Interviews

Interview: Fenerbahçe Coach Talks League, Europe, Team Dynamics and Trabzon Incidents

Fenerbahçe's technical director İsmail Kartal provided statements to Haber Global Sports Director Sercan Hamzaoğlu. Kartal addressed various topics from Fenerbahçe's congress process to the championship race, answering many questions that have been on people's minds.

Fenerbahçe's Coach İsmail Kartal Speaks to Haber Global Sports Director Sercan Hamzaoğlu

Speaking to Haber Global Sports Director Sercan Hamzaoğlu, İsmail Kartal covered a wide range of topics, from the championship race to Fenerbahçe's withdrawal from the league, from the events in Trabzon to the Conference League. Here are the highlights from İsmail Kartal's :

TURKISH SUPER LEAGUE

  • If the decision to continue the league is made, you will be facing 7 critical matches in 3 cups, especially in April. How do you evaluate the fixture?

We will play a match every 3 days. Regarding the Super Cup, we have applied several times before to postpone the match to a later date, as every team participates in Europe. As the only representative of Turkey, why is it insisted that this match be played before the European match, I do not understand. After all, the country's points are like national matches. As the second team in the Turkish League, we participated in the Conference League by playing 3 qualifying matches. While the second team should qualify for the Champions League, we experienced this situation. Currently, our matches are no different from national matches. They want us to play two high-intensity matches within 4 days. Is the country's score insignificant? After playing against Galatasaray, we will go to match in Greece. Galatasaray matches are matches played under high stress. How correct would it be to play this match and then play in the European match? Wouldn't it be better for our country if we rested more for this match? This is our struggle. Despite our repeated statements, I do not understand the attitude of both the opposing team and the TFF (Turkish Football Federation). We know that Galatasaray's matches have been postponed many times when they competed in European competitions before. I don't understand why they are trying to play on this date.

CRITICISMS

  • You have overturned all statistics, but there are also harsh criticisms directed towards you personally, how do you respond to this?

We have a lot of statistics. We are still the team that scored the most goals in Europe. We are the team that has contributed the most by entering the game later in Europe. With 12 goals and 12 assists. It shows how ready the players who enter the game are and how we intervene in the game. Second is Liverpool, third is Atalanta, fourth is Atletico Madrid, fifth is Dortmund. We are the first. We won 38 out of 47 official matches. We scored 124 goals and conceded 40 goals. We did not concede goals in 21 matches. We are the team that scored the most goals in the league. We are the first team to reach in the 5 major leagues of Europe and the Super League. Second is Leverkusen with 85 goals. For the first time, a team started the league by winning 10 consecutive matches. İsmail Kartal became the first Turkish coach to win 11 matches as Fenerbahçe's coach. We are experiencing the period when we collect the most points in Super League history after 30 matches. It equaled the record of winning 5 consecutive away matches. For the first time in 64 years in the Super League, a team kept its goal closed in 6 consecutive away matches. We won 14 out of 15 away matches. We are experiencing the period when the club won the most away victories in its history. We are the team that scored the most goals in official matches in Europe. Liverpool is second, Sporting Lisbon is third, Manchester City is fourth, Club Brugge is fifth, Leverkusen is sixth, Galatasaray is seventh. There are many more successes.

We do not receive enough support from both inside and outside. We work with our team, we try to do our best. Let them objectively watch both teams' matches since the beginning of the season. Where do they lose points? We should have been at least 8-10 points ahead now. When I say inside, people who have served this club before, they only look at one match. We continue to fight for the championship, we continue in European competitions. Since the beginning of the season, no one has talked about what happened. They say we have no Plan A, Plan B, or Plan C. Sports commentator Ersin Düzen says, “I have friends in football who are just waiting for Fenerbahçe to lose points every match.” He says, “If İsmail Kartal were a foreign coach, could you do these things?” I don't know him. Our friend Ahmet on FB TV says, “It's like the color of victory has become a movie for Fenerbahçe. Some people want to lynch just because they lose one match.” Then they say we are Fenerbahçe supporters. Fenerbahçe support is not to criticize the president, the coach, the player, the masseur, but to support them. It is to defend their rights. In every draw, in the slightest thing, you all hit below the belt. There will be criticisms but they should be a bit positive, constructive. This is not Fenerbahçe support. We are a team that has broken historical records. We can become champions. Everyone saw what happened in Trabzon. I'm not saying polish me, I don't need it. I know what to do. In the year I first came and we were shot, the points we got were in football. Everything is clear when I came second. Every time I came, they say I broke point records, I shattered statistics. While everything is going well, the Fenerbahçe supporters inside should be more reasonable. Today it's me, tomorrow it's you. Fenerbahçe support is not like this. It is Fenerbahçe support to defend its president, coach, player, emblem. We are subjected to injustices. Come out in one day and say the referee did this, Fenerbahçe was unfairly treated like this. If these weren't there, our team would have been 10 points ahead, say. When we can't break this perception, and when people inside hit us, it seems like things are bad at Fenerbahçe. Then our community becomes very fragile, of course it becomes like this.

