Sheffield United: Sela’s pride as Blades host showpiece game

Selahattin Baki (right) with Prince Abdullah
Selahattin Baki (right) with Prince Abdullah
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Over 2,000 miles separate Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane headquarters from the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium, the home of Turkish giants Fenerbahçe.

The star-studded Sarı Kanaryalar - or the Yellow Canaries, as they are known - are chasing a historic 20th Super Lig title, while Nigel Clough’s United are preparing for a fourth season in the third tier of English football.

The man responsible for bringing the two clubs together is Selahattin Baki, a board member of United and a lifelong fan of Fenerbahçe.

And he will be the proudest man in Bramall Lane tonight when Bruno Alves, Raul Meireles and Co. take on Clough’s men in a prestigious friendly designed both to continue United’s 125th anniversary celebrations, and raise money for the Soma Mining Disaster Fund - set up after 301 people died in an underground fire in Turkey back in May.

“This is a wonderful fixture between two historic clubs,” Baki, a close associate of United co-owner Prince Abdullah, said.

“I grew up on the streets surrounding Fenerbahçe and have supported them since I was a boy.

“Now, having also fallen in love with Sheffield United after being granted the honour of joining the board, I can honestly say this is one of the proudest moments of my life.

“I have no wish to die young - but if I do after Thursday, then I know it will be as a very happy and proud man!”

Portuguese pair Alves and Meireles, formerly of Liverpool and Chelsea, are just two of the star names who arrived in England yesterday ahead of the game.

Former Newcastle United midfielder Emre Belozoglu is expected to captain Ersun Yanal’s side, which could also contain Turkish international trio Volkan Demirel, Mehmet Topal and Selçuk Şahin.

“Fenerbahçe are bring their strongest squad,” Baki added.

“Only Dirk Kuyt, because of the World Cup, is missing because he has been granted time to rest.

Other than that, all of their big names are coming here and I am pleased that the United supporters will be able to experience for themselves the passion of Fenerbahçe.

“And also, for the Fenerbahçe supporters, they will be able to witness the passion of the United fans.

“That is so important. We have a good relationship between our clubs and, hopefully, that will become even stronger.

“But the most difficult thing to achieve is that feeling between the fans.

“I have seen evidence of this already in Turkey, and also on social media. That is something that you can not buy or create artificially.

“It is either there or it isn’t.”