Colin Kazim-Richards claimed that dreams do come true as he revelled in Turkey's victory over England's nemesis Croatia following his country's Euro 2008 quarter-final victory.
Turkey scored a dramatic extra-time equaliser through Semih Senturk with the last kick of the match just minutes after Croatia had taken the lead through Ivan Klasnic.
And then they were successful with all three of their spot-kicks while Croatia missed three times from four from 12 yards to hand the Turks a place in the last four.
It's been a remarkable rise for Kazim-Richards – known as Kazim Kazim in Turkey due to the ban on the use of Christian names, something which seems to have been overlooked by UEFA's Kick Racism out of Football campaign – who began his career in 2004 in the less than glamorous surroundings of Bury in the fourth tier of English football.
There followed a move to Brighton and the second tier before he made the step up to Sheffield United and the Premier League.
Kazim-Richards was far from a revelation in a team that was relegated on the last day of the season but a call up to the Turkish national team followed and a move to Turkish champions Fenerbahce was secured.
Despite this remarkable rise, Kazim-Richards claims not to be surprised, even saying he expected it.
“To say that I didn't would be lying,” he said frankly. “I had big ambitions and big dreams.
“I wanted to play in competitions like this and no disrespect to those teams but I didn't want to play in League One or League Two.
“I wanted to play against the best and now I've capitalised on my chances and opportunities and now I'm playing here.
“Dreams happen in football it's incredible – what a journey!”
Kazim-Richards is English by birth but his father is from Antigua and his mother is a Turkish Cypriot – which is how he qualified to play for his adopted country.
He was a relative unknown in England but thanks to Fenerbahce's run to the Champions League quarter-finals – where they lost to Chelsea though he scored a brilliant goal in the Turkish side's 2-1 first leg win in Istanbul – and now this, strangely enough now that he is Turkish Kazim-Richards is better known in England than he was before.
“Of course people watch the Champions League and people watch the Euros and getting to the quarter-finals and playing against Chelsea and now getting to the quarter-finals of the Euro to play against Croatia, who beat England, they're going to watch.
“I'm sure people in England wanted us to beat them,” said Kazim-Richards, who has experienced his fair share of tragedy having lost his younger brother when he was just eight months old and then his favourite cousin and best friend who died after suffering a fit last November and whose funeral he wasn't able to attend as he had to play in a Champions League match with PSV Eindhoven.
Croatia eliminated England from the qualifying group, beating them at home and away to allow Russia to sneak second spot in the group.
Now Kazim-Richards is happy to have got a sort of revenge on Croatia on behalf of his homeland.
“Of course I got loads of texts from people who wanted the Croatians to lose because they beat England.
“And personally I'm English and happy we beat Croatia but especially for Turkey. I'm here for Turkey and I'm Turkish so that comes before everything else, but part of me is also happy for England.”
Turkey have had a stunning run to the semi-finals, coming back from a deficit in their last three games to win them all.
And the 21-year-old paid tribute to his team's coach Fatih Terim for the never-say-die attitude instilled in himself and his teammates.
“It's incredible to be here. For sure we don't give up, we keep going to the last second, the last fight,” he added.
“We just have to go out and take care of whatever team we're playing and dedicate ourselves.
“Our coach is incredible, he doesn't let you get your head down. When you get your head down he shouts at you straight away and believe me, when that man shouts – you look.
“He doesn't let you get your head down, he's all about belief.”
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!