On June 1st, 2008, Fatih Yiğituşağı completed his hat-trick for Türkiyemspor in a 4-2 win over Lichterfelder FC in the final league game of the season at Türkiyem’s Katzbachstadion, adjacent to Kreuzberg’s scenic Viktoriapark. It was his thirty-first goal in twenty-seven appearances, and sealed Türkiyem’s promotion from the Oberliga to the Regionalliga. At that point, the future looked bright and rosy for Kreuzberg’s favourite club.
But we all know what happened next: Türkiyem had to move north to the Jahn Sportpark in Prenzlauer Berg since the Katzbachstadion (since renamed the Willi-Kressmann-Stadion) didn’t fit the Regionalliga requirements, and the club slowly but surely fell into insolvency – a painful process that is still ongoing. Naturally, the financial difficulties were reflected on the pitch. With star players like Yiğituşağı long gone, Türkiyemspor were relegated from the Regionalliga and then had to withdraw from the following season’s Oberliga.
So here we are, in the Berlin-Liga, and just like many clouds, this one also has a silver lining: the new, financially prudent Türkiyemspor are back in Kreuzberg after a four-year absence. The opponent was another phoenix from the flames: SV Tasmania are back in Berlin’s top flight after four years of moping around the Landes- and Bezirksliga.
A couple of hundred spectators showed up at Blucherstraße (the Willi-Kressmann-Stadion can’t host evening games due to the lack of floodlights), a mixture of kids, youths, small families and old men, and the atmosphere was more one of scepticism than expectation. After all, no-one knows much about this Türkiyemspor team – bar a couple of kids from last year’s A-Jugend, the team is comprised of unknowns and players who featured sparsely for the club over the recent years. Add that to a couple of decades of unfulfilled potential and boardroom squabbling, and there really is no reason to support Türkiyem, especially not in a season where retaining Berlin-Liga status for next season would be seen as an enormous success. “We’ll find our way during the season,” sporting director Bülent Gündogdu told FuWo, “and we’ll have to consider the possibility of relegation.” Communication and realistic setting of goals had never really been one of Türkiyemspor’s strong points, so Gündogdu’s declaration, while far from optimistic, was refreshing.
Despite this, Türkiyem appear to have assembled a decent squad. The captain, Fatih Alsan, played in the team’s last appearance in Kreuzberg, that 4-2 win over LFC, and while looking short of match practice, is a genuinely talented football player. What he lacked in mobility, he made up for in awareness, intelligent passing and a fearsome delivery from dead-ball situations. The number nine, Ismail Kalem, didn’t stop running all evening, and his tracking back into midfield in the second half was imperative in helping Türkiyemspor gain a foothold in the game after a nervy start.
Tasmania, however, didn’t have the weapons at their disposal to capitalise. Their best chance came from a Sladjan Starcevic header that grazed the top of the crossbar, as long ball after long ball was pumped into the Türkiyemspor box. At half time, the crowd milled around the pitch, the hum of gentle chatter filling the air. There was a sense that they didn’t quite know why they were there, and were somehow waiting to be convinced by this Türkiyemspor team. Little that they saw in the first half would have done that.
Perhaps the players picked up on the feeling of expectation: as the second half progressed, a goal for the home team started to feel more and more likely as Takuma Takeda on the left side of midfield began to find some space, and Ali Gündüzer marauded forward from right-back. The gaps that his attacking instincts left behind were ably plugged by Serdar Keles, a defender who showed a remarkable amount of composure, both in his tackling and his passing.
As the clocked ticked on, the crowd got more and more involved. The chatter was interrupted by angry roars as Kalem was bundled off the ball in the box – the referee’s decision to wave play on seemed to be a poor one. Moments later, Aslan whipped a free-kick into the box from the right, and Baris Demircan glanced a header into the net from close range. It had been 1,529 days since Yiğituşağı’s strike, but finally, Türkiyemspor were back in Kreuzberg, where they belong.
The reaction to the goal was suitably exultant. Chants of ‘Türkiyem, Türkiyem’ echoed around the pitch, the crowd finally investing themselves in the team. The final moments were played out with little incident, and Türkiyemspor held on comfortably to record an emotional victory. Still, no one is getting ahead of themselves: despite the impressive four points accumulated after two games, avoid the drop is still the only objective – but one that is starting to look possible.