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Women Take The Field

Galatasaray Hepsiburada Women’s Football Team stands out with its young players and is on the pitch to make a difference in sports. Coach Nurcan Çelik is a unique personality who has dedicated her life to football. She has told us about her story in which she has fitted enough milestones for a few lifetimes, a long career during which she played in almost all corners of the pitch, and many new beginnings. Young players Zeynep Ece Güneş, Zehra Yılmaz, and Yaren Çetin told us about how they started playing football and their dreams about the future.

Jumpsuit: Vakko Couture

Sunglasses: Tom Ford

How did you start playing football?

In 1993, when the league was first established, there was a player in Galatasaray whom I admired so I found myself at Bursaspor club and started playing there. In 1996, I was invited to the recently-founded national team, where I played for 18 years. From Bursaspor, I transferred to Zeytinburnuspor which won the championship in two seasons and then to Wolfsburg where when the Women’s Football League was halted in Turkey.

At the national team camp in 2008, you learned about your diagnosis of thyroid cancer.

Yes. I had a mass in my throat. I thought it was just swollen and aching because of the high tempo. The doctor of the national team believed it to be something else and sent me to an ENT doctor. They did a biopsy and told me that I had cancer. I underwent treatment and was getting better when I learned that I had it for the second time. My biological mother died of breast cancer when I was four. My second mother also died of the same disease in 2003. Maybe because our hometown is in Artvin, close to the Black Sea, due to Chernobyl, but my family has a lot of cancer patients. That day, I had a practice match with Fatih Vatan Spor. I think I had cried myself dry by the time I got there. During the match, I stood on the sideline first. Then, I walked onto the pitch and enjoyed playing a lot, relieving my melancholy up there. After the game, I told my doctor that I wanted to go further with treatment.

You have many new beginnings in your career, such as your position as the goalkeeper.

I started as a player but our goalkeepers were injured and not many people wanted to play that position. My trainer said, “You’re the most well-built player of the team. Can you play goalkeeper for a few games at least?” My father would never let me play football if he heard I was the goalkeeper because, in his head, it meant you didn’t really know how to play it. I accepted to be the goalkeeper for a few games so as not to hurt my trainer but my goalkeeping career started off with a disaster. I scored an own goal. I almost gave up football but the fact that I played for Bursaspor and trained with the groundwork coach of goalkeeping made me love it.

Who supported you as you experienced these new beginnings?

Until his death, my father. He loved football and was a big Galatasaray fan. Unfortunately, he didn’t live a long life. I started playing football in 1993, and he died in 1996. I was on my own after that. Maybe, even if I asked someone for support, I would be left on my own at a certain point. The death of my parents, followed by the struggle that is my football career, and the desire to play women’s football which still hadn’t earned the place it deserved in Turkey - all of it was hard. But I was a little girl in love with football, and I know that there are other girls like me out there. I don’t want them to give up.

After creating your own team, you also changed positions, didn’t you?

Yes, because I always regretted not playing mid-field because Kosećki, whom I admired, was a centre forward. He always wore number 10. I couldn’t get the zero but I got the one. I wore number 1 for many years but didn’t want to wear 10 anymore because everybody loved that number so I wanted others to have it. I asked for 8 because I was from Artvin but that too was taken. I then asked for 88 and that’s been my number ever since.

You coach now and your team, Galatasaray, has the youngest age average in the league.

In Turkey, there’s this culture that always pushes girls into the background. I wanted to get out from the back, to be radical. We have kids coming in from every city and region in Turkey. They’re not that self-confident at first. I’ve always wanted children to gain confidence, to have a firmer grip on life, and to feel more freedom. Today, these kids from a club of Galatasaray’s scope within the First League engage in utmost struggle with rival teams which have skilled foreign players. I’m a little nationalistic in that aspect; I want the national team to succeed as well. Why should Coach Necla (Güngör Kırağası) be concerned?

There has been a significant change this year, and Turkcell Women’s Super League was established. What do you think should come next?

Economic revenue should be directed more towards the funding of women’s football. Gender inequality is highly visible in terms of finances. Men and women do not make the same amount of money but they’re expected to perform at the same level. Women’s league should not be played on artificial grass, and it needs to return to real stadiums. We’re Galatasaray Sports Club but we’re playing on the pitch of an amateur sports club. We need to be professional. Most of the players within the league have regular jobs; they go to work during the day and come to training in the evening. It’s really hard.

How does it feel to be the first coach of Galatasaray Hepsiburada Women’s Football Team?

I’m very happy of course. First and foremost, it’s the team I support. Second of all, I feel like I’ve put a huge effort into women’s football and someone has rewarded me. I feel so proud.

Hepsiburada has been built on women’s effort. In addition to its founder and chairman Hanzade Doğan, nearly half of the company’s employees are women. Hepsiburada hopes to see women claiming a space and feel empowered in all areas of society and continues its efforts to support women’s participation in the economy of Turkey. The brand makes an effort to put women “on the pitch” in all aspects of life, and it’s no surprise to see it lend its name to Galatasaray Sports Club Women’s Football Team, which has been re-established this season. On the contrary, it’s a demonstration of Hepsiburada’s intention. The collaboration with Galatasaray Sports Club Women’s Football Team, one of the oldest sports clubs in Turkey, represents the philosophy to include women and girls in business, commerce, education, art, and sports, i.e. their participation in all areas of life, on the green pitch.


Body, blazer: Suud

Pants: Nike

Shoes: Attico

Bag: Derimod

How old are you? When did you start playing football?

