Choo choo train
I've only been to a couple of away matches but I wasn't going to miss this weekend's match in Eskisehir as it presented a great chance to catch up a former Turkish Daily News colleague and world-renowned author Roger Norman. Also a great chance to take Little Oz Kanka on his first long distance train trip.
So the wife, myself and Little Oz Kanka get to the Ankara Train Station with plenty of time only to find out that the 9 Eylul Express is running late and so we were directed onto another train. Bit of a bummer but we were still in high spirits. But an hour or so later our train is still somewhere on the outskirts of the city.
We didn't mind as we had found the restaurant carriage and were enjoying beers and whatnot. An official then comes in asking if anyone had tickets for the 9 Eylul Express, as it was catching up fast and we should get on it.
We jumped out of the train, ran along a rickety wooden platform in the rain to get our bags and stuff from our original carriage and, as there wasn't enough time to go through the tunnel, we crossed the tracks and railway workers lifted the wife and Little Oz Kanka onto the other platform.
At least we had time for a cigarette and finally we got onto the 9 Eylul Express. Rang Roger and told him we would be late. In the end we arrived at 1:30 am, rather than the advertised 10:44 pm. Oh well.
The wives decided that standing in the rain was not a good idea so they took the kids off to the theatre (a children's theatre festival was in town) and Roger and I went for a stroll around the city. And what a lovely place it is. The centre is full of pedestrianised streets with plenty of cafes and bars. The riverbank has been spruced up as well, in fact it didn't feel like central Anatolia at all.
Little Oz Kanka decided that taking Sedefsu to the theatre was probably better than taking her to the footy. At least he wore his Gencler shirt.
We found a pub (half-litre beers for 2.75 TL - about 1.50 US or 1 pound) and after a couple headed off to the stadium were we met up with Roger's brother-in-law, a wonderful chap by the name of Onur. Being a fanatic Eskisehirspor fan there was no way he was going to join us in the away section, and being the same there was no way I was going to sit in the Eskisehir section. So we split up and vowed to meet post-match for beers.
It was at this point we bumped into a small group of Gencler fans, got our 15 TL tickets and headed for what must be one of the crappiest away sections in Turkey. The stand was a makeshift wooden thing with around one third of the plastic seats ripped out.
Oh well, the 30 or so Gencler fans weren't in a sitting mood. In fact the mood was a bit "what the hell are we doing here" as a slight rain shower descended and being out in the open, it was just a touch cold.
Then the sun came out and we got ready for a great Gencler away victory.
The teams line up. Us Gencler fans can be seen in the background. Look at the height of the Eskisehir keeper!
This is the part where everything turns to crap. The pitch was waterlogged and on the wings especially it was impossible to play decent football. Many a time did players from both sides go slipping and sliding, either buggering up a good attacking chance or accidently handing the other side an easy ball.
Eskisehir started out attacking but after about 10 minutes it was our turn. Troisi in particular was running around but for Roger it was Mehmet Nas who was creating the chances. Not that there were many shots on goal though. Hakan Aslantas also seemed to be getting a lot of good stuff through on the right, but in the end in was a pretty crappy half.
Half-time and we were cold. Not even tea for sale in our miserable corner of the stadium.
Half-time huddle together photo.
Second-half and we came to life. Finally we were attacking and sighs went up when Kahe missed what should have been a goal after being given a perfect pass right in front of goal by Nas. The Brazillian ended up whacking it straight at the 10 foot giant Eskisehir had in goal.
Things were getting frustrating for both sides and cracks in the defence were opening up. Eskisehir missed at least two clear chances at goal with our keeper Bojan making some excellent saves. In the end, he saved us.
Things may have well been very different if Eskisehir hadn't lost their two strikers in the first half to injury. But them's the breaks.
Show me the way to the next whisky bar
Gencler fans aren't stupid and so they decided to follow Onur, Roger and myself to find a cheap pub. The rain came down and only the thought of a 2.75 TL beer and a bit of warmth kept us going. Post-match conversation many consisted of "we were lucky." Which indeed we were.
This was a great away trip even if the football was pretty crappy and the result not the best. The Eskisehir fans are great. Singing throughout, huge banners, and just like us Gencler fans, no swearing. Both before and after the match we met and spoke to a few fans and they all wanted to exchange scarves. It looks pretty likely that Eskisehir will remain in the top flight next season, and I'm certain I'll be heading back there. Let's just hope it is a little warmer next time.
The Eskisehir fans put on a great show. Photo courtesy of Ziggytheking, an Eskisehir fan who grabbed the photo from an Eskisehir fans forum.
Oh, I almost forgot. It was great that the man who was our captain until a few weeks ago, Egyptian defender El Saka, acknowledged our chants and came over towards us before kick-off. A great gesture from a man who was abused at a press conference by our own coach Samet Aybaba who had said about a month ago after we had been chanting for El Saka to be returned to the team: "They prefer an Arab to me". El Saka had a good match on Saturday and I wish him the best of luck at Eskisehir.
Oh, one last last thing. Thanks a lot Roger, Sibel and Sedefsu for a great weekend.