Sunday, January 11, 2009

Follow the Yellow (and Blue) Brick Road: The Battle of the little people

Greetings Kankas and Kankies.

The following is a report on the Ankaragucu v Tokatspor Turkish Cup match last Wednesday in Ankara which was attended by Battle Damaged Kanka Damon. He had problems with his PC this week, hence the delay in this post. However, as they say ..... better late than never !

Ok, first the good news. We beat Tokatspor by a score of 1-0. Now the bad news. We very nearly lost to a third division club (although, to be fair, they do have the second highest number of points in that division). I don’t know how Tokatspor normally plays but playing us in 19 Mayis Stadium they looked nearly as good as we did overall and had no real weak links. Maybe they were so psyched up for the match that they were able to take their game up not one but two notches. For our sake, let us hope that was the case.

I even have a favorite Tokatspor player now: number 8 Samil Unal who is about Jaba’s height but with a shaven pate and a chin curtain (you know one of those beards that follows the jaw line). Given that the Ankaragucu management does not seem serious about winning maybe they would like to do something gimmicky like field the most diminuitive team in professional football. If they would go for that, I strongly recommend aquiring this guy Samil because he has an attack and never say die attitude. He stuck to the much taller Mehmet Yilmaz so tightly at one point that Yılmaz had to stand in one place and dribble the ball around in a circle to avoid getting tackled. That scene alone justified the 8YTL (roughly 5 dollars) ticket price.

Speaking of Mehmet Yilmaz, wheras Tokatspor didn’t seem to have any weak links, Ankaragucu on the other hand had quite a number of them--Yilmaz being the most obvious. Barboros, and Duruer also leap to mind, and while I like Metin, he too blew some really good opportunities. To be fair, someone clearly made the decision not to field our strongest possible team. Our starting lineup did include Serkan and Elyasa, but missing were Murat Erdogan, Jaba, and Santos. Those are three key players to have missing from a lineup. But it does show how little depth we have.

Anyway, after getting my ticket and my bag of sunflower seeds and getting through the turnstile, I found the guards waiting to frisk me as usual, but this time they wanted to take my pen. I told them that I was going to be writing a report of the match for the blog The Round Ball in Ankara. They stared at me with blank faces. These were police officers who had obviously not read about us in Radikal recently. I protested and gave them a list of reasons why I should be allowed to take it in, but I don’t think it was my logic that won them over. Judging by the female police officers’ giggling and the male police officers’ smiles I think my funny Turkish won me enough good will to get me in pen in hand.

No problem finding a seat inside as the very slim possibility of a cup victory together with the bitingly cold weather--not to mention the fact that most people are actually working at two in the afternoon-- kept most fans away. However by kick off time I estimate that we had around six hundred fans inside. I have to take my hat off to the Tokat fans. A couple hundred of them with a good number of drums appear to have either made the over 400 km journey to Ankara or are part of the sizeable Tokat community here. Either way, they were loud and friendly, and they got the good will flowing by screaming out “sari” (yellow) to which we responded “lacivert” (blue). Both fan groups also applauded each other as they sang anti-Israel chants. So as the game got under way everybody seemed to be in a good mood.

For about the first twenty minutes of the match I would say that Tokatspor looked just a bit better than we did and in the fifteenth minute looked like they had a goal when Samil, who had come up the left flank, cut into the penalty box and passed to Bulent who put it in the upper right hand corner. I didn’t see any flags, but Serkan Çınar, the ref, made his own flag with his arm and the goal was disallowed. Our first real attack came from Mehmet Yılmaz as he launched the ball from the top of the penalty box only to have it go over the crossbar. We had another really good chance about five minutes later when Metin and Duruer side by side brought the ball into the penalty box and shot only to have it deflected by the Tokatspor goalie Mehmet. Yilmaz managed to get possession of the ball while the goal was still open, but again shot high. About four minutes later it was Mert Erdogan’s turn to shoot, but goalie Mehmet handled it without much of a problem.

Up to this point there had been nothing but good will between the fans and the two teams, but after nearly half an hour of play, there was a scuffle involving German born Samil and it looked like Ege (who is also no giant). All the other players rushed in and in pretty “short” order things were once again relatively calm. But then a few minutes later Elyasa drew a yellow card for some pretty rough play. After that the remainder of the first half passed uneventfully.

The second half brought with it the wonderful news that Barbaros was off and Jaba was on. Jaba immediately began attacking but was getting tripped up a lot. He definitely needed some more support. And in the 71st minute he got it when Murat Erdogan came on to relieve Duruer. Even with this beefed up offense. It was Tokat who sent hearts into throats with a rocket of a shot from Sinan which slammed into the crossbar and ricocheted straight into the ground in front of the line. Serkan immediately grabbed it up and we in the stands all breathed a sigh of relief. After a couple of more failed attacks on our part, finally number 2, recently arrived Burak Ozsarac, emerged from amidst the melee in front of the goal and was able to head it in. Goal!!!

As the goal came in the 82nd minute, it was only a matter of holding on for another ten minutes or so. Tokatspor definitely did not roll over and concede defeat, they organized another two solid attacks, but in the end weren’t able to put it together. Nonetheless, I was very impressed by these guys from the land between the Black Sea and Inner Anatolia.

When they play Fenerbahce today at 13.30, I know who I will be going for. Hadi Tokat.

Thanks for your excellent in-depth (and humourous) report Damon. Looks like you have made it onto the world stage again !!

All the best from Eski Kanka Jim

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