Önder Özen: "The Least to Blame Were The Players"Interview • Author: Mehmet Pozam • Sunday, June 21, 2009
Former Fenerbahçe coach Önder Özen gave an exclusive interview to Taraf newspaper this week. Fenerbahçe Worldwide contributor and Taraf correspondent Evren Özüyener, who conducted the interview, asked me to tag along as he asked the now Hacettepespor manager the ups and downs of Turkish football and the Yellow Canaries.
There may not be a lot of people who have heard of Önder Özen, but it's suffice to say that he was one of the secret heroes working magic behind the scenes at Samandıra. In the past four seasons, he worked together with Christoph Daum, Arthur Zico and Luis Aragones.
We wouldn't be doing justice to Önder Özen by limiting his resume to simply a "coach". Özen would analyze Fenerbahçe's opponents meticulously and had even tracked down promising talents at the Taça Cidade Tournament in Sao Paolo, Brazil. The 40-year-old football coach who's looked at as the future José Mourinho of Turkey, recently left the Yellow Canaries and took his first managerial job at Hacettepespor.
Courtesy of Evren Özüyener and Taraf newspaper, here's the exclusive interview Önder Özen gave us...
Evren Özüyener: Did you leave Fenerbahçe due to your career plan or was it a result of a change of preferences in the technical staff?
Önder Özen: My goal was to start managing a team at the age of 39. My fate was beginning at the Bank Asya League at the age of 40. Fenerbahçe made a serious investement in me. I had come from a Third Division team with a B coaching license. I then got my A license and also my conditioner certificate. I improved my football culture thanks to all the possibilities the club provided.
In order to give back to Fenerbahçe all their investment in me, I need to be able to fully execute all of my knowledge. There was no such available job, so there was no more steps that I could take. I asked permission from our President, he showed sympathy and my departure was very civilized. I can see a parallel between my own future and the future of my club [Hacettepespor], so I think I can be successful.
E.Ö: Your career development is compared with José Mourinho's career. Is there any justice behind making such a comparison?
Ö.Ö: If there is such a resemblance, than it's not a problem for me. Mourinho has offered a lot to European football. He knows the game very well and he is sought by many clubs. Even though his style of football may not be appreciated by everyone, he has never been in an unsuccessful project. I don't know him very much, but I don't think I have a lot in common with him, character-wise and background-wise. But there is one similarity; he wasn't a star football player and neither was I. Although, at least I was a football player.
E.Ö: What will Hacettepespor's goals be?
Ö.Ö: We need to be successful in the Bank Asya League and successful within the club, winning the people's confidence. We needn't be in a hurry. We need to win a lot of things, so we can make small progress. We should win their trust so we can make middle-sized requests to the club administration. We will also make some mistakes along the way. But it's not important how much a person works, rather how much a person adds to himself during the time he works. From this point of view, I see myself as experienced. There are players in the squad, chosen players that have proven their potential. They need a lot of match practice. We took this job, believing in them. I will add many values to this team.
E.Ö: Fenerbahçe has done a lot of things in developing its corporate identity, but why hasn't there been any sportive success? What needs to be done?
Ö.Ö: There's no need to search for one single person to blame. Everyone has a part in this. Starting from the manager selection and those who helped him (including myself). But the least to blame were the players. If a manager cannot establish confidence in his first season, then even a club administration that defends stability will be forced to put an end to this.
In the meantime, Fenerbahçe is a club that has fulfilled all of its priorities; a world class stadium, merchandising success and economic expenditure flexibility. A certain standard has been achieved. It can't go backwards. If we are to look at the squad; in my opinion last season's squad was the best squad in the history of Turkish football, but it wasn't successful.
There's still a good frame and they are making reinforcements. From now on, they will be in the Champions League every season. Daum is a top quality and competitive manager. If in the next ten years, they will be able to compete in the Champions League seven or eight times, they will come to the final step. Eventually reaching the cup final and lifting up the trophy...
E.Ö: What level do you think the Turkish teams will be in next season's European cups?
Ö.Ö: Honestly, I haven't followed Galatasaray, nor Beşiktaş. So I can't comment on them, but I believe Fenerbahçe will be successful in the Europa League.
E.Ö: Can you tell us a little about Zico?
Ö.Ö: From the day he arrived, Zico contributed a lot to us. His counterparts are Pele and Maradona. Working with big stars like this is normally very difficult. But, on the contrary, he didn't have a superstar ego. He was open to communicating with everyone. It was like constant springtime at the Samandıra Facilities. All the staff and workers had the privilege to play football and joke around with Zico. You can't buy this sort of satisfaction with money. Each camp night, he played football with everybody, be it rain or snow. He would tell us all Brazilian jokes. Just talking about him right now, I can feel the sympathy and respect I have in him. Getting to know him was one of the most important things I earned working at Fenerbahçe. He still gives us advice on players, we still keep in touch.
E.Ö: Was Zico's choice of going to Bunyodkor purely a coincidence?
Ö.Ö: Zico wanted to work in Europe. He had a principle of not contacting other clubs before leaving Fenerbahçe definitively; and that's what he did. When his departure got delayed, he was left no choice but to go there. But in the end, he's back. His plan is to exist in Europe. His choice of country is Italy, because he speaks Italian and because he loves Italian football. I told him, he would make a difference in England. British managers aren't very successful in the Premiership anyways. They prefer Latin based managers. Zico will be successful there.