Dirk Kuyt - Liverpool to Fenerbahce: A working class story
Dirk Kuyt must have been quite surprised when he was greeted by hundreds of fans upon first arrival in Turkey, he must have been even more taken aback by the thousands of supporters who turned out to see watch his signing ceremony at the Şükrü Saracoğlu stadium.
Kuyt may have received a heroes welcome however, there were doubts over whether he had made the move solely for the money, whether he could settle in, whether he would really care.
Fenerbahçe signed Kuyt from Liverpool for €1 million this summer. The 32-year-old forward signed a 3 year contract with the Istanbul club worth €2.85 million per season in addition to a match bonus of €17,500.
Kuyt joined Liverpool in 2006 from Dutch giants Feyenoord and went onto represent The Reds 285 times, scoring 71 goals in addition to 38 assists.
However, the former Liverpool star made it very clear from the get go that he was at Fenerbahçe to win silverware.
In his first press conference for his new club, Kuyt said, "I'd like to win trophies with this club, I'd like to win as much as possible and I can't wait to be a player and become a part of the history of this club."
The Netherlands International also made a great impression on the supporters by addressing the fans in Turkish, "Fenerbahçeli olmak ne mutlu bir şey (It's an honour to be a part of Fenerbahçe)."
Whereas in England players are expected to learn English, in Turkey foreign players, especially of Kuyt's status had traditionally been treated like royalty, nobody expected them to learn Turkish and they were given personal interpreters.
Kuyt's message in Turkish may seem insignificant to readers who are accustomed to foreign players being expected to learn the local language, however, in Turkey went down very well and won him a lot of respect.
The 32-year-old forward's motives soon became clear, it was more about his ideals than the money.
Kuyt said, "I considered many offers over the past few weeks, however, after playing at working class teams like Utrecht, Feyenoord and Liverpool it's great to be at a club with similar values."
Fenerbahçe, located on the Asian shores of Istanbul, has it's history rooted in the working=class of the city which stem back to the Allied Occupation of Istanbul between 1918-23.
The occupying forces started adopting draconian measures to suppress the national resistance movement. The death penalty was introduced and anybody found supporting, aiding or abetting the resistance faced severe punishment.
The erosion of political sovereignty, freedom and oppressive laws outraged the inhabitants of Istanbul.
The discontented public began to turn to football as a means to vent their frustration at the ongoing occupation. The national resistance embraced the sport and the power it had to motivate the public. A new lease of freedom was found on the playing fields of Istanbul.
The Turkish youth were given the opportunity to gain a victory over their occupiers. Fenerbahçe FC were one of the clubs at the forefront of giving young Turks a chance to face their enemy on the football pitch.
The club won 41 matches and drew four games against opposition teams made up of occupation troops. Fenerbahçe’s victories surpassed football. It gave hope to the downtrodden masses and support for the club swelled, especially among the working-class.
It wasn't long before Kuyt started impressing fans on the field as well and what better way to get started then scoring a debut goal.
Kuyt opened his Turkish Super League account with a goal against Elazigspor, having since gone on to score 10 times and create six assists the Dutch sensation has gone on to become the most productive attacking player on the team.
The Fenerbahçe forward has been used primarily as a striker, partnering the prolific Moussa Sow. For any Liverpool fans reading this it may seem strange to read that Kuyt is being used as a striker however, he's no stranger to being the front man and played in a similar position in his pre-Liverpool days.
Kuyt has been one of the Yellow Canaries most influential players this season, not only does he work his socks off and give 100 per-cent effort every game. He also motivates the rest of his teammates, he lifts the crowd and he also has a knack of scoring and setting up important goals.
When Fenerbahçe travelled away to Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Europa League they were in the midst of a crisis which threatened to destroy the clubs season from within. Fener legend, Alex De Souza had been unceremoniously thrown out the team, supporters, players and pundits alike were outraged.
The team was in desperate need of a leader, somebody to steer them out of these troubled waters and it was Kuyt who stepped up to the challenge. Kuyt gave a superb performance against Mönchengladbach, scoring and getting an assist in the Canaries 4-2 win.
Two months down the line, Fenerbahçe have already qualified for the Europa League Round of 32 in first position with a game to spare, having defeated AEL Limassol twice and Marseille Stade Vélodrome.
Domestically Fener are flying as well, after a poor start to the season the Istanbul club now find themselves just two points off league leaders Galatasaray. Kuyt has been relishing his role as the teams striker, the Netherlands international along with Raul Meireles often covers the furthest distance on the team. Kuyt's off the ball movement has been impressive, as have his forward runs, final balls and his finishing.
Speaking of Meireles, Kuyt played a role in the Portuguese international's decision to join the Istanbul club from Chelsea.
Meireles told reporters in his first press conference for the club, "I had a great season playing at Liverpool with Kuyt, he told me about Fenerbahçe and encouraged me to make the move.
"Kuyt has told be on several occasions that Istanbul is a beautiful city, I'm very excited about the prospect of playing here."
As impressive as he's been on the field, Kuyt has been just as effective away from the playing fields. Kuyt has been playing the diplomat, helping strengthen relations between the Netherlands and Turkey, even managing to fit in a Turkish Coffee with the Prime Minister.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Kuyt to celebrate 400 years of diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and Turkey.
Kuyt said, "We gave the Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] a Netherlands national team shirt, he was very happy about that and it was also a very nice and good, relaxed conversation."
Liverpool supporters upset at losing Kuyt for just €1 million this summer can also rest asure that Kuyt is acting as an ambassador of the Reds. The former Reds star has praised his former club on a number of occasions and never has a bad word to say.
Kuyt is also heavily involved in charity work along with his wife, Gertrude. The couple set up the Dirk Kuyt Foundation to help disadvantaged children in his homeland and the Third World through sporting events as well as additional support.
The foundation organizes over 40 G-sporting events a year, giving children involved the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of sports, ranging from synchronized swimming to wheelchair basketball.
In a world where footballers are often criticised for their opulence, free spending and ego-driven pursuit of superstardom, it's a breath of fresh air to see such a down to Earth player. The season isn't even at the half way stage yet however, if Kuyt continues playing this level of football till the end of the league campaign we could have the makings of another Fenerbahçe legend in the near future.