Exclusive Interview with Head of TFF UK Kazım Şengönül
Turkish-football.com interviewed the Turkish Football Federation, United Kingdom representative Kazım Şengönül in order to find out first hand how Turkish football is developing in the UK and whether we'll be seeing any Oğuzhan Özyakup's, Jem Karacan's and Kerim Frei's in the near future.
England doesn't have a rich tradition of Turkish players in the Premier League and lower divisions in contrast to nations such as France, the Netherlands or the Scandinavian countries however, there have been a few worthy of mention.
Few Blackburn fans would have forgot Tugay Kerimoğlu and the likes of Alpay Özalan and Tunay Şanlı have also played in the Premier League however, the number of players have been few and far between.
There has however, been a recent surge in the number of Turkish players not only plying their trade in England but also being developed in the academies.
Nuri Şahin is the most notable name which springs to mind in regards to Turkish players in the Premier League following his high profile move to Liverpool during the summer however, there are also a number of promising prospects who have risen through the ranks from youth level to senior team players.
Catford born Jem Karacan rose through the youth ranks at Reading FC to the senior team, was involved in last seasons promotion winning campaign and now represents his side in the Premier League and has been called up to the Turkish National Team.
Colin Kazim-Richards who has played in the Championship, Premier League and for Turkish giants Galatasaray as well Fenerbahçe was born and raised in East London.
Kerim Frei joined the Fulham academy aged 16, the highly rated young winger is currently on loan at Cardiff City and earned his first Turkish National Team cap against Denmark on Wednesday 14 November 2012.
Oğuzhan Özyakup joined the Arsenal academy aged 16, captained the Netherlands national team at youth level switched allegiance to the Turkish national team at senior level and joined Beşiktaş at the start of the season despite just having turned 20.
The work Turkish Football Federation officials, scouts and representatives such as Kazım Şengönül have put in to help discover, develop and open doors for promising young Turkish players in the UK cannot be emphasised enough.
Turkish-football.com: Hi, Kazim, what is your role within Turkish Football Federation?
Kazım Şengönül: As you may be aware I have been the Turkish Football Federation UK Rep since the EU office launch in 2009. In addition to my duties as the TFF Rep for UK I have also been scouting for the National Teams aged 12 and upwards. It has been very positive and as you have seen compared to previous years we have several players in our national teams including at senior level.
With Jem [Karacan] and Oguzhan [Özyakup] on the verge of getting their first national team cap, I will be very proud to see four players in the senior team that has come from the UK. This compared to previous years is an amazing achievement. More and more players with Turkish origins are getting better and playing at academy or equal level. The support from families must be taken into account and I for one would like to thank them all. Two years ago I was also appointed the official scout for North Cyprus which has proven successful. I have been there four times in 2 years and have scouted two players. At this moment we have a player from Cyprus that played the U-15's last game for Turkey as captain. This is proof that no matter how small a country, where there is soil and football, talent can grow!
Turkish-football.com: What state do you think the level of Turkish football is in the UK and how do you rate the next generation of young players?
Kazım Şengönül: As mentioned; compared to previous years, we are in a much better place with Turkish origin players in the UK. This looks to be getting stronger. It is important that kids, families do not stop at Sunday league. This is a good stepping ladder, but the aim must be to get into an academy as early as possible. This will improve on the football and allow them to pick up their hidden skills, ability and capability to play at a higher level at a young age. We have nothing less than any other nation. We are just lacking on time and effort invested in our kids.
Turkish-football.com: Are you in contact with Turkish footballers playing in the Premier League and lower divisions?
Kazım Şengönül: Yes, I see and speak to them all the time. I am in contact with all the players in the UK. But at times it is good to watch them from far as well. As much as we show all our players the attention they need and deserve, we have to keep a professional working distance. This is the national team and no one will be there forever. We need to keep looking for new talents and the players of the future. National Teams is all about performance. If you are in form and play well you stand a chance to get called! All the players know this and i remind them all the time. Its important that they know being called is not up to us, its down to them and what they show on the pitch!
Turkish-football.com: Samed Yeşil who was recently transfered to Liverpool has played for Germany at a youth level. Is there a chance he will represent the senior Turkish National Team in the future?
Kazım Şengönül: Previous talks with Samed had been done before his move to England. For the moment I would not like to comment on his future with us or Germany. It is early days and I am sure when it comes to making his final choice, he will make the best decision for himself.
You can follow Kazım via his Twitter @KazimSengonul