Forget everything you know about Turkish football. Dream of a completely different system. “Greet” a world that brings-up good citizens and football players, educating them the best way they can, offering the best opportunities, planning their development … Welcome to the prosperous land of football, the “peaceful side” of football. This is Altinordu… However our topic is not agriculture. We will be taking a look at football, where consumerism is as striking as a slap on the face.

What do you think of when one says Football in Turkey? Last year I had asked this question in my column and here is my answer: “Football players who are more into fooling the referee than playing the game… Directors who are more into populism than projects to carry clubs further, executives who are puppets to populism… “Referees” that manage to somehow outshine the game… Conspiracy theories that have become to be the main issue of endless sports programs on TV. Millions wasted and millions disappointed!… “We are faced with the most tiresome aspects of a beautiful game that can lead millions with just the game on the field. The big picture can be summarized with a single word: consumerism…

We seem to have forgotten the main actor of a game with which 80 million youth, modern facilities, European standards nationwide  are constantly bragged on. Football players … While there are numerous football players out of the 15 million expats in Germany, the 80 million nation falls short to come up with 11 names that no one would “object” to! While we have the oldest football players of Europe in our national league which allows foreign players, it is hard to find the Turkish players among the 11 that come out the field to play the game. So what is “success” when we seem to have put aside production so severely and started looking for “pret-a-jouer” players? A big fat nothing! We have a national team that has last played at the 2002 World Cup and then in 2012 Euro Cup they were more popular for premium scandals than the goals they scored. We could not manage to create the “National Team of the next decade” with Abdullah Avci, Guus Hiddink or Fatih Terim now we repeat our efforts with Mircea Lucescu. Our clubs are far from achieving success in Europe with games won every once a while. However the loans continue to increase primarily with the major teams. Despite the increasing curve of broadcasting rights in the last 20 years. As a matter of fact consumerism craze is not limited to football. It is possible to talk about similar problems in training players for basketball all the same. So what is the solution? In a nutshell production …

Anyone can come up with random names if we were to come up with teams that do not train new players, have no plans for the future, saving the day in Turkish world of sports. However there is a single name that comes to mind in the past 2-3 years when we talk about “production”: Altınordu… Imagine a team that started up with ideals that are now said to be “non-existing” in Turkish football with current status. A team that participates in games with all Turkish players within the TFF, and almost making it to the Super League in the past 2 years … They target achieving the Super League with a completely Turkish team one day … A team that believes in the talent of Turkish youth and explain that they can compete with their well-trained European opponents… In my words “the peaceful side of football” is Altinordu…When they came up with a Project that amazed everyone in Izmir they embraced the slogan  “The Golden Army (Altinordu) of Turkey”  as they soon began to turn all spotlight on their achievements.

To talk about the starting point of the project. Better expressed when defined as the lead actor of a fairytale … Chairman of Altinordu, in his own words the fudiciary of Altinordu, Seyit Mehmet Ozkan. His tale begins in Bucaspor. Laying the foundations of wonderful youth setup, in the Yellow-Navy colored club of Izmir, Ozkan fell off with the management of the club when he decided to pursue his dreams in Altinordu, which he incorporated. In his words he is the Don Quixote of football … Or rather the gardener of football … he first monitors the views on football in Turkey. “We aspire the 6 days, 22 hours of a world where everyone else is after consumerism, focused on results with spending as much as 2 hours in excitement. As the gardener of football we trust the Turkish youth, will train them and produce” is what he said when he started everything. In the current status he defines Altinordu as the “Greenhouse of Football”.

First of all take a note, if you ever crossroads with Seyit Mehmet Ozkan and happen to talk about football do not mention the word “president” he surely does not like it. He is so natural, sincere and open hearted so this football lover can be called “brother” or “Mr.Ozkan” may be a better choice. His passion for football is so much so that it goes back all the way to his childhood. In other words a child, who had not had the chance to become a football player, dedicates his life to provide the opportunity for thousands of young players. “Seyit mehmet Ozkan, son of machinist Chief Kenan… Any father would understand. Those who had not had the chance to do something they wanted so much the passion burning them would be delivered on to their son. The thing which Chief Kenan lacked the most has been education and although his son was so passionate for football every time they spoke he would advise his son to study showing him the pen in his pocket saying “I have always been defeated against this son, you will overcome this obstacle son.” Although that did not do it all, when he found out that his son was in training with Kalespor, he went directly to the management and said the following: “let me know how much the managers pay the club and I’ll pay more so you let Mehmet go his own way” and leaves an amount of 5 thousand Turkish Lira on the desk and ends the story. So that was the day that Mehmet Ozkan, made up his mind. He went to his mother and said the following: “My father won’t let me play football, but one day I’ll be very rich and let all children play football.” So that’s how we come to today.

