ALSO ON SLAM!
Tuesday, May 16, 2000
Turkish soccer is in the bloodTORONTO (CP) -- Canadian national team coach Holger Osieck will be watching today's UEFA Cup final with special interest.
Osieck used to manage Fenerbahce whose cross-town rival in Istanbul, Galatasaray, plays England's Arsenal in Copenhagen. He knows firsthand just how seriously the Turks take their soccer.
"At the beginning of the season, they sacrificed a lamb to Allah to pray for good fortune," he recalled Tuesday.
Having cut the lamb's throat on the pitch, the priest performing the ritual would daub the blood on the foreheads of players and coaches.
"The stadium was packed," he added. "And there was no game on, just the ceremony."
Fenerbahce is on the Asian side of Istanbul while Galatasaray is on the European side.
"When you don't play, they're pretty friendly," Osieck said of the Galatasaray fans.
Game day was something else, however.
"They were real enemies," he said. "It was always a very hostile atmosphere.
"We had blue and yellow (uniforms) and they had red and yellow and anyone who wore blue and yellow had a tough time."
Osieck took Fenerbahce to the UEFA Cup and finished one point behind champion Galatasaray in 1993-94 in the Turkish league.
But Osieck doesn't hold a grudge, saying he respects Galatasaray and manager Fatih Terim for giving his team continuity -- something that is hard to find in the rough-and-tumble world of Turkish soccer where a team's many owners often each have their favourite players.
As for today's game, Osieck gives the nod to the team from London.
"Anything is possible, but I rate Arsenal a little higher because they are more experience," he said. "Maybe they have some more surprising elements."
Osieck spent 11/2 years with Fenerbahce and later managed another Turkish team, Kocaeli Spor, with whom he won the Turkish Cup.
He now is half a world away in Canada, but can't get away from the spirit of Turkish soccer.
The other day, Osieck was in a suburban Toronto shopping mall with his wife when he noticed a man following him.
"I turned around and said 'What are you doing.' And he called my name and said 'I'm from Galatasaray and I'm happy you are here.'
"It was a strange situation. It was quite a surprise."