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Turkey’s Hopes for EURO 2016 Take a Big Hit in the First Rounds of Qualifying: A Statistical Analysis of Why This Happened

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 “Çok üzgünüz. İnanın, bu kadar gol kaçmaz. Belki birlik, beraberlik, bütün Türkiye birlikte olamadığımız için olabilir. Gerçekten şaşkınlık içindeyiz.” 

“We are very sad. Believe me, we can’t miss this many goals. Maybe unity, togetherness–maybe its because we in Turkey aren’t together [that this happened]. We are really in shock.”

These words were spoken by goal scorer Bilal Kisa after Turkey lost points again during the European Qualifiers following a 1-1 draw with Latvia. Of course, this is not normal. A country the size of Turkey, with the economic strength that its leaders continually boast about, should not be struggling this much in football. But Mr. Kisa was able to point to one serious problem: the lack of unity not only in the context of the Turkish national football team on the pitch, but also the lack of unity in the country itself as it faces internal conflict as a result of ISIS’ continued attacks on Kurds in northern Syria—an issue that has proved to be extremely divisive in Turkey’s domestic political scene.

In order to shed some light on the subject I decided to compare Turkey and the three countries it played against in the context of three variables: Population size, economic strength (as measured by GDP), and the number of footballers—registered and unregistered—as a percentage of the population of each country involved (I did a similar study following the World Cup which will be forthcoming). Here are the results:

 

Iceland-3

Population Rank: 180th—317,351 (From CIA World Factbook)

GDP Rank: 22nd—39,996 International Dollars (From Wikipedia and World Bank.

Players (From FIFA):

All Players: 32,408

Registered Players: 21,508

As Percentage of Population: 10.2% Players, 6.8% Registered

Turkey-0

Population Rank: 17th—81,619,392 (From CIA World Factbook)

GDP Rank : 59th—18,975 International Dollars (From Wikipedia  and World Bank)

Players (From FIFA):

All Players: 2,748,657

Registered Players: 197,657

As Percentage of Population: 3.4% Players, .03% Registered

 

Iceland won the match decisively, 3-0, despite being a much smaller country than Turkey. In fact, their population is almost the same as that of Turkey’s Nigde province! That said, we can clearly see that Iceland’s GDP per capita is almost double that of Turkey’s, while the percentage of their population that plays football is almost three times that of Turkey’s—despite the fact that Iceland is a northern European country where football is all but impossible to play in four months of the year! When looking at registered players—those actively in the Football Association system playing for clubs, the disparity is even greater. Almost seven percent of Iceland’s population is registered as a player, while only .03% of Turkey’s is. With this kind of organization—combined with a stronger economic base—in Iceland, it is not hard to understand why Turkey were humbled in the way that they were.

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Turkey’s Hope’s are Crushed as Iceland Celebrate (Image Courtesy of: http://www.turkiyegazetesi.com.tr/spor/184216.aspx)

 

Turkey-1

Population Rank: 17th—81,619,392 (From CIA World Factbook)

GDP Rank: 59th—18,975 International Dollars (From Wikipedia  and World Bank)

Players (From FIFA):

All Players: 2,748,657

Registered Players: 197,657

As Percentage of Population: 3.4% Players, .03% Registered

 

Czech Republic-2

Population Rank: 83rd— 10,627,448 (From CIA World Factbook)

GDP Rank: 37th— 27,344 International Dollars (From Wikipedia and World Bank)

Players (From Fifa):

All Players: 1,040,357

Registered Players: 686,257

As Percentage of Population: 10.1% Players, 6.1% Registered

 

In this match Turkey took a 1-0 lead early on, bolstered by the home crowd, only to lose 1-2. Again, Turkey is much larger than the Czech Republic but the Czech GDP per capita is almost one third again bigger than Turkey’s. Also, when it comes to footballers, they are more organized. Almost ten percent of the population plays, while a hefty six percent are registered footballers. In fact, the Czech Republic has more than three times as many registered footballers than Turkey, despite being one eighth of Turkey’s size in terms of population. Organizationally, the Czech Republic is miles ahead of Turkey. Again, the loss is disappointing but by no means surprising.

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Arda Is Left to Rue Miss Chances as Turkey Fall in Istanbul (Image Courtesy of: http://www.turkiyegazetesi.com.tr/editorunsectikleri/193254.aspx)

 

Latvia-1

Population Rank: 144th—2,165,165 (From CIA World Factbook)

GDP: 49th—23,028 International Dollars (From Wikipedia and World Bank)

Players (From FIFA):

All Players: 85,285

Registered Players: 8,385

As Percentage of Population: 4% Players, .04% Registered

 

Turkey-1

Population Rank: 17th—81,619,392 (From CIA World Factbook)

GDP Rank: 59th—18,975 International Dollars (From Wikipedia  and World Bank)

Players (From FIFA):

All Players: 2,748,657

Registered Players: 197,657

As Percentage of Population: 3.4% Players, .03% Registered

 

In this match Turkey drew Latvia, a moment that will certainly go down as a turning point in Turkish football history. On this day all commentators realized that something is rotten in state of the Turkish Football Federation, to borrow the words from Shakespeare. Latvia’s population is near that of Turkey’s Adana province, one of the larger provinces and home to current Turkish national team coach Fatih Terim. The GDPs of both countries are similar, as are the numbers of total players and registered players (Latvia still has a slight edge in both categories). Again, based on the statistics, a draw in this match is a fair result. But that is what is scary about the situation. In no way should Turkey and Latvia be on the same plane. A country of Latvia’s size should not have the same amount of footballers—registered or not—as a country almost forty times as big in terms of population!

