Love does not Have a League

Kocaelispor has been one of the popular football symbols of The 90s with the muddy ground of Izmit Ismetpasa Stadium, huge ball model in front of back-goal tribüne and group of supporters calle Hodri Meydan.

Kocaelisportis in the memory of all football fans over the age of 35 in Turkey. Although the club’s history dates back to old times, Kocaelispor has been one of the popular football symbols of the 90s with the muddy ground of Izmitİsmetpasa Stadium, huge ball model in front of back-goal tribune and group of supporters called hodrimeydan.

Let’s begin looking at the history of this great football story. Kocaelispor, which was formed with the merger of 3 amateur clubs of the city; Baçspor, İzmit Youth and Doğanspor in 1966; was beginning to struggle in the 2nd Football League of Turkey from that season on.  The green-blacks had waited exactly for 14 years in order to rise to Turkey 1st Football League, which was at the position of today’s Super League. Kocaelispor, which started to struggle in Turkey 1st Football League in 1980, kept moving between mid-ranks and the non-relegation zone for 8 years. The period which made Kocaelispor go down in history, that made for 2nd League again in 1988, started with the rise of the team again to the 1st Football League 4 years later.

The Best Defense Is A Good Offense
Sefa Sirmen, the then president of the club, entrusted the team to young football coachGuvencKurtar. The most significant characteristic of GuvencKurtarwho was his courage and he reinforced goalpost and backfield with three experienced Jugoslavianfootball players (Omerovic, Kuzmanoviski, Mirkovic). This characteristic put him one step forward than other football coaches. If we leave Trabzonspor aside, contrary to the Anatolian teams which were playing only by defending in that period, Kocaelispor was preparing for going out for matches with the offense line with Saffet Sancaklı, Bülent Uygun, Ergün Kula.  The best defense was an offense for Güvenç Kurtar and no one was able to estimate that this philosophy was going to make its mark to that season.

İzmit community was not leaving this football miracle unreturned that was born to their cities and İsmetpaşa Stadium was being full to overflowing on each match.  Kocaelispor, which took the leadership in the first week of the league, put its signature under a historical work with 9 wins and 2 draws. Its rival was Beşiktaş at the 13. week of the league. Güvenç Kurtar, instilling an endless self-trust to the team; had said “We are going to kick 4 goals to Beşiktaş” by making one of his assertive statements before the match.  Just as it is at the moment, Turkish football was not used to that kind of sharp statements in that period.  When Beşiktaş beat Kocaelispor with 4-1 score somehow through the motivation of this statement, a banner was unfurled on which “Have you seen 4? “ was written.  After this match, the green-black storm lost its speed and it lost the leadership first and the championship afterward. The legendary team of İzmit, which finished that season as being the 4th, revealed in following years that this success was not a coincidence.  The Gulf team, which lost Bülent Uygun to Fenerbahçe and Saffet Sancaklı to Galatasaray, kept taking part at the peak with its awesome African Mosheau and the maned forward Faruk Yiğit.  Kocaelispor, which was never relegated from the top 5 within four years, took its major blow undoubtedly from 17 August earthquake.

It was unfortunately not possible that the team of the city would not be affected by this disaster which destroyed the entire city.  After that horrible night, life stopped for a long time in İzmit and many players who got depressed left the club. In the city where 17 thousand funerals got out, there was no person left to spend a penny on football and everyone was preoccupied with their own troubles.  Sefa Sirmen, who was acting as the Kocaeli Metropolitan Mayor at the same time, was following about the destroyed city.  It was madness to continue on the league in such an environment.  However, the green blacks did not pay attention to the “You can withdraw from the league for one year” suggestion of the federation. Because the only thing that would be able to hold on this city to live again after such a disaster was Kocaelispor.  When the danger of relegation burst into sight after successive bad scores were received on the league, the management took action.  It was an unacceptable situation for the city that Kocaelispor would also relegate from the league after the earthquake disaster.  Exactly in that period, Alex Yordonav, Zdravkov Lazarov, and Predrag Pazin were added to the team by paying 5 million dollars.  Those transfers that the economy of the club would never afford were good solutions in the short term. The green blacks, having won the Turkish Cup by beating Beşiktaş 4-0 at the final of the 2001-2002 season, signaled to get back to its old days but this cup was the last success of the club’s history.

The Record Breaker Unique fan
In the following years, Kocaelispor got exactly caught up in a debt trap.  As the sanctions of UEFA, transfer prohibition of FIFA took place, the green blacks had to go out for matches with players whose ages were under 21.  When Kocaelispor was beaten from İstanbulspor by 1-0 in displacement on the match played on 6 April 2014, it lost its professional status and relegated to Regional Amateur League. Turkey’s football history is full of the clubs which experienced great collapses and were abandoned to their own fates and disappeared. The end that was waiting for Kocaelispor has never been in that way.  The green-black club did not leave the city after that horrible earthquake disaster and stayed standing at the risk of disappearance.  İzmit community who never forgot this did not leave its club alone even if it was relegated to the amateur league.  Lack of money could not destroy that mutual love, which was not also destroyed by the earthquake.  Because the kids of 20 years ago were still going after Kocaelispor which had been a hope for their parents even in that disaster.

NOTES:

Körfez Fırtınası
Kocaelispor, which entered the 1992-93 season like a storm, kicked 7 goals to Kayserispor, 6 goals to Aydınspor, 5 goals to Konyaspor, 4 goals to Karşıyaka and Bakırköyspor and delivered an unprecedented performance.  No one was expecting that those 3 unique forwards would be so successful.  However, the rivals were not able to stop either the long-thin legged Saffet Sancaklı or Bülent Uygun with the diagonal step and the chunk scorer Ergun Kula.

Record Breaking Attendance For Amateur Ligues
20.745 fans of Kocaelispor were on the tribune on the Büyükçekmecespor match played on 8 December 2014.  This was also the audience record of Regional Amateur Leagues of Turkey.  The banner on which “The Love Does Not Have a League” was written which decorated İzmit streets on that day, was on all the Turkey’s agenda now.

By: Fırat Günayer

*This article was  published in the may– june issue of Marmara Life.

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