Bursaspor bite chunk out of Turkish establishment

ISTANBUL - Newly crowned Turkish champions Bursaspor awoke on Monday with the pride of breaking Istanbul's stranglehold on the domestic league title, just four years after winning promotion back into the top flight.

"Anatolian Revolution," proclaimed newspaper headlines as the club from Turkey's Anatolian heartland became only the second champions outside of the Istanbul "Big Three" and the first since Trabzonspor last won in 1984.

Next season, the green-and-white striped minnows face the prospect of hosting Europe's giants in the Champions League at their 19,000-capacity Ataturk Stadium in the northwestern city of Bursa, Turkey's fourth largest city.

In a nail-biting finish to the season, Bursaspor beat last year's champions Besiktas 2-1 and waited tensely for news from Istanbul before the stadium exploded in joy when it became clear that Fenerbahce had drawn 1-1 with Trabzonspor.

The power of their emotion was matched by the agony of Fenerbahce's fans, who had streamed onto their pitch and briefly celebrated with players after the mistaken announcement that Bursa had drawn and that the Istanbul club were champions.

In scenes which marred an evening of celebrations elsewhere, angry Fenerbahce supporters set fire to their stadium's stands and clashed with riot police after they finished one point adrift of the champions on 74 points.

Bursa coach Ertugrul Saglam, a former Turkey international, paid tribute to the remarkable achievement of his club, known as the "Green Crocodiles", which was only established in 1963.

They have extremely meagre resources, about to be boosted enormously by Champions League revenues.

"An 18 million lira ($12 million) club beat teams worth 100-200 million euro and became champions," the 40-year-old, who took over at the club at the start of last year, said.

In a further boost, their modest stadium is already earmarked for reconstruction in the guise of the 35,000-capacity "Crocodile Arena" as part of Turkey's Euro 2016 bid.


In his previous post as Besiktas coach, Saglam led them to third in the league but his time there will also be remembered for their 8-0 defeat against Liverpool in the Champions League.

"We now carry the heavy burden of going into the Champions League. The whole of Bursa is behind this success," he said after tearfully hugging colleagues as the triumph sank in.

"Green Bursa", as the former Ottoman Empire capital is often described in reference to its parks and gardens, is a big export and industrial centre with large automotive and textile sectors.

The club has achieved some modest success in Europe, reaching the quarter finals of the European Cup Winners' Cup in the 1974-75 season.

This season's team, a blend of experience and youth, gained the title thanks to the most prolific strike force in the league, scoring 65 goals spread widely through the team.

Argentine midfielder Pablo Batalla contributed eight goals, including the first of two goals which Bursa scored against Besiktas on Sunday. Winger Ozan Ipek also scored eight league goals.

Bursa's defence was the second tightest in the league, conceding 26 goals, compared to Besiktas' 25.

Their domestic success had earned national team recognition, with strikers Turgay Bahadir and Sercan Yildirim as well as midfielders Volkan Sen and Ipek named in the Turkey squad attending a training camp in the United States this month.

But the club face a long haul to establish itself a lasting figure among the elite. Among Istanbul's "Big Three", Fenerbahce and Galatasaray have won 17 titles each and Besiktas 13, while Trabzonspor won the remaining six titles.

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