The Fall and Rise of Kazim – By Berk Kansu
Turkish football fans know their team need a miracle bigger than Euro 2008 if they are to qualify for the upcoming UEFA Euro 2016 Tournament. So it’s no surprise that manager Fatih Terim’s move to re-introduce Colin Kazim-Richards into the national side for the first time in 4+ years has raised quite a few speculative Turkish eyebrows.
Arriving in Istanbul from London in 2007 as a 21 year old, Kazim continually showed flashes of brilliance on the field for Fenerbahçe and the Turkish under-21 and under-23 national teams. Yet over the next few years, fans became more accustomed to seeing his image gracing the celebrity gossip pages of newspapers rather than the sports headlines. He became a liability at Fener, who hinted at personal issues and attitude. Kazim-Richards bounced around clubs from Galatasaray to Bursaspor with loan spells along the way in France, Greece and England with few noteworthy performances. Frustrated national team fans even joked at how unlucky they were to lose Mesut Özil to Germany only to receive Colin Kazim-Richards in return from England.
Yet anyone who has kept an eye on the Dutch Eredivise and UEFA Cup this year will know that Kazim-Richards is performing well, with consistency for the first time in his career. On loan from Bursaspor to Feyenoord Rotterdam for the season, perhaps the experience from all numerous loan spells or the maturity that comes with becoming a family man have caught up with him; but regardless, something seems to have clicked with Kazim and it is reflective on the field with his determination and intensity. While we aren’t ready to say Kaz has turned around his career by any means, quietly racking up 11 goals and an impressive 10 assists across all competitions this season so far isn’t something to scoff at for a player who has been virtually invisible for 4 years.
Now at the age of 28, Terim is hoping Kazim-Richards is the definition of a late bloomer and can provide the national side with some consistency in the latter years of his career. Statistically speaking, this is his best season as a professional footballer. Late bloomers have been a theme throughout offensive minded players in Turkish football. Look no further than teammate and goal scorer Burak Yilmaz (age 29), arguably Turkey’s best striker who also recently recorded his best season at the age of 27.
Though he may not be the future of the team, Kazim has strong years to come and is among the small crop of players that deserve the national team call up this time around. He brings many things to the table that the national squad currently lacks, including aerial strength, patience in build-up play, and the ability to create and finish chances. While it may be too late to make a run for Euro 2016, with his experience in Holland’s domestic league he could find himself as a key part of the offense for Terim’s squad on Saturday against the Dutch and beyond. Welcome back to the squad Colin Kazim-Richards!