Road to hell and back: the story of Göztepe, Izmir’s red&yellow heart

Written by Luca Grandin – Translated by Bruno Bottaro

Izmir, town of wines and sport. Bittersweet, sometimes: we told you the sad story of Altay SK, the black&white giants that said goodbye even to the third division of Turkish football. Last summer, however, another heart of the town started beating again. Today we’ll find out more about Göztepe SK, the red&yellow Izmir side that played in the Turkish Super Lig for many years.

ROOTS – 14th of june 1925: in Izmir the sports club Göztepe sees the light for the first time. Born from the ideas of some former Altay executives, the club struggles to find its identity in the first years. In 1937 there’s a fusion with another local kulubuIzmirspor, giving birth to a colourless page of the town’s football called Doganspor. Many Izmirspor supporters hated the merger, so they created another club called Atesspor; then Izmirspor was officially back some months later, and Doganspor had no sense of being. Göztepe was back, and this time for a very long time.

1938-89: Göztepe‘s first success, a local title. Two dull seasons, then 3 outstanding Izmir championships (’42, ’43, ’44): Göztepe is a strong and definitely challenging reality. Another 2 titles (’50, ’53) to their board, and the club was ready to jump to the next step which shocked Turkey.

PARADISE: THE FIRST SUPER LIG YEARS – As we reported in the Altay story article, the 1958-1959 season was a complete revolution for Turkish football. The decision was critical: all the local leagues melt in a national one called Milli Lig (nowadays, Super Lig). The Izmir club was admitted to the championship, to the red group against AdaletGençlerbirligi, local rivals KarsiyakaFatih KaragumrukAdana DemirsporVefa Spor and Galatasaray. Surprisingly Göztepe ended their first season with a nice result, a cushy fourth place. The red&yellow army didn’t repeat their first year’s performances, then: two mediocre seasons (14th and 13th), however, didn’t discourage the team. After some average placements, the club stepped up and ended at the 5th place. This was the beginning of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, an historic achievement for Göztepe.

The European adventure of the red&yellow team was interrupted by Petrolul Ploiesti: however, Göztepe didn’t give up and were between the Super Lig characters of the season, ending at the 4th place just behinf the Istanbul big 3.

Another European adventure, and another delusion: this time the Izmir red&yellows found a tough opponent, 1860 Munchen. Winning the home leg 2-1 gave a temporary illusion to Göztepe, that were blown away in Germany by a peremptory 9-1. Once again, not giving up is in the Izmir’s club DNA: their European humiliation didn’t stop their good Super Lig season, with another good 5th place at the end of the 1965-66 season.

Many people don’t know that Italy and Izmir have good relationships and a lot of common ties: maybe Göztepe weren’t so happy about that, when Bologna knocked them off another short European cup experience. The Turkish Super Lig was another story again, with a final 4th place. The 4th European placement for the red&yellow club, which was the most important reality behind Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Besiktas.

HEAVEN: EUROPEAN’S BRUSHED GLORY – The following years at the end of the Sixties are a good photograph of the situation. This time (1967-68) Göztepe found a better form, knocking off Belgian outfit Royal Antwerp and even Spanish giants Atlético Madrid. A pride for Turkey, which was denied by FK Vojvodina: the same club this year eliminated Sampdoria from Europa League. Back in 1968, they ended Göztepe‘s adventure; by the way the Izmir club got another 4th place and entered Europe for the 5th consecutive time.

1968-1969 was the most glorious year for Göztepe‘s history, with a Inter-Cities Fairs Cup semifinal reached by the club. MarseilleAgres PitestiOFK Beograd and Hamburg fell down against the fourth Turkish powerhouse. Just the Hungarian club Ujpest put an end to a legendary journey, always in the hearts of the many Izmir red&yellow supporters. A 7th place in the Super Lig was the consequence of the European hustles; anyway, in the Turkish Cup something incredible was about to happen. After knocking off Ankara Demirspor and Bursaspor, the Izmir underdogs found themselves into a final against Istanbul giants Galatasaray. With a 1-0 win on the home leg, a Nihat Yayoz goal brought Göztepe another trophy; so the club could play again in Europe, this time in the Cup Winners’ Cup (CWC).

The following season began in a bad mood, with Galatasaray getting their revenge in the Turkish Super Cup. The European journey wasn’t legendary either, with Union Luxembourg and Cardiff sent home; AS Roma‘s hyper-power was definitely too much. Again, Göztepe‘s pride got out of nowhere: in the darkest moment, a remuntada to a final 5th place in the league followed by another Turkish Cup win, this time against Eskisehirspor, brought the club to the CWC again.

The surprising cicle of Göztepe donated the club another glorious trophy, the Turkish Super Cup: Fenerbahçe were favourites, but a stunning 3-1 win brought Izmir to Turkey’s heaven. A third place at the end of the year was another certificate of strength; pushed by their proud and infinite supporters Göztepe were fighting with everyone.

PURGATORY: DECLINE – Well, from the Seventies everything changed. This time, for ever. After the great European nights and illusions, Göztepe‘s performances slowly began to fall. 6 mediocre years brought the club to 1977: a dark year, an atrocious beginning of a ignominious trend. After a relegation-fight against Adanaspor, the club took the worst path and got the first humiliating relegation of their history. A Yo-Yo performance trend brought constantly Göztepe in-and-out of the Turkish Super Lig: two promotions and two relegations were the hors d’oeuvre of the forthcoming decline.

17 years spent in the 1.Lig tarnished Göztepe‘s past image. In 1999 the club got the opportunity of a Super Lig experience, but the following year was as short as bad. The Yo-Yo trend was back again, with the club that gained another promotion. After an illusory 7th place in the 2001-2002 season, Göztepe had to deal with bigger issues.

HELL – 2002 meant an economic collapse for the red&yellow army. The team wasn’t too great either, so a relegation was almost taken for granted. After the sports-related mistakes, the following year things got even worse from the economic point of view. The club had to sell their best players and struggled to pay the basic wages of the team. Göztepe collapsed, falling for the first time in their glorious history in the 2.Lig, the Turkish third division.

It was just the beginning of the downfall. Another year, 3.Lig. Then, the lowest point even: the Amateur league. Hell wasn’t supposed to end either: defeated by Ayazagaspor on penalties, Göztepe were forced to play again in a non-professional league.

BACK TO PARADISE? – A merger with Aliaga Belediyespor was the beginning of a new project, with new unhoped horizons for a fallen legend like Göztepe. After two consecutive promotions, the club found itself in the 2.Lig, the Turkish third division. The first season was good, but not great: a defeat in the play-off condemned the Izmir red&yellows to another year of purgatory. In 2010-2011 Göztepe saw the light: Goz Goz were finally back to the 1.Lig after 7 years of nothing. Another economic downfall was behind the corner, with a relegation to 2.Lig ready to dissolve all the hopes in town. But Izmir is strong, is where Turkish football belongs.

Göztepe were meant to fight, and they fought. Last year a promotion with a new president, a new hope, a new story to write. A new cycle began some days ago, in the 1.Lig. Waiting for a promotion to the Super Lig, according to the red&yellow supporters: the club has big plans, including a 15k stadium in town. Izmir is ready to welcome football again. The third Turkish town (after Istanbul and Ankara) can’t be without a team in the main league of the country. Göztepe are ready to climb the 1.Lig mountain, and we’re ready to see one of the hottest European derbies. Göztepe vs Karsiyaka: fasten your belts, Izmir is back to the Turkish football world. The glory of the Sixties might be far, but local fans believe in the dream. Road to hell and back: this is Göztepe, a beautiful story yet to complete.

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