slow process. For the sake of Turkish football, we should stop speculating about conspiracy theories and start focusing on the real, football-related reasons behind the lackluster condition of Turkish football.
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