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Fiorentina’s Turkish delight and Istanbul fight

A look back at Fiorentina’s last trip to Istanbul

AS Photo Archive Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

As Fiorentina set off for Istanbul to take on Başakşehir in the Europa Conference League, it’s a perfect time to look back at our last competitive clash with a Turkish team. We have met three different clubs from Turkey in European competition, and all of those games took place before our next opponents even existed. Istanbul Başakşehir were formed in 1990 while our most recent European meeting with a Turkish club goes back to 1984.

Fenerbahçe are also from Istanbul but are one of the oldest and biggest clubs in Turkey. They had finished as runners-up to Trabzonspor in the 1983/84 season while Fiorentina came third in Serie A to see both clubs qualify for the UEFA Cup. Drawn together in the first round, Fiorentina would travel to Istanbul to play the first leg on September 19th, 1984.

The Viola had just kicked off the new season with a win away to Lazio three days before the European game, but they had also played five games in the Coppa Italia group stage, winning three and drawing two. Fenerbahçe were also undefeated coming into the tie, winning two league games and drawing the other two without conceding a goal in their opening four league fixtures.

Fiorentina were expected to progress without much difficulty. The Fenerbahçe manager, Todor Veselinović, watched the Fiorentina training session the day before the game, and claimed that his side would definitely be eliminated by Fiorentina but that they would battle hard on their home turf. He also reported that they were still missing their striker Selçuk Yula who had been injured in the opening game of the season.

The training session brought an injury to the Fiorentina side as Celeste Pin was ruled out. The defender had been expected to slot in for the suspended Renzo Contratto, and now that task would fall to Leonardo Occhipinti. This was the decision taken by Armando Onesti, the assistant manager, after consulting by telephone with Giancarlo De Sisti, the manager unable to travel due to ill health.

Veselinović, from Yugoslavia, had played with Sampdoria back in the early Sixties, and his most recent job had seen him take charge of Yugoslavia at the European Championships. A former Fiorentina player, Can Bartu, was now a sports journalist and well acquainted with Fenerbahçe having begun and ended his career at the club. Bartu couldn’t see Fiorentina being beaten “I really don’t see how the qualification of Fiorentina can be questioned. The Viola may meet some difficulties here in Istanbul because Fenerbahçe on their own pitch defends strongly”. He also spoke about the passionate home support, capable of pushing the team on for the full ninety minutes.

There was a relaxed atmosphere around the Fiorentina camp, who after training had spent the afternoon shopping at the city’s famed Grand Bazaar. The main attraction for the Turkish press was our new signing Sócrates, the Brazilian spending his time looking for his favourite Turkish cigarettes, with local newspaper Hürriyet reporting that the player smoked three packs a day. With all eyes focused on the Brazilian, the player reminded everyone that it was Fiorentina who would play and not just him. He said that they could qualify for the next round, adding that they had to as Italian football was superior to Turkish football.

Back in March Italy had played a friendly here in Istanbul, winning 2-1, the Turkey goal was scored by a player who would be in the Fenerbahçe side to face Fiorentina. İlyas Tüfekçi had scored against Giovanni Galli in that international game, the Fiorentina keeper had come on as a substitute at the start of the second half. In front of Galli, the Fiorentina defence would include Daniel Passarella, along with three new signings, Claudio Gentile from Juventus, Luca Moz from Empoli, and Occhipinti who had arrived from Pisa.

It was an early kick off in Turkey, the game starting at 4:30pm local time, which may have kept many fans away. The main reason for the lower-than-expected crowd however, was the fact that the club doubled the ticket prices for this game, and those present gave the Fenerbahçe club officials plenty of abuse. The game was shown live back in Italy on RAI 1, and those tuning in that Wednesday afternoon saw Fiorentina take the lead in the opening 20 minutes.

A free kick was awarded just outside the area and while Sócrates and Daniele Massaro were standing over the ball and the Fenerbahçe players still putting their wall in place, Eraldo Pecci took everyone by surprise with his effort. The keeper, Turkish international Yasar Duran, still had time to get down and meet Pecci’s shot but he somehow let the ball slip through his hands and Fiorentina had the lead and the away goal.

