“Football is like a religion there.”
That’s what former Fenerbahce goalkeeper Toni Schumacher told FIFA.com about Turkey in the build-up to the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Coming from a native of the footballing hotbed that Germany is, it was quite a statement.
Yet visitors to the country for the youth extravaganza have seen Schumacher’s words – and similar ones from Rustu Recber and Hakan Sukur – more than vindicated. Football, indeed, is very much a part of everyday life, and becoming the next Recber or Sukur is seemingly the life ambition of every kid.
In the above snap, some of those Turkish children are seen enjoying a kickabout in the street, which is as good a place as any to start. “I began kicking a ball around the streets almost as soon as I could walk!” recalled Sukur, who went on to score a record 51 goals in 112 games for Turkey.