In the run-up to the release of Issue Ten on 9th September, we will be offering you a sneak peek at a couple of excerpts of articles from the forthcoming issue. Our first is from Andy Brassell, in conversation with Galatasaray (and now Turkey) boss, Fatih Terim.
You can pre-order Issue Ten on a pay-what-you-like basis from as little as £6 (+P&P). It will be available to download on a pay-what-you-like basis from 16th September.
Waiting for Fatih Terim in the palatial gardens of Galatasaray’s Florya training complex, you look around, you look at everything, for clues to how the coach thinks. Everything here is decided by him, they say; from the menu in the canteen to the colour of the gazebo on the main lawn that borders the players’ quarters. Now 59, Terim lives the job to the extent that the club are building living quarters here for him — he often sleeps in his office after working late into the night.
He meets us here on the afternoon before Galatasaray’s final game of the season, at home to Trabzonspor (“the first time I’ve ever done an interview before a match,” he says), an occasion which should have been one of joyous celebration but has been scaled down to a more low-key affair, after the terrorist attacks in Reyhanlı and the murder of teenage Fenerbahçe fan Burak Yıldırım in the aftermath of the previous weekend’s derby.
The man they call İmparator (‘The Emperor’) in Turkey has that on his mind and more as he looks back on how far he’s taken Galatasaray — with whom he’s now in a third spell as coach — and Turkey, as well as his career’s English roots.
When you played for Turkey it was still far from established as a world or European power. It’s a very different situation to yours now, where you’re used to winning all the time. How did the difficult times as a player shape your outlook when you took charge of Turkey?
It was drastically different. My mentality was very simple when I became a coach; I was only 32. In ’93, when I became national team coach for the first time, my philosophy… I saw that in the past 70 years, we had done nothing. In my first press conference, the very first thing that I said was, “There’s only one word that I won’t say — patience. This country already had too much patience. If I do badly, you won’t let me continue anyway, so I’m not going to tell you ‘patience’.” I told my players — don’t be scared to lose, as you already lost plenty. The Turkey team was set out in a 9-0-1, with nine in defence. We were already losing playing in a defensive way. I said, why not lose in an attacking way? And then, one by one, we started to beat teams that we hadn’t been able to beat for 40 years, 50 years. Being a coach and being a player for Turkey is very different, even if I used my experiences, as I was a leader on the pitch anyway.
So you always planned to be a coach?
When I was playing, I always said to myself: when I stop playing, that’s it for me and football. I’m done with it. My first daughter had just been born… Jupp Derwall asked me not to quit football, but I told him, “The path is too long. I won’t be able to see my daughter. I’m going to quit.” And I did. In the six months that followed, with my wife, I found other things to do with my life. I wasn’t interested in football at all. I was offered good money to write for newspapers, to go on television as a pundit and I always said, “It’s not my business.” Then I was invited to go Mexico and watch the World Cup in ’86. I went… and then I decided to go back to football. I couldn’t escape anymore. Everybody wanted me to go back to football and that’s how my journey as a coach started.
You yourself took the Turkish game to another level, getting the national team to their first major finals — Euro 96. After a tough start to the qualifiers, was it the win over Sweden that really kicked it off for you and made you believe it was possible?
100%, because if we’d lost against Sweden, it would have been all over. We did something else though — beating Switzerland away. That was the moment we took leadership of the group, and we went on from there. It was a very tough group. Sweden were semi-finalists in America in ’94 and Switzerland, coached by Roy Hodgson, a very good friend of mine — please say hello — were in the last 16. Putting Sweden out of contention was very important. I made a declaration at the start of the press conference, before the game. “We, the Turkish national team, aren’t going alone. All of us — the players, you the journalists, the Turkish people — if we go to the Euros, we all go together.” I didn’t just coach, I motivated the public. After league games, the Turkish media were harsh, absolutely killing the players, and I put a stop to it.