While Fiorentina’s back line had little difficulty containing the home side, the attack offered little after making the breakthrough. Sócrates arrived too late to meet a Massaro cross, and the Brazilian did little to impress those who had come to see him play. After the break Fiorentina did find the net again, but Massaro’s goal was ruled out for a dubious foul on the Fenerbahçe defender Abdülkerim Durmaz. Galli pulled off a fine save to send Şenol Çorlu’s shot behind for a corner.

A game which had passed off without much in the way of action, came to a dramatic conclusion. A corner for the home side in the closing minutes saw Gentile aim a punch at the stomach of Srebrenko Repčić while the referee was distracted. This led to a fight involving both sets of players, with police and photographers entering the pitch. Pasquale Iachini took a headbutt, with Massaro holding Passarella back from getting more involved. The referee spoke to both captains but didn’t take any further action.

Fiorentina held on for the win, and at the final whistle tempers flared again. Gentile received an elbow to the mouth requiring stitches, while Claudio Pellegrini who had come on as a sub spoke of leaving the pitch surrounded by police and being struck on the head by a bottle.

De Sisti who watched the game on television in hospital blamed the referee for not protecting his players during the game. He also insisted that Massaro’s goal should have stood. Veselinović meanwhile, said he hadn’t been impressed by Fiorentina, while admitting his own side had also failed to play well. He was certain that his team still had a chance and that the return leg could still bring some surprises.

That return game took place two weeks later in Florence. In between, Fiorentina had played two scoreless draws against Milan and Como while Fenerbahçe had beaten Bursaspor and drawn at Galatasaray. De Sisti was able to watch this from the stands, with Onesti still on the bench. Contratto returned from suspension as Occhipinti dropped to the bench, with Pellegrini replacing Iachini the only other change from the first leg in Istanbul.

This time the game kicked off at 8pm, and Veselinović admitted that many of his players had never played under floodlights. The visitors looked the brighter in the opening 20 minutes, but Fiorentina took the lead just after the half hour. Before that Paolo Monelli had hit the crossbar when set up by Gentile, but after 34 minutes the keeper took Monelli down in the box and Passarella put away the resulting penalty.

De Sisti had decided to line out with his strongest side, despite the risk of suspension to some players. Gentile had promised to be on his best behaviour, but both he and Moz were both booked which would rule them out of the next game. Moz was lucky to get away with just a yellow card as the visitors should have had a penalty, but the Scottish referee Brian McGinlay judged his foul on Abdülkerim to have taken place outside the area, with the Fenerbahçe player also going into the book for his protests.

Sócrates, who had been substituted in the last game with Como, was the most impressive player on the pitch this time, creating plenty of trouble for the Turkish side’s defence. De Sisti had spoken to the player before the game, and the manager hadn’t been happy with his assistant’s decision to take him off in their most recent game. Veselinović dismissed claims of the Brazilian’s greatness, saying that he wasn’t surprised that the player was getting criticised in Italy as he wasn’t one of the world’s great players. According to the Fenerbahçe manager, the greats playing in Italy at the time were Maradona, Zico, and Rummenigge.

Despite the Yugoslavian’s opinion, the Doctor played a major part when Fiorentina sealed the win late on when with seven minutes left Paolino Pulici who had replaced Pellegrini made it 2-0. Set up by Sócrates, Pulici slipped when striking his first effort which the keeper saved but couldn’t hold, the Brazilian then followed up but his shot too was saved but when it fell to Pulici he didn’t miss at the second attempt.

Fiorentina had come through the Turkish test, but in the next round they would lose out to Anderlecht. The sides drew 1-1 in Florence, and in the return leg in Brussels early in the second half they were again locked at 1-1, but the Belgian side went on to win 6-2. Fenerbahçe went on to win the Turkish league title that season but Fiorentina had kept up their 100% record against Turkish clubs in Europe, continuing that run now in Istanbul at the Fatih Terim stadium could make a big difference to how this season turns out.