Yonca Kalınlı, 45, ran and won against two male candidates in the local election to become a mukhtar in Mersin's Toroslar district. After winning the elections, Kalınlı's first move was to increase sportive activities in the district. To do so, she founded a local male football team which she now manages as the head coach.
With Kalınlı's efforts, the team managed to participate in the 12th Youth Cup - Inter Villages Football Tournament. Kalınlı is not an easy coach. She tries to keep the team in shape and forces them to become a better version of themselves. However, Kalınlı's biggest supporter is the team's captain, her brother Mete Kalınlı.
Apart from keeping the district and its youth in shape, Kalınlı's aim is to keep the young people engaged and away from drug addiction.
"Players come and practice whenever they have time. We try to practice an hour in the afternoon and on the weekends. There is no football field in our neighborhood which is our biggest problem. We have to go to other neighborhoods to find a field. If we had a field of our own, it would save a lot of time and effort. My next target is to build a football field in my neighborhood," said Mukhtar Kalınlı.
Despite the age difference, Kalınlı has a good relationship with the young people. "I am happy to spend time with them. Sport is an important tool to keep the young people away from bad habits. They all call me 'abla' [sister], which is a sign that I am on the right track. I believe everything will be good in the future," Kalınlı added.
Seventeen-year-old İsmail Eren Toker, one of the footballers of Kalınlı's team, said their coach has been an example to other neighborhoods. "Sister Yonca motivates us. She does everything in her power to help us win. None of the older men in our neighborhood helped us before. She is our advantage. She makes us more disciplined," Toker said.
Mukhtar Kalınlı's team does not only consist of the young. Necati Keskin, 45, is also one of the players in the team. "Our opponents show us more respect as our head coach is woman. We hope that women of our neighborhood will show more interest in our team and come to watch our matches," added Keskin.
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