Sheffield United: Blades hopeful of return ticket to Istanbul

Sheffield United director Jim Phipps with Fenerbahce fans
Sheffield United director Jim Phipps with Fenerbahce fans
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Last night’s match between Sheffield United and Fenerbahçe could prove the catalyst for a prolonged period of cooperation between the two clubs, a member of Bramall Lane’s board has told The Star.

And Selahattin Baki, whose contacts at the Sükrü Saracoglu Stadium were instrumental in arranging the prestigious fixture, revealed he will now turn his attention towards ensuring Nigel Clough’s side visit the Turkish champions “at some point in the future” to “experience the unique atmosphere” generated by supporters in Istanbul.

“We are on very good terms with many of the people there,” Baki, a boyhood Fenerbahçe follower, said. “And I believe we can help each other in so many different ways.

“It would be a dream of mine, for example, to establish a system whereby we work together on things like youth development and providing different opportunities for young players. But, of course, decisions like that must be made by the coaches and experts concerned.

“I see no reason why, when the chance is there, we (United) can’t travel to Fenerbahçe for a game because, knowing the devotion of both sets of fans, I think that is something they would really enjoy.”

Baki, a close associate of United’s co-owner Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad and co-chairman James D Phipps, suggested his plan could also involve two time Asian champions Al Hilal.

Prince Abdullah, now Saudi Arabia’s General President of Youth Welfare, is a former president of the Riyadh club.

“His Royal Highness knows many people at Fenerbahçe and has met them many, many times,” Baki said. “When he was with Al Hilal he had many fruitful discussions about how they could work together too.

“Perhaps people do not appreciate how big Al Hilal are. They have won their version of the European Cup on two occasions and more people in Saudi Arabia support them than any other team.

“The right environment is there now for something to happen which benefits us all and the will is also there.”