The Canaries face Bursaspor, or the Green Crocs, in the Ziraat Turkish Cup in the final at Ankara’s 19 Mayıs Stadium on Wednesday evening, aiming for victory to salvage something from a rather lost 2011-12 season.
As is known, the Canaries missed out on the UEFA Champions League extravaganza after they were withdrawn on the eve of the kickoff for alleged involvement in match-fixing last season. And with no revenue coming from the lucrative premier European club competition, Fenerbahçe -- to stay afloat -- had to sell star players like Nigeria striker Emmanel Emenike, who was named in the rigging scandal, as well as Uruguay defender Diego Lugano, Senegal striker Mamadou Niang and Brazil defender Andre dos Santos.
And though the Canaries finished second with nine points behind Galatasaray at the end of the regular season in the Spor Toto Super League in April, they were optimistic about leapfrogging the leader in the inaugural Super Final. But any slim hope that was left evaporated into thin air after the Lions, as Galatasaray is popularly called, took the league silverware to their den.
Now the Canaries have just one last chance left -- to beat Bursaspor on Wednesday and win the Turkish Cup. But that is a tall order indeed because the Turkish Cup is an elusive trophy that Fener has not lifted since the 1982-83 season, when over half of the people living in this country were not even born.
Moreover, the Canaries have only won the cup four times since the competition began in 1962 -- compared to 14 times by Galatasaray. So can a jinx not broken in nearly three decades be broken in the capital on Wednesday? The Canary camp thinks so.
Acting Fenerbahçe Chairman Nihat Özdemir, speaking at Bitlis University on Monday, said the Super League title that has been won by Galatasaray was now a thing of the past and that they were now looking forward to Wednesday’s cup clash against Bursaspor.
“Galatasaray deserved it [the title] and won it. We have forgotten about that and are focusing all our attention on Wednesday’s cup final against Bursaspor,” he said. “We hope to win that for our club.”
The Canaries, however, are plagued by injuries. Senegal striker Moussa Sow trained with the rest of the team, but whether he will be fit to play on Wednesday remains a mystery. Cameroon forward Henri Bienvenu and midfielders Mehmet Topuz and Selçuk Şahin missed practice sessions on Monday. And whether these walking wounded will recover before match time remains anyone’s guess.
Brazilian captain-playmaker Alex de Souza is not 100 percent fit, while Senegal winger Issia Dia is suspended after seeing red in the “mother of all derbies” against Galatasaray on Saturday.
Brazilian attacking midfielder Cristian Baroni, like the rest of the team, fired blanks against Galatasaray on Saturday, but he is a player who has come to Fener’s rescue in times of need several times this season. Fenerbahçe coach Aykut Kocaman will again be banking on the lanky Brazilian in Ankara.
Despite all odds, it is incumbent upon the Canaries to overcome the Green Crocs in the capital on Wednesday or wind up winning nothing at all this season.
Bursa can’t be taken for granted
The bitter truth for the Canaries is that Ertuğrul Sağlam’s Bursaspor, the 2009-10 Turkish League champion, is a team that cannot be taken for granted.
The Green Crocs warmed up for Wednesday’s cup final against Fenerbahçe with a resounding 4-0 away victory over İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor in the last match of the Super Final Europa League group on Saturday. The Crocs finished first in that playoff group and earned a berth to play Beşiktaş in a spot for the Europa League next season.
But as things now stand, that match may not be necessary because Bursaspor -- win or lose on Wednesday -- will be playing in the Europa League next season since league runner-up Fenerbahçe will be taking part in the Champions League qualifiers, barring unforeseen circumstances.
Bursaspor has played in four Turkish Cup finals since 1962. But the Crocs have only lifted the cup once, and that was in the 1985-86 season -- when they beat Aegean side Altay 2-0 in the final. The Crocs were the runners-up in 1970-71, when they lost 2-1 on aggregate to Eskişehirspor in a two-legged final; in 1973-74, when they were defeated 3-1 on aggregate by Fenerbahçe; and in 1990-91, when they were edged 5-4 on aggregate by Trabzonspor.
Sağlam and his men therefore will be going for their second cup triumph in the Turkish capital on Wednesday to avenge the defeat to Fenerbahçe in the 1990-91. And the Crocs stand a very good chance of success because they have a very fit team.
Apart from Czech Republic forward Stanislav Sestak, Serbia defender Milan Stepanov and left back Gökçek Vederson, a Fenerbahçe reject, who were nursing very slight injuries, Bursaspor has no other injury or suspension worries. Sestak is in top form and scored a brace against İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor on Saturday. If the Czech can find his rhythm and partner well with Vienna-born Turgay Bahadır up front, then the Fener defense could be in trouble.
Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m. and the referee Bülent Yıldırım, who has officiated in 23 Super League matches this season and two Bank Asya League 1 (second division) games and is among the top referees chosen by UEFA to blow their whistles in the upcoming Euro 2012, which will be held in Poland and Ukraine.
Live on ATV
Fener vs. Bursa