Once again, I am obsessed with Turkish football.
In a 2010 interview, Mesut Özil explained his skillset this way: “My technique and feeling for the ball is the Turkish side to my game… The discipline, attitude and always-give-your-all is the German part.” The casual stereotyping is common for football, and yet the wholly German Özil cannot help but give due deference to his Zonguldak great-grandparents and his inescapable otherness in the world of German football. If the continental game is defined by the indomitable Germans and catennaciari Italians, the further into the outskirts one travels, the more heroic and passionate one finds the stereotypes: tika-taka Spaniards, flash-and-sizzle Portuguese, the recursively insane Englishmen and the Brazilskih Yugoslavs. But over at the far Eastern edge one encounters the red-clad red-headed stepchildren of UEFA.
As a national team, Turkey is far too familiar to be a stranger and a bit too strange to be welcomed in the fold. They may be a founding member of UEFA, they have had legendary runs in the World Cup (2002) and in Europe (2008), but the sheen of strangeness has never quite worn off. Turkey isn’t viewed as a fringe-y and dangerous selection the likes of Belgium or Russia but rather the very inverse of European football. If Germany represents the Ego then Turkey must be the Id. Always talented, they lack the mettle and the discipline to truly rise to ascendancy.