When I announced that I was planning to make the five hour trip to Kayseri, I thought I would be making it alone. But before long Connect Kanka Steven, Mountaineering Kanka Robbie and Philly Kanka Jamie let me know that they were serious about making the trip as well.
I took responsibility for getting the bus tickets a couple of days in advance. When I arrived at the otogar (bus station), it was the usual madness. If you have not been to ASTİ, the otogar in Ankara, it is quite an experience. Hundreds of people trying to get somewhere and most in a hurry to do so.
Unlike the US where we have one crap bus company, in big cities in Turkey there are scores of companies, big and small, competing for your liras.
Not really knowing which company to take to get to Kayseri, I walked the length of the building scanning the signs to find companies going there. After seeing a few, I felt my heart leap when I found a small company called Zafer (victory in Turkish). This was a good omen I thought. My heart then fell when I learned that they had no busses going early enough. Not such a good omen after all.
Hopefully, the metaphor of victory coming too late will not apply to Ankaragucu this season.
Eventually, I picked up the tickets from Kent--15 YTL a head (less than 10 bucks)--not bad for a 320km journey (nearly 200 miles).
The four of us met up before sunrise Saturday morning, got in a taxi and headed to ASTİ. Upon getting there we fueled up on tea, got on the bus and passed a completely uneventful journey.
Once in Kayseri, we chowed down on some local grub in the city center before heading to Kayseri’s brand new B.B. Kadir Has stadium (capacity 32,864). Spotting blue and yellow and realizing we were not in enemy territory, we hopped out of the cab and joined the rest of the Gucu nut cases.
To everyone’s surprise tickets were 20 YTL each (around 12 bucks). While this might not sound like much, it is higher than normal and quite expensive for some Gucu fans.
Something else unusual happened as we were entering the stadium. Typically, you just show your ticket, the police frisk you and in you go.
This time however, in addition to our tickets the police wanted to see our gov’t issued ID cards. We hadn’t brought them. It didn’t take long though before the police decided four yabanci (foreign) English teachers just weren’t worth their trouble and they waved us through.
So, “what’s the new stadium like already?” I hear you say. Well, despite its ultra modern facade, it is in a word crap. Let’s start with the most important part of any stadium, the bathrooms. Wires coming out of the walls, and urinals that don’t flush were distinguishing features. But, hey, at least there was running water.
The pitch looked even worse than the bathroom, patches of green on a sea of brown mud. Looked a lot like 19 Mayis Stadium used to look in the winter before the artificial turf.
And although the official Ankaragucu webpage lay the blame for the loss squarely on the shoulders of the ref. Huseyin Gocek, I’m convinced the pitch didn't help matters any.
Near our entrance, there were also puddles all over the place, piles of dirt in the stairwell and already water damage in the ceiling near the concession stand. Bravo Kayseri, bravo.
If this is the stadium now, I can just imagine how it is going to look when it becomes old and worn down.
All the Ankaragucu fans were forced to sit in what in the States we call the nosebleed section. This despite the fact that the stadium wasn’t even that full. Fortunately the view wasn’t too bad.
The match unfortunately was “too bad”.
I knew it was not a good sign when there was no sign of the cornerstone of the team’s defense Santos who has on many occasions saved us.
Within the first minute Kayseri were taking their first corner kick, and they continued to dominate throughout the entire match.
After the match the Kayseri coach Tolunay Kafkas complimented Ankaragucu on the good fight they put up, but it didn’t look like so good a fight to me; it looked like more Ankaragucu flailing and failing. Extremely poor passing, lots of long balls, poor running on the ball and off and a real failure to get off any good shots characterized the team’s performance.
To be fair, there were occasional bursts of good football (mostly by Serkan and Semavi) but these were too few and too far between.
The ref Huseyin Gocek must have thought he was working at a casino because he spent most of the match dealing out cards, including a disastrous red card to El Yasa in the 41st minute.
Ankaragucu was able to stave off Kayseri through the remaining minutes of the first half, but the second half would prove to be less merciful.
In the second half, Kayseri attacked relentlessly, and after at least a couple of shots on goal, in the 55th minute Bilal Aziz sent a looping diagonal pass from the upper right corner of the penalty box. The ball sailed over Serkan who had come a bit too far off the line, and Cangele was able to get his left foot on it. The ball came off Cangele’s foot and rolled along the goalline before finally veering enough to the left to actually cross over. A painful goal to watch in slow motion.
A few minutes later Bouzid tried to get us back in the game with a shot from outside the penalty box, but missed.
Then in the 69th minute Kayseri once again managed to fight their way into the penalty box. The attack was coming from the right, and Serkan was doing his best to cover the near post. But Kayseri’s captain Mehmet Topuz was able to break free from the man marking him, and came rushing towards the far post in time to receive the pass and put it away. (You can watch both the Kayseri goals here)
That was basically the end. The team never came anywhere close to making a come back after that.
The Gecekondu boys were in fine form, singing up a storm from the get go. They even received applause from some of the Kayseri fans before the match started.
But after the ref started handing out cards, the chanting started degenerating into obscenities. I won’t repeat the exact words hurled or the gestures made, but a lot of it involved donkeys and sexual preferences. You would think that the Kayseri fans would have just shrugged it off, but a number of them were getting irate.
And then it happened. Yes, once again, my friends, we witnessed the chair breaking and hurling ritual. The spark that set off the fuse this time was the red card to El Yasa. Complete mayhem reigned until the Kayseri police with their billy clubs and armor beat enough of the fans into submission.
Of course, the Kayseri fans had the last laugh. The police allowed them to leave first at the end of the match, and as they were leaving they took great delight in taunting the Gucu fans with words and gestures of their own.
Strangely by the time they let us go the police and the Gucu fans seemed to be back on good terms. Lots of smiles all around. Very odd indeed.
After the match, Hakan Kutlu told reporters that his boys did the best they could under the circumstances, and basically blamed the ref for Ankaragucu’s failure.
And perhaps it is for this reason that according to Fanatik (a Turkish sports paper) the era of Hakan Kutlu has ended. Hikmet Karaman is slated to replace him.
The Journey Back
It had been a long emotionally draining day, and it was therefore with heavy hearts and lids that we left Kayseri. Hopefully our match two weeks from now with Kocaeli will look much different than this one did.