It took eight years but Turkey is finally on top of the standings in the UEFA Regions' Cup where amateur players from around Europe compete. It is a solace for a country where professional teams have been underwhelming in their European campaigns in recent years.
Ali Düşmez, a board member of the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) in charge of amateur football, says it is a significant achievement for Turkey, which relaunched its amateur campaign in 2011 after a break. "We had an amateur national team but it failed to meet the expectations and was terminated.
The federation decided to reshape it and set up a lineup of players from Istanbul and Ankara that represent 14 different regions in the football federation. They won bronze medals at first and their success in the last three seasons and total points in this period has put Turkey on the top of standings," he said. He said they now aim to win gold in the Regions' Cup. He said the federation supports amateur clubs but there is need for more.
"There are about 1,500 pitches and stadiums around Turkey for amateur clubs and the majority of them are run by the Youth and Sports Ministry. More facilities are being built but it is not easy," he said.