Three years ago, I have written an article expressing my wish about Turkey and Bosnia be not in the same qualification group. It did not happen for the qualifications of European Football Championship 2012. However, when Bosnia had a draw match with France in Paris, and Germany’s victory against Belgium allowed Turkey to have right for play-off, I have to admit that I was a bit afraid of a possible Bosnia-Turkey play-off match. Luckily both countries were in the same pot. In sum, Turkey eluded from playing with Bosnia among the heat of a play-off struggle where the adrenalin level would be at the top. Better to say, I was eluded from that.
I am lucky in another sense that Turkey will be playing with another Balkan country, if not with Bosnia. Of course, when Turkey was tied with Croatia, two historical matches fell into my mind. When Turkey had the first chance to play in European Football Championship in 1996, the first match was with Croatia and lost. Probably, the most interesting anecdote from that match was the “fair play” of Alpay, Turkish defender. Alpay is recognized as one of the most aggressive players in Turkey. But, maybe it was for the first time in his life he decided to play clean and instead of tackling Croatian striker Vlaović, he preferred to escort him until he scored. That made Alpay to be gain “Fair-play” award.
This match had been cleaned from the memories of Turkish football fans since some time. The quarterfinal match between Croatia and Turkey in Wien in June 20, 2008 is capable to many more football matches. Even UEFA web masters are aware of it that when Turkey and Croatia were seeded that legendary match was referred. The first match will be by November 11/12 in Turkey and the second match will be on November 15 in Croatia, than the one who will have ticket for Poland and Ukraine will be determined.
Four years ago, a friendly match between Bosnia and Croatia was played in Sarajevo in a Summer night in August 2007 when the visitor team had a victory of 5-3. It is a question mark, if it could be identified as a “friendly” match since violent fights ocured before and during the match. Bosnian fans were teasing Croatian fans by transforming The Beatles’ famous song “Yellow Submarine”s reprise part; “”We all live in yellow submarine” as “Zagreb će biti Turska mahala”.literally meaning “Zagreb will be Turkish mahala” (district in Turkish language). Even the hard core Turkish nationalists would not express like that, at least that much directly! I had written an article about it.
I have asked from my Bosnian friends not to involve us (Turks) into the Balkan trouble. However, it seems it is a bit difficult to realize that. Indeed, after the legendary match between Turkey and Croatia in June 20, 2008 there were violent incidents in many places in Bosnia, which is not surprising while similar incidents happen even after a match of Croatia and Brazil. Despite I would avoid any generalizations, it is very frequent that Bosnian Croats do have a special love for Croatia. Since Bosnians (Bosnian Muslims) are not happy for that they enjoy to support any rival of Croatia. Especially when the rival team is Turkey.
Probably, this year similar incidents will not happen, since Bosnians will be very much occupied with the matches against Portugal.
DO CROATS REALLY FEAR FROM TURKEY?
After the seeding in UEFA, I had a look at Turkish newspapers. Our very talented journalists were very proud to write that Croats were extremely sad because of a seeding with Turkey. I had already checked well known Croatian newspapers like Slobodna Dalmacija or Dnevnik just after the seeding and I remember I read totally different comments. I looked at the comments in Croatian newspapers to be sure. I was true! The commentators were not afraid, but on the contrary they were almost happy to be seeded with Turkey and Croatian newspapers were full of revenge skirls.
Really a big mistake! If I were them, I would write about unluckiness of Croatian national football team because of being seeded with Turkey. As well known, Turks are a nation who enjoys very much to be slapped on the back. Those who are aware of it do prefer to soften the beard with cream instead of confronting Turkey and injecting adrenalin. The Croatian newspapers were captioned with “revenge” wishes of Bilić. However, when I started to write sub-lines, I have realized that Croatian journalists do have that special talency of transforming reality into a fiction, like their Turkish colleagues.
WHAT INDEED BILIĆ STATED?
As a matter of fact, Bilić underlined the chance of a revenge against Turkey as it is reflected on the headlines of the Croatian newspapers. However, there are more things that he had emphasized. Bilić who had mentioned that playing against Turkey or Bosnia would not be preferable for him, had told to newspapers:
“No doubt that our rival is strong.” Smashing his fist on the desk, he continued: “They are strong but not more than us. Turks are also very ambitious to play in EURO 2012. They have very good players and they have one of the best trainers in the world. I believe in my players. I have been waiting and dreaming for this moment for four years. We have a wonderful opportunity to take revenge of Wien.”
What took my attention the most is his comment about Hiddink. Bilić takes Hiddink very seriously, probably without being informed that the world famous trainer who succeeded with many teams is de facto part-time trainer of Turkish national team. Moreover, he emphasized on players like Arda, Selçuk and Mehmet Topal.
WHAT ABOUT CROATIAN MEDIA?
Croatian journalists are simply not pleasant about statements of Bilić. Some claim Bilić as being cowards, some claim that he overemphasize the rival. Croatian media, on the other hand is quite gorgeous. Daily newspaper Dnevnik’s last word about the seeding is like that:
“DAJTE NAM TE TURKE! EVO VAM İH. ILİ JESTE İLİ NİSTE...”
Means: “Give us Turks! Here it is. Now or never!
Somehow, it is quite difficult to forget about the role of journalists in Yugoslav wars.
Croatians see it as an advantage that they will play the second match at home. According to them, playing the second match not in “Istanbul Hell” is an advantage.
Trabzonspor’s ex-player Vugrinec gave an interview to Jutarnji List relying on his three years long experience in that Black Sea coast of Turkey. He is mentioning about the fanatism of the Turkish football fans.
What we can predict from those sentences is that, Croatian media is hoping to come to Zagreb with least damage from Turkey.
Probably, the match will be played in Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, which is recognized as the place where the Yugoslav wars started. The match between Red Star and Dinamo Zagreb in May 1991 is depicted as the place where the warfare was sparkled.
On the other side, Split, home place of Hajduk Split, famous with football fanatics is also candidate to host the game.
Personally, instead of having a journey to Habsburg styled Zagreb in freezing November, I would prefer to pay a visit to Split on the Mediterranean coast.