Belgium is a world brand in football… Number two in FIFA ranking. He left his mark with the football players he has trained in the last 20 years.
In this country, which we can now call the cradle of football, a Turk achieves important successes. Hasan Çetinkaya, who started professional football management at the age of 21, became the general manager of Gençlerbirliği Club at the age of 24 and worked for Fenerbahçe for many years, is now 41 years old.
Çetinkaya, who has been the 2nd President of the Westerlo Club for three years, is achieving significant success with his 20 years of experience. The process, which started with the purchase of the club by President Oktay Ercan, was crowned with the championship this season and Westerlo is now in the Jupiler Plo League…
One of Çetinkaya’s goals is to participate in European cups with Westerlo, a town team with a population of 4,000. We had a pleasant conversation about football with Hasan Çetinkaya, the club’s vice president and one of the architects of this success.
– How was your journey to Belgium? You settled with your family. Did you get used to Belgium?
“After the presidential elections in 2018, I had an uncertain period that lasted until August. Actually, President Ali Koç did not want to leave me, he said, “I don’t want to lose you.” I left in August. I decided not to work for a year.”
“A lot of offers came in that season. When we came to the end of the season, it was May 2019. I received an offer from top-level clubs at home and from the Chinese Football Federation from abroad. Just at that stage, Oktay Ercan came with the Westerlo project. He said that he bought the club, it is important here. He said that he wanted to create a model. I made an evaluation with my family and I was warmly interested in this project. After making such a decision as a family, we all settled in Belgium, Brussels.”
“Being Turkish in Belgium”
– What was the biggest challenge and convenience you experienced there?
“Being a foreigner, especially being accepted as a Turk, was not easy in the Belgian market. There was a prejudice against our country and us. In this sense, we had to make a serious effort. Their comfort is an organized, orderly country. Its system has settled over the years. It complies with European standards. “He lives one by one. The infrastructure and superstructure are settled. I can say that it was an important comfort because we only focused on football.”
– What are the main differences between the functioning of football in the two countries?
“I can say very clearly in Belgium that football is always kept in the foreground. However, in our country, unfortunately, it cannot be said that we put football in our center. It is not possible to talk about real football, to talk about a sector in which football men take an active role. We love the life around it. We don’t really spend much time on football in our professional working life in Turkey. But there is a football life that revolves around chaotic events, turmoil, confusion, crisis. In Belgium, it is short. “We have a daily life that revolves around football plans in the medium and long term. I wish we could create an environment where we only talk football in our country. However, this is not an easy thing.”
– How was Westerlo’s championship story? What were the breaking moments? There must have been disappointments.
“Westerlo’s championship story is very valuable to us… If we set aside 5-6 big clubs in Belgium, the majority of other clubs have foreign investors. These are the most important funds in the world. The biggest clubs in the world have pilot teams here. It is really valuable to compete, to stand out from them, to achieve success and become a champion.”
“Not only is this our personal success, in a sense, we represent our country here. I think it is very valuable in this sense as well. Here we put forward a project. We put forward a three-year project. The project had three legs. We carried out many construction activities in the first year. Then we tried to bring the club to a corporate structure. We transferred our knowledge and experience here. Of course, improving the financial structure and bringing it to a sustainable economic structure… This was very important. We took steps in this area as well.”
“Besides, we tried to create a team that is competitive in football and plays to the top. This is not easy. Because a team trying to stay in the relegation is a psychology revolving around this… We made a technical change this year. We appointed Jonas de Roeck, a really valuable coach. “We brought a championship goal. From the first day to the last day, we were a team with great stability and dominance in every match. It was a championship we deserved.”
“Our feet are on the ground”
– What is your goal with the President? Where would you like to see Westerlo? How many years are we talking about?
“President Oktay Ercan is one of the most important businessmen our country has produced. He represents our country well in the international arena. He has jobs in the most important countries of the world.”
– He has a very nice saying in the Westerlo project, “We want to write a success story with a town team”.
“This is our biggest goal. It is our biggest dream to take the town, which I call a small town team, with a stadium of 8 thousand people and a population of 4 thousand, to the European cups. In this sense, we are realistic. Our feet are on the ground. We want to go step by step. Mayor Ercan He is an idealist in this regard. He is a person with a high level of organizational ability, who puts forward an important vision and has serious disciplined corporate intelligence.”
“We build from scratch”
Despite your young age, you left as an experienced and senior manager. What did you learn there?
“I am the youngest person to be a professional football manager in the world. I was appointed as the general manager of Gençlerbirliği at the age of 24, and most of the players were older than me. Therefore, I am young, but I have a lot of work experience.” “I have done this job for years in a world giant like Fenerbahçe. In this sense, I have significant knowledge and experience.”
“I learned a lot more about the infrastructure organization here. I gained very valuable experience. For me, Westorlo is another level after Fenerbahçe. I see this place a little more like my own child. We are building something from scratch.”
‘The scissors are too wide’
Are there any players you are considering buying from Turkey? What are your criteria?
“We have tried and tried to get it until today. We offered this opportunity to Berke and Barış. We have made very serious contributions to both learning professionalism, training discipline and tactical awareness. We also made a serious contribution to their maturity. Berke wearing the Fenerbahçe jersey for weeks.” We are proud to watch Barış’s success after returning to Gençlerbirliği.”
“All of the Turkish players are technically at the level to play here. However, the main difference is physically and tactically… The scissors are really wide open. The pace and physical quality of football here has to be at a very high level. Without them, they don’t even have a chance to go to training.” “Lastly, we recruited Halil Akbunar, who has done very well in Göztepe, to our team.”
“If Lightning won, Puyvelde would come”
Explaining that Chris van Puyvelde, who brought Belgian football to this day, agreed with Fenerbahçe President Aziz Yıldırım, Hasan Çetinkaya explained that the contract was canceled because the election was lost.
Emphasizing that the Belgian football model is the number one football model realized in the last 20 years, Hasan Çetinkaya emphasized that this should be applied to Turkey.
Explaining that one of the election promises of President Aziz Yildirim in the 2018 Fenerbahce elections was to bring Chris van Puyvelde to head the academy, Çetinkaya said, “In fact, a contract was signed with him. Who is Chris van Puyvelde? The person who created the Belgian football model… At the beginning of the 2000s, Belgian football was not mentioned much. In fact, our National Team could easily beat Belgium. Towards the end of the 2000s, there was a tremendous explosion of players. We call it a small country, but it has started to train the world’s most important players. There was an ongoing production of football players such as Hazard, Kompany, Lukaku, Witsel, De Bruyne.
Stating that the agreement with Puyvelde was canceled because Aziz Yıldırım could not win the election, Hasan Çetinkaya continued as follows:
“He is now the director of the Chinese Football Association. What does this football model encompass? This is a great program that integrates football from the youngest age to the professional level, especially in school life. What are the technical, tactical, physical, modern football requirements? The programs of each of these have been created since the age of 5. This includes talent development programs. Can they be applied in our country? The truth of the matter is that I am not very hopeful, but I wish they were implemented…”