Colin Kazım: "I Never Regret Choosing To Play For Turkey"Interview • Author: Mehmet Pozam • Sunday, November 8, 2009
Yellow Canaries attacking midfielder Colin Kazım-Richards gave an exclusive interview to Fenerbahçe Magazine this month and revealed all about his personal life and professional career. As Fenerbahçe Worldwide, we present Yellow Canaries fans across the globe, a sneak peek into the world of Colin Kazım. In Part One, Colin speaks about how he began playing football, the story behind his nickname 'The Coca-Cola Kid' and his arrival to Fenerbahçe.
Fenerbahçe Magazine: Kazım, first of all, in official records like the TFF website your name goes by as Kazım Kazım. Some people call you Colin Kazım and some just call you Colin. Your surname is Richards. Amongst all these variations, how do you want to be called?
Colin Kazım-Richards: Well, my first name is Colin. Here, sometimes it turns into Colin Kazım, sometimes Colin Kazım Richards and sometimes Kazım Kazım. But I don’t prefer any of these. Maybe the Turkish people want to call me that way. For example, in England they would always call me Colin Kazım. My surname is Richards. Kazım Kazım, for me, is a difficult name. But I prefer being called with my first name Colin or Colin Kazım.
F.M: What about your family background? Your mother is a Turkish Cypriot and your father is from the Caribbean’s. And you were born in England. How did your mum come to England? How did she and your dad meet? Have you ever been to KKTC (Turkish Republic of Notrthern Cyprus) or your dad’s country Antigua and Barbuda?
CKR: I’ve been to Cyprus three times. 2.5 years ago when I was transferred to Fenerbahçe, I had flown into Istanbul from Antigua and Barbuda. My mum goes from Cyprus to London at the age of four. I don’t know how my parents met; maybe on the street, maybe at a party, maybe at a football match or maybe somewhere else. I don’t know exactly how they came together, but what’s important is that they did. This happened 24 years ago. My brothers and I are obviously very happy that our parents met. They met in London. My dad is black; my mum is white and Turkish. In those days, there wasn’t a mutual support between blacks and whites in England as there is today. So this is actually a good example. One of them came from an island in the middle of the Atlantic, and the other came from an island in the middle of the Mediterranean and they met in London. Both of them have come from countries having wonderful qualities; and this is unison of the two. I speak for both myself and my brothers: this is a very beautiful, very interesting, very rare thing. I can say that I’m a unique mix.
F.M: How many brothers do you have?
CKR: We were three brothers. I had two younger brothers. However, one of them unfortunately died. Now I have a 17-year-old brother.
F.M: I know you began playing football in England at the age of five. Can you tell us about your football career in England?
CKR: I began playing football in our back yard when I was five years old. The first time I played for a club was when I started playing football for an amateur club in East London called Interwood FC at the age of nine. Interwood was owned by a friend of ours, so it was like a family club. I believe that one shouldn’t forget where he comes from. That’s why, even right now; I keep helping out Interwood, like an honorary president; giving them money for their facilities or buying clothes and kits for the kids. I played at Interwood for three years. Then I went to Queens Park Rangers when I was 11-12 years old. After QPR, I was transferred to Arsenal and I stayed there for another three years. After Arsenal, at 15, I went to Second Division side FC Bury. I began at FC Bury reserve team and went up to the A team, when I was 17 years old. I played 12-13 professional games there. This was during a period of six months. After that, although there were other clubs in the picture, with a £150,000 sponsorship deal, I went to Championship side Brighton. I stayed at Brighton for a season and it was a successful year. I was the team’s top goal scorer. This period was great in terms of showing my abilities. From then on, I went to Premier League club Sheffield United. That was a very good season for me and I played in about 30 games. Things had gone really great for me there. I had become a first-team player after just two or three training sessions. Of course, I was only 19-20 years old at that time. But I stayed at Sheffield United for one season and the team relegated at the end of the season. In the final week, Manchester United was playing West Ham United at home. Manchester lost that game; West Ham had beaten Manchester United at the Old Trafford. If we had drawn our game, we would have stayed in the Premier League, but we lost our last game against Wigan and we relegated. We could have stayed in the league with only a draw. If both teams lost in the last week, West Ham would have relegated. It was a rare and unique day for football. It was a big disappointment and misfortune for us.
F.M: One of your nicknames in England was ‘The Coca-Cola Kid’. I bet there is an interesting story behind this. Can you possibly tell us?
CKR: I was playing at FC Bury. At that time, there were a lot of teams that were after me. A supporter in Brighton wins a lottery from a number that was written inside the cap of the Coca-Cola bottle he was drinking. The lottery was a contest for clubs in the Championship and lower leagues, between club owners and supporters. The lottery prize from Coca-Cola was $250,000 and with this money you got the chance to select and buy football players for your club. So players were transferred from the lottery prize money. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t the prize and the supporter that won the lottery wasn’t the one who picked me. Besides, according to the contest rules it wasn’t the supporter’s choice, but it was the club officials. Brighton officials and technical staff transferred me with the prize money from the lottery. They could have transferred someone else, but they preferred me. That’s why one of my nicknames in England was ‘The Coca-Cola Kid’.
F.M: Turkish football fans got to know you, when you started playing for the Turkish National Team. Representatives from the National Team contacted you and you preferred to play for Turkey. How did this all happen?
CKR: I don’t know how the first contact was made with Fatih Terim. Maybe it was the Federation that asked to follow on such player and do some research. But they first contacted me through a TFF representative in Germany. When I received the offer for Turkey U21, I accepted it straight away. Turkey was a rising country in terms of National Team performance. I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity for me. Two days after I signed, I received an offer from the English FA. So I rejected their offer and told them I had signed for Turkey.
F.M: So, do you regret choosing Turkey?
CKR: Never. Choosing to play for Turkey was one of the best things I did in my life, for my career.
F.M: How did you find Turkey and Istanbul? Do you like living here, being at Fenerbahçe? What does Fenerbahçe mean to you?
CKR: First of all, I’m delighted to be here. I really like Turkey and especially Fenerbahçe. Fenerbahçe is maybe even one of the best three teams in Europe. The supporters keep constant track and in that sense, they are a very important club. Turkey is very beautiful. Istanbul is maybe one of the best five cities in the world. But the mentality over here is a bit different for me. I had hard time getting used to here at first, because everyone over here was curious about what I was doing, where I was going, whom I was with, what I was eating, what I was drinking. And also, football is like a religion in Turkey. Here, nothing is forgotten. The tension is very high in games. For example, if you lose a match in England, you shut your door and that is your own space. You can stay in your private space. But here, even if you shut your door, the gardener trimming your grass suddenly turns into your football coach, as if he was Christoph Daum, and starts asking questions like, “Why did this happen? Where did it go wrong? How will the team overcome this?” So, everyone in Turkey is a football manager.
Stay tuned at Fenerbahçe Worldwide for the second part of the Colin Kazım-Richards interview...
(Interview and photo courtesy of Fenerbahçe Magazine; Translation by Mehmet Pozam)