By Richard Beale ……

With local football at last winding down this gives me the opportunity to give some background information to accompany Graham Procter-Brown’s brilliant video on how Esentepe Football Club gained promotion to the Super League in Season 2017-18.

Our journey began last September in the new revamped K-Pet League 1, which to me looked a very difficult and competitive League. For me just to stay in this League was my objective especially during the summer Esentepe, due to lack of money, sold or loaned out a number of their better players. Esentepe Football Club have never had money they have always been a Club that develops youngsters, bringing them on and then transferring them.

I looked at the squad and was very apprehensive but little did I know what was going to happen.

ESENTEPE KKSK Team 2017-18 and right the “Messiah” Coach Davut Kansu

We managed to retain the services for a second season of Coach Davut Kansu, who in his first major Coaching appointment last season, just failed to get Esentepe promoted to the Super League. Davut recruited very wisely bringing in 4 players that would prove invaluable to the team during the season.

KEMAL MOLLA an experienced and capable goalkeeper came on loan from Alsancak. Not only did he prove he was an excellent keeper he was a good character which helped develop team spirit.

HASAN ÖZÇELIK an experienced striker arrived from Turkey, with an incredible goal scoring record.

İSMAİL UÇAR again a very experienced defender who could also play in midfield was signed on loan from Girne Halk Evi.

YAKUP ŞEN a teenager (19) came on loan from Super League Club Yenicami coming to gain experience but showed tremendous maturity in midfield and finished the season like a seasoned campaigner.

FOUR OUTSTANDING SIGNINGS : l-r KEMAL, HASAN, ISMAIL and YAKUP

Esentepe started the season against newly promoted Akova and ran out 4-1 winners with Hasan Özçelik proving what a prolific goalscorer he is by netting twice. Goalkeeper Kemal immediately endeared himself to the Esentepe faithful by saving not one penalty but two.

After four matches of the season, Esentepe found themselves in second place and unbeaten. That run came to an end when they were beaten at home by the eventual Champions Gönyeli 3-1. The Lefkoşa side looked impressive a class above Esentepe boys against men, another defeat in the next match followed away to Göçmenköy 1-0 as the team fell to a mid table position.

From that moment on the 28th October Esentepe did not look back as they finished the first half of the season, going into the winters break unbeaten and by mid December they were lying in second place behind Gönyeli. The team put together an 8 match unbeaten run, which included some outstanding performances winning 5-2 away to Degirmenlik. They also beat at home, teams that were in the top half of the table Girne Halk Evi 3-2, Maraş 2-1. The team were full of confidence and everything was rosy going into the break.

During the winter break Esentepe lost the services of the exciting and talented 19 year old defender EMRE SOYTÜRK, who went to have trials with Galatasary. We could not deny him this great opportunity and he went with our blessings and well wishes. Subsequently he has signed an Under 21 contract with the Turkey Super League Club.

Teenager EMRE SOYTÜRK signed for Galatasary

More worryingly, Esentepe leading goalscorer Hasan Özçelik on 10 goals had a disagreement with the Coach and was transferred to promotion rivals Maraş, we never really replaced him and we definitely missed his goals.

Though as the second half of the season started you wouldn’t think so as Esentepe continued on their merry way. They won 3-1 away to Akova, beat Mormeneşke 1-0 at home the following week and still unbeaten for 12 matches, faced a showdown away to League leaders Gönyeli.

Well what can you say, there are matches that stay in your mind forever and this one will. Esentepe completely outplayed the leaders and trounced them 4-1 to take over the number one spot in the League. Gönyeli were demolished and it was an unforgettable day for the team and their many travelling supporters. Further wins followed against Göçmenköy, Görneç and Dumlupinar, saw Esentepe 7 points clear at the top and 16 matches still unbeaten. The team spirit was second to none, they chased, harried and with a watertight defence, looked unbeatable, the League was theirs to lose and they nearly did!

The run came to an end at promotion rivals Maraş 4-1, with Ex striker Hasan Özçelik scoring twice to rub salt into the wounds.

Further defeats 0-4 at home to Hamitköy, 0-3 away to Girne Halk Evi, the wheels were coming off, confidence went, injuries and suspensions came with the Coach barely being able to put out eleven fit players.

That one more win to get us over the finishing line did not look like happening as Gönyeli regained top spot and then went on to be crowned as Champions.

Then in the last home match against Mehmetcik who needed to win to avoid relegation themselves, after a nervous and tense 85 minutes a superb headed goal by Esentepe Captain BAŞAK gave us the win to send us up in second place behind Gönyeli.

After the match, on the pitch and then later in Esentepe village square there were unforgettable, happy, joyous scenes as virtually all of the village was there to celebrate the teams promotion.

Like all teams we had some luck over the season there were some incredible misses by our opponents and we were very grateful for 6 own goals scored for us, as they say you make your own luck.

Coach Davut Kansu has worked miracles with the smallest squad in the League, probably the youngest as well and his achievements will never be forgotten. We hope he will return for another season but as I write this, things are not certain.

Every one of the players who pulled on an Esentepe shirt contributed in everyway, it’s what football is all about, a team effort.

Some players stood out notably Goalkeeper KEMAL, and Captain BAŞAK TÜMKAN led by example scoring 9 goals. Winger AHMET KARAL produced width pace and was the pressure outlet for the team and also weighed in with 7 goals. Defenders NERSIN and İSMAİL UÇAR were rock steady using all of their experience. Young defender 20 year old ONUR ÖZBİLGÜL in his first season at senior level also was outstanding. Young YAKUP ŞEN was a revolution in midfield, he possesses a great engine and will get better and better.

Captain “Marvel” BAŞAK TÜMKAN and the influential AHMET KARAL.

“Young and old” !, but both rocks in defence ONUR and NERSIN

THE SUPER LEAGUE

Well we are there, how long for I don’t know, a season maybe but who cares we got there our journey has ended, it will never be forgotten. We have a month or so before we need to worry about the coming season, but whatever happens we will support this team come what may.

Unforgettable scenes in the Esentepe streets celebrating Promotion

From all of us Graham, Mel, Kevin, Peter and myself we thank the players, staff and supporters of Esentepe Football Club for giving us some unforgettable and magical moments.