There are many footballing clichés, one of which being that sweepers make the best coaches. Current Turkey supremo Fatih Terim is certainly proof of this, the 54-year-old former defensive lynchpin proving highly successful since swapping his boots for the proverbial clipboard.
Turkey have long been considered one of world football's sleeping giants, due to a combination of the incredible passion of the fans and a seemingly endless pool of talented players. And it is widely accepted on the banks of the Bosporus that Terim is the one who has accelerated the awakening. Since he took over, Turkey qualified for the UEFA EURO 1996 - the first time they had reached the final phase of a major tournament since the 1954 FIFA World Cup ™. This very much started the ball rolling for Turkey who finished an incredible third at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan.
He then went on to coach at Galatasaray, Fiorentina and AC Milan, before taking up the national team reins again in 2005. He resigned in January 2006, only to be talked into taking the job on for a third time a mere 11 days later. His next challenge will be to make his team the surprise package at the EURO 2008 in Switzerland and Austria. The man known in his home country as the Emperor due to his strong leadership qualities took time out to give FIFA.com an exclusive interview.
FIFA.com: Could you describe in a few sentences what
football means for the people of Turkey?
Fatih Terim: Turkey is a footballing nation in every way. The approach, love and passion for this sport are empowered by the young people of our country. Football goes beyond entertainment and has become a passion for our country. Clubs are growing financially and the footballing economy is on the rise as well.
At the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan, Turkey made it all
the way to third place. Fenerbahce have reached the knockout stages
of the UEFA Champions League for the first time and your national
team have booked their ticket for EURO 2008. What has changed in
Turkish football to bring about this return to success?
Turkey's international success story started with 1996 European Championship qualification. The potential created in that period brought the country to the success of third place in FIFA World Cup 2002. The aim of the Turkish national team is to participate in all major competitions and create a Turkish school, called "e'cole", of football. Fenerbahce's success in the Champions League is important for Turkish football, as is the case with other clubs.
For you personally, is being the coach of your country the
It is true that by being the national team coach, I have the responsibility to shape the course of Turkish football and decide its objectives. However, there is much more to the job than that.
As a player, you were Turkey's highest-capped
international for a long time. Now you are the most recognised
Turkish football coach. Which do you prefer: being a player or
being a coach?
First of all I love the game of football. It does not matter whether I am playing or making my team play. What matters is being involved actively in the game.
Turkish footballers are regarded as some of the best in
Europe when it comes to skill, technique and touch. What do you put
this down to?
When we qualified for EURO 96 we brought about a mentality change as well, which I call a revolution. In that period, Turkey did not have a single player playing abroad. With the mentality change, we taught our players to win instead of trying not to lose. That change led to Turkish players playing for European clubs and opened the path to success in the FIFA World Cup 2002.
Many top Turkish players, such as the Altintop twins, grew
up outside of their home country. Do you see a difference between
them and the Turkish-born players in terms of mentality and
Certainly there is an important difference between our players brought up in abroad and the ones who have lived all their lives in Turkey. Quality is individual and unique. You can work on quality all over the world and get more or less the same results. Mentality on the other hand is very personal, it affects the players' performance in terms of the social background and environment.
Let's talk about the upcoming EURO 2008. What do you
think of your three opponents in Group A: Switzerland, Czech
Republic and Portugal?
If you look at the FIFA World Ranking, our opponents have had a stable position over the last two years. They have changed slightly but no drastic changes or high performances. Portugal were the runners-up at EURO 2004 and they are in eighth spot in the World Ranking. Czech Republic, meanwhile, were EURO 96 finalists and they occupy fifth place. Switzerland are in 44th but they have the advantage of playing at home. We aim to continue the rising trend of Turkish football in this tournament.
Who are your tournament favourites?
In today's football I think all 16 participating teams can become champions. I don't think that you can pick one name but I can tell that the championship race will come down to small details as there is not much difference between those teams.
What can Turkey achieve at EURO 2008? What are your goals?
The aim of the Turkish national team is to go as far as possible in every tournament we are in. We are a good team and we have gifted players. We will back up our quality with talent and work for the best finish possible.
Who are the key players in your current squad?
Like all the teams at EURO 2008, we have key players. In today's football key players do matter, but key plays matter more.
Final question, looking to the future. Does Turkey have the
potential to win a FIFA World Cup? What can you achieve at South
All World Cup winners have come from South America and Europe. 2010 is the first time that Africa is hosting this prestigious event. I think African teams have a better chance than ever to win this tournament, given their ever-increasing potential. But we want a European team to win, like at the last World Cup.