Soccer: Canaries crowned, focus now on Turkcell Super League runnerup

Tuesday, May 15 2007 @ 03:13 am UTC

Every good thing comes to an end, and so the 2006-07 soccer season will end in less than two weeks' time. There had to be one champion, and that is Fenerbahçe. Some teams will be relegated out of the Super League,

and some will be promoted from the lower division. That is how it was in the beginning, is now and will be. Fener will represent Turkey in the European Champions League next season. But who will be runnerup and win the other Champions League spot? That is going to be the tug-of-war between

Beşiktaş and Galatasaray in the last two weeks of the season.The Fenerbahçe Yellow Canaries clinched the Turkcell Super League title on Sunday night with two games to spare. They won the most matches at home and away, scored the most goals, conceded the fewest goals and garnered the most points. Hence without the slightest doubt, they earned the right to be considered the best and most consistent team in the 2006-07 soccer season.

On Sunday the Canaries drew 2-2 with Trabzonspor at İzmir's Atatürk Stadium, but with closest rival Beşiktaş humiliated 3-0 at Bursa, the draw was enough to give Fenerbahçe its 17th championship. The victory increased Fenerbahçe's points to 64, six clear of Beşiktaş.

Fenerbahçe has the better head-to-head record between the two teams this season, so even if the Beşiktaş Eagles win their last two games and the Canaries lose theirs, Fener would still be champion under the Turkish league rules. Third-placed Galatasaray Lions also dropped points, drawing 1-1 at Sivas and thus ending their chances of catching up with the high-flying Canaries.

Fener had suffered an early scare in Sunday's game, when Hüseyin Cimşir put Trabzonspor ahead in the second minute. Two minutes later striker Tuncay Şanlı equalized, only for Trabzon to regain the lead shortly before halftime. Fenerbahçe's Brazilian playmaker Alex, who has played a key role in the club's success in the last few seasons, missed a penalty in the 75th minute. But with five minutes remaining his compatriot Deivid de Souza equalized with a header.

The result was a major relief for the Canaries, celebrating their centenary year, after Galatasaray snatched the title away from them in the final game of last season, frustrating Fenerbahçe's hopes of a third successive title.

So after nearly nine months of sweat, heat and toil as well as snow, sleet and rain it was a happy ending for the Canaries. Everything has been forgotten -- the jeers and boos from the crowd, altercations and counter-altercations between rival clubs, mudslinging, accusations of match-fixing and favoritism are now a thing of the past. Now it's celebration time.

At Atatürk Stadium Fener players and top club officials were seen weeping openly as they danced around and sang songs of glory. For the faithful fans it was party o'clock. Nothing could be sweeter than winning the championship on a centenary year; in other words it was a double celebration. Across the country fans streamed out onto the streets, honking car horns, setting off flares and waving club flags at passing cars.

Happy Zico

The happiest man in Turkey right now is Fener coach Arthur Zico -- at least his job looks secure at the moment. Fenerbahçe spent more money on players than any other club, and it's just logical that the Canaries won the championship. Money can sometimes buy success.

Zico, in his first season in charge, paid tribute after the match to his two compatriots, Didi and Carlos Alberto Parreira who coached Fenerbahçe to the title in the 1970s and '90s respectively.

"Didi and Parreira opened Fenerbahçe's doors to Brazilians and they both had a role in my success here," Zico said. "We earned the title through hard work. The players believed in themselves and we had some difficult moments, but we overcame them," he added.

Fener is champion and will represent Turkey in the European Champions League next season. But who will be runner-up and win the other Champions League spot? That is going to be the tug-of-war between Beşiktaş and Galatasaray in the last two weeks of the season. And from the look of things, this struggle is likely to go down to the wire.

For Beşiktaş it will be time for a serious reality check. With French coach Jean Tigana quitting, the Eagles will undoubtedly acquire a new trainer. The same may apply to Galatasaray.

Every good thing comes to an end and so the 2006-07 will also end in less than two weeks' time. There had to be one champion, and that is Fenerbahçe. Some teams will be relegated from the Super League and some will be promoted from the lower division. That is how it was in the beginning, is now and will be.

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