They say, “You always score in the last minutes.” How beautiful. The team has not physically dropped, has not lost its faith, we attack until the last minute. Goals scored in the last minutes are very valuable. Of course, we would like to score 3-4 as soon as possible, but in football, it is not always like that. You see the teams coming to Kadıköy. They waste time, they make the game ugly. We deal with these. We tell every referee who comes, “Sir, please do not allow this.” Unfortunately, we warn the referees so that the visiting teams

Ismail Kartal - Sercan Hamzaoğlu

UEFA EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE

  • Fenerbahçe fans are eagerly anticipating European glory. How do you evaluate the Olympiacos matchup, and how much do you desire the cup?

From the very beginning, I've stated that we want to go as far as we can in Europe. It's an open-ended goal. Saying “We will win the cup” is a bold statement. In life, you shouldn't make promises about things where there's a possibility you can't deliver. I'm not that kind of person. I always speak the truth. We've reached the quarter-finals. If we eliminate the two teams, we'll be in the final. I want to crown the achievements of our historic club by winning the European cup. As a member of this community, I really want this. It's not easy to play both in the league and in Europe. The players also struggle a lot with the travels in European matches, but God willing, despite the difficulties, we want to go as far as we can and ultimately bring the cup home to our country.

Olympiacos is a traditional team. One of the 3-4 major clubs in Greece. They have important players. We started watching them, analyzing them. We're doing our best to advance to the next round. Of course, our priority right now is Adana Demirspor and the Super Cup. We'll take it one game at a time. The only problem is the Super Cup, which we'll play on the 7th. We would have expected support from both the Turkish Football Federation and our opponents for the country's ranking, but unfortunately, it didn't happen.

TRABZON INCIDENTS

  • How do you interpret the events in Trabzon; as one of the most prominent figures in Turkish football?

Trabzonspor matches always carry a high level of tension. Wherever they're played, it's the same. It's played under pressure. When we went to Trabzon, it was one of the most crucial matches of the season for us. Our opponent had won their match on the same day and widened the gap by 5 points, so we absolutely had to win. We knew the plans of the opposing team's coach Abdullah Avcı, and he knew ours as well. It was going to be a chess match. We executed our plan successfully and went 2-0 ahead. Then, incidents occurred. Objects were thrown towards me. We endured bottles being thrown at us until the end of the match. There were flares and coins thrown onto the pitch. Livakovic even had coins thrown at his face. I asked the referees to stop the match and postpone it. The fourth official Volkan Bayarslan told me, “There's no reason to postpone the match.” Let Abdullah Avcı know the truth. At halftime, he came up to me in the corridor and said, “Coach, some of your players are provoking the crowd by looking at the stands while warming up. If you could warn them, I'd appreciate it, so the atmosphere doesn't get tense.” I replied, “Okay coach, thank you.” I gathered the team and also called the substitute players onto the field. We have footage from FB TV if they want to see it. I said, “Nobody should deal with the stands, let's do our job, we're 2-0 ahead, let's win the match and go back. Nobody should deal with the referees or the stands. We came here to win, to play football.” Strangely, in the second half, we were attacked by the opposing fans. There was a barrage of water. The left side, where Ferdi, Tadic, and were, was paralyzed and stopped due to this. We couldn't launch any attacks. Flares were thrown in front of our goalkeeper. Our concentration was disrupted. Panic set in, and we kept playing long balls. Eventually, despite flares being thrown even before the goal, the referees didn't even clear the field, and we conceded. After conceding, Trabzonspor became more eager. Not only was their on-field performance intense, but the tempo of the attacks from the stands also increased. Ultimately, due to our own mistake, a penalty was given. When the match reached 2-2, I made a move. I had included and Mert Hakan in the squad despite their injuries. Maybe they could play. If I had put them in, they wouldn't have been able to play for 3-5 weeks. We made two changes, and the game balanced out. We scored in the second attack and won the match.

