Lefter Küçükandonyadis: Hakan Sükür's Predecessor
When you say great Turkish football, I bet most people will name Galatasaray forward Hakan Sükür. In Turkey, most people think their nation has produced a striker far more talented then the "Bull of the Bosporus." I present to you, Lefter Küçükandonyadis.
I have to admit, when I first read the name in a football game, it sounded like something I'd order at a kebab shop. "I'll have a Lefter Küçükandonyadis please and some fries." It also sounded like a name TV and radio reporters would hate, or a nice name when playing Scrabble.
Some more research dug up an interesting tale. Lovingly referred to as "Ordinaryus" or "Professor", Lefter plied his trade for Istanbul giants Fenerbahçe. The fans dubbed him Professor, as he taught everyone a lesson in goalscoring with his clinical finishing.
His goalscoring record is an impressive one, both domestically and at international level. In 615 matches, Lefter bagged a staggering 423 goals for "Kadıköy". For the national side, he put the ball away 22 times in 55 international games.
In a time when Greece and the former Ottoman Empire were still at each other's throat, Lefter was a multi-cultural player. Born in 1925 as the son of a fisherman of Greek descent and a Turkish mother, he grew up in Istanbul and learned to play football at local club Taksim.
A big fan of Fenerbahçe, Lefter was delighted when he was allowed to play a test match for his favourite side. After excelling in a trial match and scoring four goals, he vanished for a while however. He was afraid he had put his idols to shame and he was afraid the team would reject him.
Fenerbahçe showed no grudges and snapped up the then 22-year-old forward. It was the start of an impressive career that would be high-lighted by many goals and several foreign adventures, which was rather unusual at the time.
Lefter would be the first Turkish players to ply his trade abroad on a professional level. He spent a year in Italy with Fiorentina and a year in France with Nice, before returning to his beloved Fenerbahçe, where he kept breaking goalscoring records.
A saying of the time characterises his enormous drive to score goals and his killer instinct inside the box. Whenever a match had started, the fans used to chant “Ver Leftere yaz deftere,” which roughly translated as "pass the ball to Lefter and we will score."
If you want the chant to sound better, you could go for the English translation that goes like this: "Give Lefter a look, he'll put it in the book."
Breaking record after record, Lefter is still considerd one of the all-time heroes of Turkish football. He was also part of the Turkish squad that managed to beat the Magical Magyars in the late '50s. The Hungarian team, led by star-player Ferenc Puskas hadn't lost in over a year before going down 3-1 in Istanbul, with Lefter scoring twice for Turkey.
His legendary goalscoring skills are still remembered in Turkey, where young talents upfront are not deemed the new Hakan Sükür, but the new Lefter Küçükandonyadis.
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