The 2012 incorporation of Altinordu and the new horizons for the club with Seyit Mehmet Ozkan is the key to training young players. We are talking about a project which was so successful that Ali Koc, one of the most important businessmen of the country, referred to them at his campaign for chairmanship of Fenerbahce, within only 6 years. When he took out, Ozkan had a set target in mind. When the Turkish Youth is given the chance, proper training and education there is no reason for them to be unsuccessful. Here is what Seyit Mehmet Ozkan, thinks of football in Turkey: “I am somewhat of a Don Quixote, who decided to invest in football 10 years ago knowing that the children of the country have not been supported by investment and provided with opportunities and shown tolerance. No one does such a thing. When you look out of my window you can see that there is no production of football in the country. Think of the players that come up as the snowdrop on the mountains. They turn up on their own. A football player in Turkey can only find his true potential at the age of 25, his knowledge enriches and devices a professional attitude. Whoever plays football develops for better, those who don’t fall back. If the necessary investment is made to children at the age of 5-6 they can achieve success almost in the beginning of their 20s. This is the reason why we have to invest.”

As a matter of fact Altinordu does achieve this, once you step into the club facility you ae amazed and naturally say: “No way!” …  The European standard grass fields, pas walls, dormitories, dining halls, conference halls make the most elite teams envious. All the while children who are lucky to wear the Altinordu jersey live neutrality to the fullest. They collect their eggs from the hen raised in the facility… That’s not all they milk the cow in the facility when they want to drink milk. Expand your imagination … Their daily menu is planned by nutritionists who calculate the daily intake of nutrition and calories suitable for athletes. They are tutored by private teachers, learn English. This place is just like dreamland.…

So what is the result? You ask. The most successful young-player team of Turkey is the result. The Altinordu project is at a state where everyone is envious. This deep rooted club in Izmir is proud to have revealed two star players to Europe. One of them is Cengiz Under wearing the jersey for Rome making us proud, the other being Caglar Soyuncu who has become the favorite of Arsenal in Germany and Freiburg. These two successful players also wear the jersey of the primary National Team of Turkey, and they are just two examples of what Altinordu has to offer Turkish football.

We need to underline an important issue at this point. It is not that easy to transfer a player from Altinordu, where they have been trained with such hardship and effort! It is not just about money! The team that the young football player will go to is selected according to certain criteria, the young player culture of the team and the tendency of the trainer in giving chance to young players are important… That is why Altinordu is selective about clubs that they will send their players to. For example sending players to the 3 major teams of Turkey is not likely as they are not so supportive of young players! Do you think it is a surprise that Cengiz Under played in Basaksehir for Abdullah Avci, who is supportive of young players and transferred to Rome due to his performance there? As a matter of fact, no! This is a result of the strategy applied by Altinordu. Just like the unchangeable article on the contract for players stating that “a dividend of the future deal” will be paid to Altinordu!

For those who know about the team, Seyit Mehmet Ozkan does not enjoy watching A Team games! He is more interested in his “children” that are the products of his Altinordu facilities, trained from scratch. When everyone else is watching the games of the A Team, Ozkan would be watching the U19 or U17 teams’ games! This will continue to be so until the day that the A team players are all from the foundation of the team. From Ozkan’s point of view the A teams are all set-up of “players that come and go”. When the A Team forms a full-foundation team that is the time he will take his place in the audince to enjoy the game.


A good citizen then a good football player
Altinordu, incorporated in 2012 and soon became an “exemplary project” for Turkey though it is not only dedicated to training “football players”. As soon as you walk into the facility you will see their motto everywhere, and realize that there is a bigger picture. Their motto summarizes all: Good individual, good citizen, good football player …You can find the detailed definition of the notions in their webpage. The list for being a good individual is as follows: justice, humility, honesty, friendliness, silver tongue, hospitability, respect, love and helpfulness. The list for being a good citizens is as follows: stance, empathy, awareness, sharing, reasoning, loyalty and patriotism. The list for good football player is: awareness for those who have moved on to pro,  courage, seriousness, enthusiasm, hard-work, endurance, solidarity, belief, development, pride, beat and compatibility are elements that they need to acquire.

Philosophy makes the difference
The element that makes Altinordu different from other clubs is their philosophy. In most football club foundations the target is to “Train football players as soon as possible to be sent to the A Team, show them off and sign them out.” However when we log-into the corporate webpage of Altinordu, and check the visions “Get the children of the country involved in sports, contribute to their sportsmen-ship and elect the “naturally talented ones” to provide them with ‘advanced football training’ to get them to be supreme quality and capacity  to become ‘real’ professional football players” is what we come to see. One is surprised to read it. When we think of the football system in Turkey this seems to be talking about IphoneX in a country that recently found out about mobile phone technology! Short for long: when you step into the training field you are greeted with a massive billboard with the phrase: What brings you here is your talent. What will keep you here is your character!

Add to you bucket-list, watch:

U12 Cup
As we have been saying Altinordu is a completely different world. So is the U12 Izmir Cup, organized by the club in the last 5 years … It is a perfect world for those who love football for the beauty of the game. Watching raw talents that have recently moved on to teen hood from childhood, it is priceless to watch their struggle throughout the game.

By: Hasan Ercazip

*This article was  published in the July-August issue of Marmara Life

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