The great pundit Selahattin Şimşek says: “Genius means being able to see the possible in the impossible. The ability to sense that ships can cross over land [a reference to Mehmed the Conqueror’s conquest of Istanbul in 1453] is what makes a Conqueror!” Who would ever have thought that a guy from Turkey’s fertile southern farm belt of Çukurova would come to play football in Istanbul and win Turkey the UEFA cup? Always the gentleman despite his busy schedule, Fatih Terim, iconic trainer of the Galatasaray Sports Club and technical director of the Turkish national team, was kind enough to reply to our questions.

Q:Simon Kuper says that football isn’t only a game. Let’s talk about the part of it that isn’t just a game.
A:It’s impossible to see football as just football, to judge it simply as a sport. In many countries, football is a way for clubs, socio-economic classes, minorities or social groups to express themselves. In fact, it has become a way for them to validate their very existence and worth. Enormous investments are made in their success with scientific research to back it up. Footballers are the gladiators of our time. That’s why the stadiums where they play are now called “arenas”, like those where gladiators once clashed. At the same time, football is also a key instrument of the capitalist system in terms of its impact on society and the economy. On the other hand, it’s also an instrument of peace. A domain without borders in which people of different races, religions and creeds struggle together for the same end. An area that enables people to forget their political differences and come together. Football also has a role in promoting a healthy lifestyle and high quality of life. So, I ask you, is football only a game?

Q:No, of course, not... If Fatih Terim had not been a football coach, what profession would he have chosen?
A:I think there are more important things than which profession a person chooses. More than what I do or which profession I’ve chosen, my maxim is: always try to do your best whatever you do. I don’t compete with anybody; I only compete against myself. My main concern is that the Fatih Terim of tomorrow be better than the Fatih Terim of today.

Institutionalization is very important in football as it is in many other areas of business. Institutions are living organisms and therefore I cannot go along with any attempt to thrust them into molds that could constitute vital threats to their existence. The biggest threat to any institution is that the existing good will be destroyed in trying to achieve perfection during the process of institutionalization. The history, the culture, the way of life, the capacity for production and the potential as well as the employees of the institution should therefore be kept foremost in mind. At the same time, we must not forget the need to be open to development and innovation and adapting the institution to new arrangements when necessary.

Q:Were you able to go home and sleep after you won the UEFA cup?
A:Sleep isn’t the word for it… I slept like a log. As a person who had done what was expected of him, I slept the sleep of a technical trainer who, together with his colleagues, has achieved the goal he set himself.

Q:What qualities does a footballer need to have? Talent, respect, a willingness to work hard...
A:I would want a footballer to have all the qualities that any person should have. We should not make a distinction between footballers and other people. My greatest desire is that they be people of character. I want them to be people with values, people who are never satisfied with their success. However, I don’t approve of any attitude or approach that is immoral or illegal.

Q:Fatih Terim has always been a smart dresser. May I ask what your secret is?
A:Thank you for the compliment! As I see it, a person’s clothes and shoes reflect his character, the inner man. I’ve never dressed smartly just to be chic or fashionable. I just wear whatever color and style I feel like wearing. I used to be more casual. Now I have someone who is both my fashion consultant and my most ruthless critic: my daughter Buse!

Q:What are the places where you like to travel?
A:I always leave travel choices up to the three most important women in my life, Fulya, Merve and Buse… They’ve never let me down me but have always come to me with suggestions that please me and make me happy. I love people and nature. I love to see new places and meet new people. Most of all, though, I love to go to places where nobody knows me and I can be myself.

Q:What would you recommend to people who want to become a technical director or club manager?
A:The best proof of that is the place where I was born, the path I took, and the place where I’ve arrived today. It could be an example for everyone. It’s the same advice I would give my own children. More important than what you do is that that you do your work well, that you do the best job you can. Don’t be afraid to dream. Sometimes dreams are more important than knowledge.

Q:One last question. Brief answers, please.
A:Adana: My land.
Dad: My role model.
Pele, Maradona, Messi: Metin Oktay, Cemil Turan, Arda Turan…
Galatasaray: My home.
Italy: My second home.
Turkey: To die for.
Istanbul: Can’t live without it.

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