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Ali Koç: It’s very early to talk about the Conference League final

Fenerbahçe President Ali Koç stated, "It's very, very early to talk about the final; we shouldn't roll up our sleeves before seeing the river. A final played by a Turkish team in Athens would be the icing on the cake," regarding the yellow-navy team's goal in the UEFA Europa Conference League.

The meeting of the European Club Association (ECA) was held in , hosted by the ().

The meeting, held at the TFF Riva Hasan Doğan Facilities, was attended by Deputy General Secretary Giorgio Marchetti, ECA board members, TFF President Mehmet Büyükekşi and board members, as well as executives from European and Turkish clubs.

Ali Koç, a member of the Club Association Foundation and the ECA Board of Directors, emphasized the importance of the first-ever European Club Association meeting held in Turkey. He stated, “The Club Association has been working internationally in recent times. We have had visits from different countries before. Especially in the Eurasian region, we are looking at whether we can create a cup among us. In this context, Turkish football, which has remained very local, needs to be informed what is happening on the international stage. Because European football has undergone extraordinary changes in the last 15 years. The economy has changed a lot; billions of dollars are being discussed. Formats are changing, and today we will learn how it will be in the new era. Club ownership has changed. Clubs owned by businessmen and funds emerged, followed by clubs owned by state funds. Then came the model of owning more than one club. Technology came, and rules are changing.”

Ali Koç, stating that European football has undergone significant changes in recent times, said, “ECA has a history of 15 years. It is currently undergoing a change. ECA is the most influential organization in European football after UEFA. The more active we are both as the Club Association and as clubs within this organization, the greater our presence in the course of European football. At the same time, one of the changes in ECA is the expansion of the membership model. All teams want to be part of the Club Association. It used to be only the union of clubs competing in European tournaments. Now it is on the way to being the representative of all European clubs. They are also changing their strategies, branding, and positioning. Therefore, Turkish clubs need to better understand what is happening in Europe. To be effective in the processes happening in Europe, we need to be more effective on the international stage. The most important way to achieve this is through ECA.”

“We MUST BE UNDOUBTEDLY THE MOST IMPORTANT 6TH COUNTRY IN EUROPEAN FOOTBALL”

Ali Koç emphasized that ECA has a partnership agreement with UEFA and continued his speech, saying, “A joint company has been established for all commercial areas. In the future, all economic issues of European football will be decided jointly by UEFA and ECA. We attach great importance to this meeting. This meeting is important for us, but it is not the first for ECA; they go to every country and explain. One of the shortcomings of ECA was this: In 15 years, they created extraordinary added value in European football, but they never communicated this success in any way. This meeting will create mutual added value. In order to be the undoubtedly most important 6th country in European football in terms of economy, broadcasting revenues, and sporting achievements, we need to have the potential. Our knowledge, skills, and understanding are not sufficient right now. Being an active country in ECA within the framework of the steps taken is very important for us.”

“THERE IS NO WAY TO PREVENT THIS”

Ali Koç, responding to a question about the new format in European cup competitions, stated, “The biggest feature of the format is that it is a league format, and you play one match with each team. There is no longer a home and away concept. In the past, there was a transition from the Champions League to a lower tournament and from the Europa League to the . Now there will be no transitions. Unfortunately, the match schedule is very intense. It is even more intense in England. As Turkish clubs, we should be prepared and accustomed to playing matches every 3-4 days.”

Fenerbahçe Club President Ali Koç evaluated the match where they won 3-0 against Union Saint-Gilloise in the UEFA Europa Conference League Round of 16, saying, “Those who watched the match yesterday saw how much the referee made a difference. You say ‘Well done, referee' in decisions for and against. Why are we lacking in this regard? Technology has come, and instead of getting better, we are getting worse. The first element in being able to ensure fair competition in Turkey is the performance of the on the field. It depends on the performance of the referees and those who train them. Those who appoint them should make appointments in a fair and equitable framework. If you give the field referee and referee who supports the registered team to an important team in the championship race, the result will be like this. I think Turkish football needs to shake itself. It should change its positioning both domestically and internationally. This requires will, a roadmap, belief, and patience. If you stumble and scream at every difficult situation, you can manage football on a daily basis. It has always been like this from the past to the present. In recent years in Turkey, especially in social media, creating pressure, threats, blackmail, and using perception as a new method to gain an advantage have become a new method. It's not only in football but also in politics. It has a significant impact on stakeholders. It also affects referees, administrators, and boards. Will, courage, patience, and a roadmap are very important.”

“IT'S VERY, VERY EARLY TO TALK ABOUT THE FINAL”

Koç spoke about Fenerbahçe's goal in the , saying, “Fenerbahçe's goal should first be to maintain the 9th place in the country rankings for our country. As far as I understand, if we pass this round, we are maintaining it. Fenerbahçe's goal should be to go as far as possible. But when you go on two fronts, and there is a match every 3 days, one front can inevitably be affected. I don't know the situation of Çağlar, who got injured yesterday; I don't know the situation of İsmail, who came out on a stretcher. As the only Turkish team left in the tournament, we should get as many points as possible for the country ranking. For Fenerbahçe, we should go as far as we can. When you look at the possible clubs to advance, let's say we are one of them; of course, it has not been passed until the round is passed… There are teams that Fenerbahçe can compete head-to-head with. Seeing a final in Athens… It's very, very early to talk about the final; we shouldn't roll up our sleeves before seeing the river. A final played by a Turkish team in Athens would be the icing on the cake.”

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