Turkey's amputee team inspire nation with European Championship win
Turkey's national amputee football team beat England 2-1 at the European Amputee Football Federation (EAFF) Championship final on Monday to be crowned champions at the Vodafone Park stadium in Istanbul.
Amputee football has been growing in popularity, especially in Turkey where over 20 clubs exist. Nobody however, quite expected fans to fill the 41,903-seater Vodafone Park stadium.
The Turkey amputee team captured the imagination of a nation let down by the senior national side's failure to get through the World Cup qualifiers just a day earlier against Iceland. It was not so much the defeat but the dispassionate manner of the loss that caused such disappointment in the country but, in total contrast, seeing the amputee side give it their all on the field captivated many fans.
Omer Guleryuz gave the hosts the lead on 15 minutes but England levelled in the last minute of the game with an equaliser from Ray Westbrook.
Amputee games last 50 minutes, split into two 25-minute halves. The final looked destined for extra-time, but Osman Cakmak scored a last-gasp goal just before the final whistle for a dramatic winner.
The European Amputee Championships were held at the Riva Hasan Dogan training grounds and facilities in Istanbul but the final game was moved to the Vodafone Park stadium, the home ground of Istanbul giants Besiktas.
In total, 12 teams participated in the championship including Belgium, England, France, Georgia, Greece, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain and Turkey.
Team captain and scorer of the winning goal, Osman Cakmak, lost his leg during an operation in the war against terror. After the game he said: "I wish disability on no one, I wish there were no amputees. I don't want anyone to be an injured war veteran but we wanted to show what we are capable of to the rest of Europe and the world."
Baris Telli added: "When I was four years old I lost my foot chasing a football but I never gave up on my dreams of becoming a footballer."
Rahmi Ozcan could not hold back his tears after the game, like Feyyaz Gozuacik he was born missing a leg, but Turkey showed that there can be no barrier to success.
Eren Sarigul covers Turkish football for ESPN and Turkish-football.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ErenvanBasten.