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A Lonely Opening Day

By Can Mutlu



Kamil Ocak Stadium in Gaziantep is pictured on June 22, 2013 ahead of a group stage football match between Mexico and Greece at the FIFA Under 20 World Cup
Kamil Ocak Stadium in Gaziantep is pictured on June 22, 2013 ahead of a group stage football match between Mexico and Greece at the FIFA Under 20 World Cup

Although the weather was great in Istanbul and everything was set for the opening day, nobody could feel the U-20 World Cup atmosphere here. There were only 2841 people at the  TT Arena, Turkish giant Galatasaray's homeground, even though former Gala and Turkish national team star, new congressman Hakan Sukur stated that "when it comes to football, we are a passionate country."   

Istanbul, the city with a population of over ten million of which supposedly millions are football fans, was not interested in U-20 World Cup. This was to be expected because of the recent anti-goverment protests. People got tired breathing gas and getting hit by watercanons at the protests but it is not the whole story. As a matter of fact, even the ticket prices are low, the main problem is, here in Turkey, people do not like fooball much as they claim.   

Yesterday we, the lucky 2841 people in the stadium (this number increased to over 4000 during Spain vs USA), had a chance to watch two brilliant teams and two of the favorites for the tournament, France and Spain who were able to beat Ghana and USA easily. The gap between the teams is huge and both France and Spain showed that, they are not going to struggle at the group stages.   

Spain is the 2012 UEFA European U-19 Champions and that experience has made the players stronger and more experienced. Barcelona's new golden boy Gerard Deulofeu and Real Madrid's Jese Rodriguez showed great promise as expected just as Miguel Torres did. Atletico's right back Javier Monquillo also put in impressive performance and was faultless throughout the game.   

France using Geoffrey Kondogbia behind Yaya Sanogo as an attacking midfielder were in control. With the Paul Pogba and Jordan Veretaut at the center of the pitch, France was dominationg however 'Les Blues' could not dictate the tempo and lost possesion in the first half. In the second half, they started to press high up the pitch, dictated tempo and with the Lille's Lucas Digne's long throw changed the game. Jordan Veretaut and Lucas Digne were impressive while France put a decent performance.   

The tournament has begun with exciting football but only a few at the stadium, could witnessed Deulofeu's beauty. After all it seems that, in Turkey, we are barely passionate about football, we are much passionate about the local teams we support. The only thing that matters about football in Turkey is who is going to be the champions in Turkish Super League next year  But still, there is a great chance for the fans to see their heroes and monitoring them closely. Maybe it will help us to build a new generation, who truly love football. The tournament has just started and we all hope, after Turkey's game against El Salvador, more interest will come in following days.