At the age of 23, without having played football for six years, I decided to try myself against professional footballers much younger than me and properly trained, or at least I thought they were.
I got the chance to test my skills out against Diyarbekirspor, a third division team in Turkey.
My main purpose was to see how well I could keep up with the lads and to appreciate their quality and skills. I was already doing regular exercises in a gym, so I knew that my physique would be on par with the other guys but the real question was whether my technique would allow me to actually compete with them after a six-year absence from football.
The answer unfortunately turned out to be yes.
As a third division team, Diyarbekirspor’s focus was on the aspiring young talent, and I wanted to see how the millennial kids played football.
While I made my way to the pitch, I began sympathizing with my fellow players much more than I did when I was writing pieces about them. The sun was merciless during one of the hottest days in Ramadan and the growing anxiety in my stomach made me feel much heavier than I was.
I chose to play center-back, even though I am not that big of a guy. I thought my fundamental deficiencies would be much less apparent in that position and I used to be a defender when played football back in the day.
Yet, when the game started, I strangely noticed that the other guys, who had professional licenses from other third or fourth division teams, were barely able to hold control of the ball or their positions.
It was a complete frenzy in which everyone was completely egocentric and the collective play was totally forgotten. As a result, I, having almost no impressive foot skills, managed to play a decent game without making any crucial mistakes. I didn’t even let the opponent’s striker slip behind me once.
To my surprise, after the game the scout team called me to play another round the next day, signaling that I might even make it to the summer camp squad.
Thus, the whole experience was a like a joke for me, I was of course more than happy because I just learned that I was in form, enough so that I could play professional football.
Nevertheless, me being a columnist and the bad cop, I did not understand how those kids, who regularly trained on professional teams, could not play decisively better than a regular guy who hadn’t played organized football for nearly six years.
As the national team starts to rejuvenate their squad, I find the fundamental deficiencies of the young Turkish players incredibly troubling. No football player can be thought of without having a proper handle of the ball and positioning, and those kids truly had little sense of those concepts. They were all trying to do fancy moves to impress the scouts, but most of them eventually ended up making fools of themselves.
The next day I decided to attend the next session to give both myself and the other guys another chance. As you are reading this, I will most likely be struggling on the field with lots of little Ricardo Quaresmas, who have the Portuguese superstar’s ego but not the skills to back it up.
Maybe I’m not the next superstar of Turkish football, and I can live with that, but Turkish youth needs to understand the basics of football before they try to be a superstar. Actually, I find it hard to believe that they lack the resources to do so; YouTube channels are full of information. There must be fundamental problems with the coaches who teach them football, and I suppose that should be the topic of my next piece.