Throughout the match, I was hit by foreign objects, but I never pretended or provoked the match. I could have faked being knocked unconscious when my head was split open, but I'm not that kind of person. By insisting the match be played, I stayed on the field and gave my all. Otherwise, we could have postponed the match in various ways. I stayed in the game to ensure football prevailed and to prevent tension between the two clubs. I even went onto the field to collect water bottles so the match could continue. We might lose the championship, but we were on the side of friendship prevailing. After the match, I shook hands with two foreign players. I had a nice chat with Eren Elmalı. Livakovic ran towards me and hugged me. The poor boy made a mistake and would have been devastated if we had lost. He was trembling as he hugged me. “I'm sorry, but we won,” he seemed to say as he hugged me. I left him and as I was coming towards the middle of the field, Trabzonspor's manager was there. He was a gentleman. He said, “Coach, you won the match, congratulations, would you please take the team inside?” I said, “Okay.” I turned around, and our players started celebrating in the middle of the field. At that moment, someone with a mask jumped onto the field. Amidst the chaos, I told the team to go inside. In that chaos, one of our players was attacked, and someone was holding a large bottle. If my player had been injured or his career had ended because of that bottle, who would have been accountable? Did that bottle fall from my player? In one instance, someone was chasing my player with the pointed side of a corner flag. If he had been hit and injured, who would have been responsible? There was a significant security vulnerability in the stadium. How did fans enter so easily? Someone with a masked face jumped onto the field. Trabzon people are honorable, people from the Black Sea region are brave. I am also from the Black Sea. From Rize. You're jumping onto the field, why is your face covered? Who are you? Did someone send you there? If you have the courage to jump onto the field, why hide your face? There was a significant security vulnerability.

The match should have been stopped. We endured various objects being thrown throughout the match, and the match should have been postponed. Our goalkeeper Yasin was severely beaten. Yasin is also from Trabzon. After the match, he went to see his grandfather and stayed in Trabzon.

My son Emre was surrounded by 5-6 people. My son has a 6-page medical report on the beatings. He has bruises on his ribs. He spent a day in the hospital. He was the most severely beaten of all my children. Can you imagine the situation I, as a father, found myself in? Years ago, we were heading for the championship, our bus was shot at, and we lost the championship. This year, I am amazed by what happened in Trabzon in the same way. Just a few weeks ago, you were losing on your own field, and there was no reaction from the stands. Why do two clubs come face to face, and why do these things happen in our matches?

  • In 2015, you narrowly escaped death in Trabzon; the bus was shot at. Due to that incident, you lost the championship to Galatasaray. Again, a similar incident in the same city and your rival on the path to the championship is Galatasaray… What do you want to say?

I believe there were other individuals with different intentions who infiltrated the Trabzon fans. Law enforcement will investigate. With so many incidents happening, bottles being thrown, knives present, and 200-300 people storming onto the field, shouldn't my players defend themselves? Were we supposed to wait for someone to be beaten, stabbed, or attacked with a bottle? If someone were to attack you while you're out, wouldn't you defend yourself and your family?

I don't think anyone can give out punishments. Shouldn't my players defend themselves? If it were just one or two people, we could call it an isolated incident. But 200-300 people stormed the field. Of course, the players had to defend themselves. The real issue is the corridor part, that should be discussed. I was waiting for the players in the corridor. Osayi and Fred came last. Osayi came, and someone hit him. He hit his head against the wall and fainted. I was going to get Osayi. Their coach, Sarp, held me back. The kid wasn't malicious. He was saying something, but I couldn't hear. I don't know why my hand swelled. I couldn't reach Osayi lying three meters in front of me. Abdullah Hoca came to get me. Everything happened in a moment. We were subjected to a massive attack there.

  • What happened in the dressing room?

