February 12, 2019

Ambitious Altinordu Aim to Revolutionize Turkish Football

Turkish club Altinordu FK have enjoyed testing themselves against bigger clubs at the Alkass International Cup, but now they aim to make their mark on the world.

Formed in 1923, Altinordu is one of the oldest clubs in Turkey, but it was only 10 years ago that their exciting project to revolutionize Turkish football was launched.

The club currently occupy a play-off spot in 1 Lig, Turkey’s second division, but while they may not be the best senior team in the country, at junior level it is another matter.

It may be some time before they are ready to meet teams of Bayern Munich’s class at senior level, as getting into Turkey’s top-flight (the Superlig) is more on their minds right now than competing in the Champions League, but Altinordu’s Under 17s did hold Bayern to a draw on their way to topping their group at Alkass.

“Our club’s academy is the best in Turkey,” says a proud Ilker Seven, the Head Coach of Altinordu’s Under 17 side. He added: “We are a player’s factory, selling many players to big clubs, including in Europe.”

Cengiz Ünder, now playing for Roma in Serie A, began his career with the ‘Golden Army’, while another player to come through the ranks is Çağlar Söyüncü who is now with former English Premier League champions Leicester City.

The defender made his debut for the senior national team debut in 2016, becoming the first Altinordu player for 78 years to be called up by Turkey.
Altinordu were bought by Seyit Mehmet Ozkan in 2009, and he set out to build a club purely using homegrown talent.

Seven said: “It is only 10 years since the club was bought, so the project is still very young. Seyit is a prominent Turkish businessman with a steel factory and he is a football fan.
“His vision is to give Turkish players a chance. There are 197 players in our academy and 12,000 players in football schools across Turkey.”

Altinordu, based in Izmir, have a mission to develop players both on and off the pitch and they aspire to gain promotion to the top flight where they hope to field a completely homegrown team. And they don’t plan to stop there, as they have a dream of fielding an entire homegrown team in major European competitions within the next five years.

Ozkan’s vision is to benefit both club and country as he hopes that by getting into one of the two major UEFA competitions – the Europa League, or preferably the Champions League, their players will come to the attention of bigger European clubs and will earn big money moves that would see them gain experience that would help the Turkish national team.

Ozkan wants to bring through players that are of good character as well as bringing talent to the pitch, and more than half of the first team – which has an average age of 21 – is now made up of players who have come through the club’s academy.

Altinordu would love to break into Turkey’s elite and prove themselves against the likes of Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besikstas, who are all from the capital city of Istanbul. That trio have relatively few homegrown players so it’s an ambitious plan for Altinordu to match them without high profile signings. While Turkey’s big guns splash out on star signings, Altinordu invest heavily in other things like infrastructure, coaching and vast grounds. That has enabled them to set up four centers – in Yesilyurt, Torbali, Selcuk and Kusadasi. The club provide accommodation, have a sports science and dietary team, provide match analysis, and boast UEFA Pro and A license level coaches throughout the youth sides, so it is no surprise that they impressed against higher profile clubs at Alkass.

As well as developing players’ footballing ability, Altinordu educate players in other ways. It’s all part of a plan to help their players cope in modern football, so players are given social media courses as well as teaching personal development, football history, English, gymnastics, judo, and even chess and farming. Such attention to detail may be common at major European clubs but it is very rare in Turkey.

Altinordu’s influence is Spanish rather than Turkish though as they use Athletic Bilbao as their role models. Bilbao famously only sign players from the Basque region, and their youth academy is known as ‘cantera’, which translates to quarry in Spanish.

The Spaniards look to develop players from childhood and bring the best all the way through to the senior teams, and it is a romantic idea that appeals to Ozkan, who has built close links with Bilbao.
Altinordu’s approach has attracted interest from Premier League clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool, along with other major European outfits like Barcelona, Bayern and Roma, and we could yet see some of the players who have shone at Alkass – such as striker Enis Destan – progressing to bigger clubs in the near future. Not all of their talented players join overseas clubs though as Berke Ozer, dubbed the ‘Turkish Gianluigi Donnarumma’ was snapped up by Fenerbahce under the noses of Manchester City.

Having bought the club for $10 US million, Ozcan pumps in a further $2 million per year to run the club, and by cultivating the enormous talent that lies in the club’s academy he hopes to show the world that Turkish youngsters can become a success. Ozkan added: “These children are our future so we need to raise them well. Our motto is ‘good person, good citizen, good footballer’, and if we can nurture the really talented players we have then we can produce the best generation this country has seen for a long time.

“Our mission, our vision and values are clear; we want our kids to reach the highest level in world football,” Ozkan adds. “The reason we exist is to develop homegrown players who are capable of playing for the best clubs in the world. Turkey is currently an importer of footballers, but we want to transform the country into an exporter of talent. In order to change the perception of Turkish football we have to produce players of the highest caliber.”

Ozcan concluded: “If a player is good enough we will give him a shot. We even have an under-six team coming through the ranks and our aim is not just Europe; our sons will play across the world.”
“We are a feeder club; our goal is to always be one, but one that is also able to be competitive, and with our philosophy, our investment, and with patience we are confident of achieving our goals.”