The Harrington Cup, Back in 1923

Baris GercekerCorrespondent IOctober 22, 2008

This huge trophy is considered as the most important trophy that Fenerbahçe won in its 101 years of history. It is made of silver and is 1 meter tall (approximately 3 feet, 4 inches).

The trophy, the game that brought this tall trophy to Fenerbahçe's museum, the course of time are still heavily discussed among Turkish fans too, depending on the colors that they sympathise of course. Galatasaray and Besiktas fans have a lot to say about the trophy but I do not intend to include those in this article right now (Briefly, our rivals' fans defend that, playing a game with invading nation's team is betrayal, treachery, that the players should have been on the fronts, battling etc. Historians of Fenerbahçe definitely have answers to those, including the names of Fenerbahçe players who both played for the team and was killed on the war fronts, so I am not uncomfortable with our rivals' unfair thoughts).

At the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire were considered defeated and its lands have been invaded by Italian, French, Greek and British troops. On November 13th, 1918 British troops entered Istanbul and invasion was official.

During the course of invasion British troops arranged football matches with local teams. It still is a policy conducted by troops in foreign lands, considered as a P.R. thing. Fenerbahçe took place in many games and won 41 of 50 games played and lost only 5, 4 games ended with a draw.

Fenerbahçe was secretly moving guns to the Anatolia meanwhile from its club building near Kurbagalidere (can be translated as Froggy Creek) by small boats. Also the club's players were going to fronts, fighting against the invading troops, returning to Istanbul to play games and moving more guns and ammo.

The British forces realized this as well so they raided the club building but club members got early information about the raid so the guns and ammo were moved and hidden in club members' houses or warehouses. The invasion forces were not able to find anything but they stayed in the club building for days to prevent further action.

The head commander of British troops was General Harrington and he was quite upset with this progress. He was looking for victory on the pitch as well as the war itself, while Turkish people were fighting with incredible manner all over the country.

It so happened that the Turk's resistance was finally paying off, invasion forces was strongly pushed back, victories in many fronts by sacrifices of Turkish people were taking place.

As it happens, the invasion started to fade, at the same time te Treaty of Lausanne was on the horizon, and the Brits were getting ready to leave Istanbul. Then came the ultimate final game, initiated by General Harrington.

General Harrington wanted to leave the Turks with a memory of a heavy defeat whilst the British left, so he called in the best players of the Irish Guards, Grenadier Guards and Goldstream Guards along with 4 professional players called in from the homelands. The team was collected under the name of the Goldstream Guards and the British General issued an announcement in the newspapers. The announcement read like this:

"Gardler Muhteliti Türk kulüplerine meydan okuyor. Galibine, Başkumandanın adını taşıyan büyük bir kupa verilecek bu maça Türk kulüpleri diledikleri gibi takviye de alabilirler."

Translation: "Guards Joint is challenging the Turkish clubs. The Turkish clubs can gather any reinforcements to their clubs for this game whose winner will be awarded a trophy which will be named after the Head Commander."

Fenerbahçe replied briefly, with another announcement which was printed in the newspapers the following days:

"Fenerbahçe Kulübü yalnız kendi kadrosuyla bu maçı şartsız olarak kabul eder."

Translation: "Fenerbahçe Club accepts this proposal with only its own squad, unconditionally."

The game took place in the Taksim Stadium on June 23rd, 1923. The Governor of Malta, Lord Plummer took his seat in the VIP along with General Harrington.

Fenerbahçe's line-up was like this:

Sekip Kulaksizoglu - Hasan Kamil Sporel, Cafer Çagatay - Kadri, İsmet, Fahir - Sabih, Alaeddin Baydar, Zeki Riza Sporel, Ömer Tanyeri, Bedri Gürsoy.

The game was quite a close encounter in which the Guards Joint took the lead in the first half. Fenerbahçe took control of the game in the second half, Zeki Riza's equaliser came on the 61st minute.

The same striker scored the winner in the 74th minute and Fenerbahçe continued to push forward in the remaining time but was unable to score another goal. 2-1 was enough to secure the win and the huge trophy.

The victory was of course celebrated crazily (of course according to the definition of the word "crazy" on those days conditions!), the team was carried on shoulders down all the way to the tunnel (still functions as one of the World's oldest tube train, ancestor of the subways of today). The information of the victory was given to the Turkish generals discussing treaty conditions in Lausanne, Ismet Inönü (who is the second president of Republic of Turkey, after Atatürk) replied with a telegram saying:

"Heyetimiz namına hepinizi meserretle tebrik eder, gözlerinizden öperim."

Translation: "On behalf of our committee I congratulate all of you with joy and kiss your eyes."

I have seen the trophy with my own two eyes in our museum, which lacks in a major European or intercontinental trophy but it really didn't matter, it still gave me the creeps and brought tears to my eyes. I clearly understand the claims pushed forward by Galatasaray and Besiktas fans upon this trophy, upon Fenerbahçe's role in the War of Independence etc. Because fans are fans and they interpret almost everything through glasses of their own colors. We do the same too, find faults in them for the same era or later on. Does not really matter.

That 1-meter tall silver trophy is one of the most meaningful trophies of all from my point of view.