My son Emre felt dizzy and vomited. The next day when we took him to the hospital in Istanbul, they said, “You should have admitted your child to the hospital that night.” Yasin Hoca stayed in Trabzon and couldn't go to the hospital. The next day, he went to the hospital in Trabzon to get a report. Let me not talk about them; our friends in Trabzon would be very upset later. Emre lay on the ground for hours with ice packs on his body. He vomited for hours. Some people's lips were split, some had their eyebrows split. Everyone was sad, but they had just come out of a battle. They were happy because we won the match. There was a melancholy happiness in the team. After all these events, it seems like at the end of the day, we are seen as guilty, and the players will be punished. I don't understand. How can this be? I can't believe it. Did we throw the water bottles ourselves, did we attack ourselves, did someone attack my player with a bottle, did they attack with a corner flag? Did my players become guilty because they defended themselves? We have suffered many injustices from the beginning of the season until now. I address our loyal fans; despite everything, we are fighting for the championship. Now, please support the team more unitedly. What we have been through is evident. See what we are fighting against. I beg you. We will win the next 8 matches and become champions. What we have experienced, both on and off the field, is there. Open your eyes.

  • It was claimed that Livakovic said he wanted to leave. Is this true? What is the situation of the foreign players?

Livakovic is a very emotional kid. He's introverted. He was deeply affected. We'll talk about his state of mind when he returns from the national team. His father, his family are all upset in Croatia. We give 14 players to the ; who gives that many players in this country? Despite this, we are competing in Europe, in the league. Despite our injuries, despite the injustices we have suffered since the beginning of the season, we continue on our path. The players are sad. They don't approve of what happened; they don't believe it. They ask, “Why do other teams treat us like this?” Many things come to me from my players regarding what happened on the field. We devote our nights and days to success. Everything became clear after this match.

Ismail Kartal

TEAM

  • There will be a congress on April 2nd. With the possibility of withdrawing from the league on the agenda. How are you and your players affected by this situation? If a decision to withdraw from the league is made, do you support it?

We haven't had a clear discussion with our president and executives yet. We will have a meeting before April 2nd. Depending on the evaluation and what happens at the congress, we will make our decision with our president.

  • What is your view on foreign referees? Do you believe it will be a solution in the short term? Should a foreign referee manage the Super Cup?

Let there be foreign referees. I have always supported referees. After the match, I said “Call what you see,” and they referred me to the PFDK (Turkish Football Federation's Professional Football Discipline Board) to receive a penalty. I didn't blame anyone, I didn't insult anyone. Others say things, nothing happens. After seeing this, I want foreign referees.

  • Tadic and Dzeko are team captains. How do these two help you in the team?

I am like friends with them. Sometimes I act as a coach, sometimes as a big brother, sometimes as a friend, sometimes as a father figure to them. They have embraced our game plan. They are very pleased with our training sessions. We are pleased with each other. Of course, we have shortcomings. No one is perfect. We have a very good camaraderie. We have a very transparent and democratic system. Last season, they were saying about Oosterwolde, “Can such a player be, why did you sign him?” He was supposed to be loaned out at the beginning of the season, I wanted to see him. We provided his development as a left-back. Then, when I realized there was a problem with the center-backs, I thought I needed to install someone from within. I said I wanted to play him as a center-back, he didn't accept it. I dealt with him for weeks. Eventually, he accepted it, I taught him how to play as a center-back. Important clubs in Europe are asking about Oosterwolde. They wanted him in the mid-season break, we didn't give him. We bought him and as a team, we also gained him as a center-back. If we sell, it will bring a very serious income. When others do it, they can't praise it enough, saying “He shifted him there, did that.” What are we doing? Why isn't anyone talking about what we are doing? It was me who made Ferdi a left-back. It was me who made Szymanski play as a number 6, 8, or right-wing. It was me who made Serdar Dursun play as a number 10. Their concerns are different from those who criticize. They are waiting for us to lose a match so they can lynch them. Speak up and tell about the injustices we are facing. What has this team accomplished? You're still bothering, enough already. How are you Fenerbahçe fans?

  • Will the injured players be fit for the Adana Demirspor match?

We will be fully ready for the Adana Demirspor match. Injured players are returning to the team. We are starting to overcome the Trabzon trauma. God willing, the injured players will return. We will start the final stretch in good shape.

  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

As football people, let's hope that what happened in Trabzon will not happen again. Football is love, it is a bridge, it is a connection. We are fighting for our country. Hopefully, this will be the end. Let it be a lesson. We believe that by preparing for the 8 remaining matches as best as we can until the end of the season, we will become champions. Let our community continue to support our team.

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