Turkish Football Association general secretary Metin Kazancıoğlu is predicting a "great final" as FC Shakhtar Donetsk and Werder Bremen prepare to meet in the UEFA Cup final in Istanbul on Wednesday.
It is the last in the competition's 38-year history before the start of the UEFA Europa League next season, and Kazancıoğlu believes the famed atmosphere at the Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium will ensure the curtain comes down in style. "It is a pleasure for us that the last match under the title of UEFA Cup final will be played in Turkey at Fenerbahçe's Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium, and that it will be remembered as such," Kazancıoğlu told uefa.com. "Everybody will remember that the last UEFA Cup final was played in Istanbul, and this is a good thing.
"There is a great atmosphere at Şükrü Saraçoğlu. Fenerbahçe fans support their team to the very end in their matches and I think the final will be played in the same atmosphere as the league games there. The tickets allocated for Turkey are all sold and the Turks going to the match, along with the two finalists, will experience a great final. Our country is a football country. Everybody sleeps with football and wakes up to football. Turks love football and will support the best team and hope the best team wins."
It is the second major final to be played in Istanbul in five seasons and follows Liverpool FC's thrilling victory against AC Milan in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final at the Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadium. Turkey also hosted the 2008 UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Antalya, and staging the UEFA Cup final is further indication of the progress Turkish football has made in recent years.
"Turkish football has gained pace, particularly since the 1990s," Kazancıoğlu said. "The statutes of the Turkish Football Federation together with increasing financial resources have led to improved stadiums. As the stadiums have become more satisfactory, more people have started to come to the matches. All the investments made by the clubs have contributed to the football."
This in turn has had led to a significant improvement for the national side who reached the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2008™. "Our first participation at the European Football Championship was in 1996, then again in 2000 we reached the quarter-finals, then third place at the 2002 World Cup, and success in the FIFA Confederations Cup have all shown we're on the right track. This was further proven at EURO 2008. We were enthusiastic, battling to the end and we scored some of our goals during the last minutes, even seconds. This was an indication of our ambition, we were keen and as a result of that we were successful. I strongly believe this will continue."
First, though, all eyes will be on the Şükrü Saraçoğlu, with Kazancıoğlu proud to welcome the football world to Istanbul. "I would like to welcome the fans from the two countries who have qualified," he said. "Istanbul is a very beautiful city, with important historical and cultural attractions. This really will be a football festival."