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Turkey’s Players Walk Off Frustrated as Latvia Celebrate an Unlikely Draw in Riga’s Skonto Stadium (Image Courtesy of: http://www.ankarameydani.com/spor/letonya-turkiye-1-1-mac-ozeti-ve-golleri-h36918.html)

 

Although just an amateur statistical analysis, these numbers should still serve as food for thought not only to those in Istanbul running the Turkish Football Federation, but to those in Ankara running the country as well. After all, organization—both in terms of foreign policy and in terms of football associations—is born out of sound leadership.

Czech Republic 1996-1997, Home Shirt Matchworn Novotny 20

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This classic Puma design (as worn by Neftochimik Burgas, among others) is one of my favorites. The fact that this one is (purportedly) match worn by Jiri Novotny only adds to its value for me personally. The bright red fabric of this extra-large sized shirt is not shiny like Neftochimik’s, it is more of a matted finish—similar, in fact, to the fabric used by Tomy Sport for Cherno More Varna’s shirt. The numbers and name are both felt printed in a professional manner. In short, a very classy shirt.

 

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Mestsky Fotbalovy Stadion Srbska, Brno, Czech Republic – FC Zbrojovka Brno

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Much to the dismay of my friends I decided to veer of the European E65 motorway in Brno while en route from Prague to Bratislava. My friends should have known better before putting me behind the wheel of our Opel Astra, but I guess they secretly wanted to enable my soccer hobby. After hitting the exit for Brno at the last minute I plugged the coordinates for the Mestsky Fotbalovy Stadion Srbska into the GPS and navigated through the back roads of Brno to the gates of the stadium.

The stadium looked great in the summer sun, having replaced the aging Stadion Za Luzankami as FC Brno‘s home stadium in 2001. Currently the stadium, which is up to FIFA standards, has a capacity of 12,550. It a fairly modest number, considering that Brno is the Czech Republic’s second city, and compared with FC Brno’s previous home–the aforementioned Stadion Za Luzankami–which was the old Czechoslovakia’s biggest stadium with a capacity of 50,000.

Without wasting too much time on the road to Bratislava I was able to get a nice Umbro shirt from FC Brno’s secretary, which can be seen here. As for the stadium pictures, they are below:

 

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A Pristine Pitch Beneath Blue Skies:

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The Seats Spell Out My Location Precisely:

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Visiting Fans Won’t Expect a Red Carpet Welcome:

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Who Knew One Could Drive–Literally–Into the Stadium?

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The Author and His Shirt (And a Baseball):

 

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Generali Arena/Stadion Letna, Prague, Czech Republic – AC Sparta Prague

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As I’m sure most visitors to this blog already know, Sparta Prague are the most successful club from the Czech Republic. I visited their Stadion Letna–I use the colloquial name since sponsorships are ever-changing in the age of industrial football–in the summer of 2010. The club’s history is rich, having been formed over 120 years ago in 1893, and as such a visit to the Letna takes the traveling fan off the beaten path.

While the friends I visited Prague with decided to while away their afternoon in the city center with the beautiful girls, I decided to go on my own adventure to the Letna. Rest assured, it is a valuable trip for the intrepid football fan because it takes one off the beaten tourist path of the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle (although both are essential spots to visit).

High above the Vltava river is a large park with inviting beer gardens, and after a few pints and a relaxing stroll through the park’s pathways one will find themselves squarely in an Eastern European scene. After overcoming the shock of the drab communist-era tenements, which are in stark contrast to the tourist-centric Old Town Center, one will come across Sparta’s ground, the Letna. Despite being built in 1969, its renovations have made it undeniably modern with a capacity of 19,784, and–I’m sure–would make a great place to take in a match. Hopefully, i’ll make it back for the Sparta-Slavia fixture in order to get a shirt from both sides–for my Sparta shirt, a vintage piece picked up from the internet, please see this page. In the meantime, my pictures from a summer’s day will have to suffice:

Communist-era Tenements Are In Stark Contrast to the Old Town’s Old World Charms:

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I’ve made it to the Generali Arena:

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What would Ultra Graffiti be without the obligatory “ACAB”?:

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I don’t know what it means, but I like it:

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Generali Arena or Toyota Arena? I prefer the pre-industrial football name–Letna:

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The Old Town Is in the background, but at least I know I’m still in Eastern Europe:

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