Istanbul (AFP) – Turkey coach Fatih Terim is known as the “emperor” after three stints ruling over the national side, taking them to some of their biggest successes.
The European Championship in France will be Turkey’s first major tournament in eight years, but they have a track record of putting on an impressive showing on the international stage, such as the semi-finals at Euro 2008, much of that under Terim.
With the country mourning deadly attacks blamed on Kurdish militants and jihadists, fans will be hoping for a performance that can bring the nation together under Terim, a figure respected across the political spectrum.
In a three-decade managerial career, Terim has become a colossus in the Turkish game, earning himself the nicknames ‘Imperator’ (Emperor) and ‘Commendatore’ and accolades for his never-say-die brand of football.
“I hope that we can repeat and even build on our success from 2008. The fact that Turkey are even playing in France is a success story,” he said recently.
“We want to play in the final.”
Blessed with stars including Arda Turan of Barcelona, Turkey will be tough opponents but must also emerge from a tricky Group D including Croatia, Czech Republic and Spain.
“I would say that we are in a serious group. It’s a quality group,” said Terim.
– ‘Unite the country’ –
A figure of a national stature who transcends football, Terim has called for unity after the militant attacks including the March car bombing in Ankara that killed the father of Istanbul’s Galatasaray star Umut Bulut.
“Our country is one where fathers and mothers should happily go to work every morning, where children happily go to school. Where everyone wants to wake up with the light and the sun,” he said.
“We all need to work for this. I want a Turkey where everyone is together and where everyone is united against this” terror.
Terim has a warm relationship with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who refers to him as “Fatih Hoca” (Fatih the Teacher). But he commands respect across an increasingly polarised society.
Terim, a talented central defender, played for the Turkish national team for 10 years from 1975-1985.
He moved through the ranks into top management to take charge of the national side in 1993, guiding them to the European Championship finals for the first time in 1996.
He then managed Galatasaray from 1996-2000, winning the league for four years in succession, and taking them to victory over Arsenal in the 2000 UEFA Cup final, the finest achievement in Turkish club football.
His reputation soaring, Terim went to Italy. But stints at Fiorentina and AC Milan were brief and disappointing. Terim returned to Galatasaray but this proved as inglorious as the first had been illustrious.
– Repeat 2008 glory? –
In 2005, he went back to the national side for a second time. Turkey missed out on the 2006 World Cup but their performance at Euro 2008 under Terim was scintillating, bringing back memories of the wonder team that came third at the 2002 World Cup.
True to his never-surrender style, Terim’s side repeatedly came from behind to reach the semi-finals where Germany only won with a heartbreaking strike in the final seconds.
Resigning in 2009 after failing to take Turkey to the 2010 World Cup, Terim returned to Galatasaray for a third time, picking up two more Super Lig titles.
Seemingly perennially revolving between the top jobs, he began his third stint with the national team in 2013.
Terim remains a hugely influential figure at Galatasaray — who have just endured one of their worst seasons in recent years — and speculation is rife in the press that he could rejoin the club yet again after the Euro campaign.
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