I’m 17 years old. I started playing football when I was 7. I play for Galatasaray and Turkey U19 Women’s National Football Team.

You scored the first goals of your career against Dudullu Spor. They were also the first goals of the new Galatasaray Women’s Football Team in an away game so you made history. What did you feel when you scored that goal?

I joined the game later on. I was very excited and enthusiastic. I felt so happy and proud to score.

How did things go for you after that day?

It was good but I didn’t play for a long time. During the second half of the league, we played against Dudullu and, this time, I scored two goals. I think my luck coincides with them. (laughs)

How is the atmosphere in the team?

We have a good team. We’re young so we get along easily.

You are much younger than the rest of the teams in the league. How does it make you feel when you are playing? Luckily, the older players in the league set a great example for us. They always guide us when we’re playing. İsmigül (Yalçıner), for instance. It’s good practice for us. That’s how we learn.

Do you feel worried about playing against older and more experienced players?

They’re more experienced in terms of age, sure, but our physicality is above other teams. We’re very mobile so sometimes the rival team can feel like, “What is that?”

How did you start playing football?

I played for Rüzgarlıbahçe Spor. I had a star girls game. Coach Nurcan saw me play and took an interest. I talked to her and transferred to Nurçelik Spor. I played for Kireçburnu for a season and then transferred to Galatasaray.

Where did your interest in football come from?

When I was little, I visited Galatasaray’s groundwork, and they thought I was inadequate. I was a bit smaller physically. I got ambitious and worked hard to come where I am. I have two older brothers so I play with them.

What has been the most memorable game of your career?

The game where I scored two goals against Dudullu.

What are your goals?

I want to play for an international team such as Barcelona.


Jacket, pants: Cekette

Body: Nike, Shoes: Academia

How did you start playing football?

I started playing football at high school. Before that, I did aikido and judo for eight years but I was more inclined towards football. It has a special place for me.

Were you supported by your family?

My family has always supported me. They were very encouraging. Even when I wanted to give up playing, they wouldn’t let me, and I’m really happy they didn’t.

Do you remember your first game?

I do. I was very young. It was difficult but also great.

What is your position?

I usually play mid-field but coaches change my positions sometimes. I have to play every position.

You have just transferred to Galatasaray from Bursa. Can you tell us about your transfer?

My father pushed me into it to be honest. For various reasons, I wasn’t planning on planning this year but my father didn’t want me to quit. He kept making an effort and doing research. I can say I owe it to my father to be here. He’s my biggest support.

Do you have a role model in football?

Both Ronaldo and Messi are amazing players but Messi is a special player for me. I admire Lionel Messi.

What is the most memorable game in your career?

I played with Ağaköy in Bursa against Konak Spor for U15. I could never forget that game because it was so competitive. They scored and then we scored. We turned it from 2-0 to 2-2 but were defeated by 4-2. Still, it was the most unforgettable game in my life. Konak had a great team. Even being able to play against them felt good for us.

Women’s football is relatively new but it’s growing with fast and significant steps. What do you think can be improved?

Support and value. I don’t think people value us as players that much. When we make even a small mistake, people start asking, “What are you doing there?” or “Do you know how to play?” I don’t think this is right. We should be supported because that’s how we become stronger. Women’s football has begun to grow, and I believe it will have a better place.

What are your personal goals?

If I can, I’d like to play for the national team. I want to further improve and work harder to earn better achievements.


Blazer, leggings, shorts: Academia

Body: Nike

How did you start playing football?

Like all the other girls, I started by playing on the streets. My father’s love of football supported me. Later on, my phys-ed teacher Salih Dere discovered my inclination, and I enrolled in a futsal game. There was a new club in our city. I got an offer from them and started achieving my dreams by playing there.

How far do your dreams go?

There are no limits to my dreams but I’d love to play abroad, for example Barcelona, in the Spanish League. I graduated from physical education teaching and would love to be a trainer someday. All my dreams are about football.

How does it feel to play within Turkcell Women’s Super League?

It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s even more amazing to play for Galatasaray. Each game, we get up on the pitch believing in ourselves. We always try to do more than our best. It’s a responsibility to be able to serve this club.

Was Group B, where you played, a bit more challenging?

Yeah, ours is harder compared to the other one because the competition is fiercer. Each team is very close in terms of performance, and you can never tell who will win. If we can make it to the play-offs, I believe we can win the championship.

Do you have a nickname? How do you get along with your teammates?

They call me Sincap (“squirrel” in Turkish). I think Zeynep is the funniest among us. Ela (Laçin) was our best scorer but she got injured.

You play right fielder and stopper. Do you enjoy playing defence?

Yeah, I do. It’s a comfortable position. When you’re playing front or scorer, there’s more pressure so it’s more critical.

Do you have a role model, as in a player you admire or a team you enjoy watching?

I don’t think football is played well in Turkey. Other countries are way better than us so it’s more pleasant to watch. Everybody has a role model and, based on my position, mine would be Sergio Ramos.

What are the challenges of being a female athlete in Turkey?

People underestimate us because they believe we’re playing men’s sports, and they compare us with themselves. I think we’re better and stronger. And we can play this game better than them. I really believe this.


Editor in Chief: İrem Bakic & Selim Can Çelik

Digital Content Manager: Gökhan Oğuz Ünal

Photography: Memet Erol

Photography Assistants: Melis Albayrak, Melih Aran

Styling: Bengisu Gürel

Styling Assistants: Gözde Ekici, Aylin Kısa

Hair: Engin Aktaş

Makeup: Nihal Dinç

Production: Müge Sarıoğlu

Production Assistant: Bilun Atikkan


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