Turkish National Football Team in New Jersey

The Turkish national football (soccer) team kicked off their U.S. Tour yesterday with a 2-1 exhibition victory over the Czech Republic at Red Bull Arena. It was the venue’s first ever international friendly since the March 20 grand opening two months ago.

While I was doing a photo shoot for my website (susanshan.com) at the W Hotel in Hoboken, New Jersey, I ran into several of the Turkish players. I took a picture with starting defender Caglar Birinci (pictured above). The experience was interesting, to say the least.

Birinci was engaged in conversation with a mysterious gentleman. I approached the pair and asked Birinci if I could take a picture with him. He looked at his handler (i.e. agent, manager, coach). His handler nodded and then Birinci nodded to me as well.

A football player who needs permission to take pictures? Fascinating.

I also met reserve defender Ibrahim Toraman. Toraman spoke limited English but was a pleasure to converse with while I sipped a martini.

Both Toraman and Birinci play in the Turkish Super Lig. Toraman is a 28-year-old who plays for Besiktas JK in Istanbul while Birinci is the 24-year-old vice-captain for Denizlispor in Denizli.

Although Turkey did not qualify for the World Cup, the players were intense and aggressive against the Czech Republic. Part of the reason was because legendary coach Guus Hiddink, who will take over on August 1, was scouting from the stands.

Hiddink is eager to get his new team ready for the match against Kazakhstan on September 3, Turkey’s first qualifier for the 2012 European Championship.

“For me, it’s very important to have these 10 days when I’m starting in August to make analysis to where the strength is, where the weakness is,” he said. “In some part of the game, you can see where strengths can be and also in the later part, where the weaknesses are.”

The team will travel to New Britain, Connecticut next to face Northern Ireland. The remaining schedule on their U.S. Tour is as follows:

May 26: Turkey vs. Northern Ireland, Veterans Stadium, New Britain, CT; 1:30 pm
May 29: Turkey vs. United States, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA; 2:00 pm

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