All’s well that ends well for new champs Canaries

The Canaries have been banned from Europe for three seasons, and Chairman Aziz Yıldırım still faces incarceration after the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld his sentence in connection with the rigging case.

But everything that has a beginning has an end, and the Canaries drawing 0-0 at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium with Rizespor on Sunday to clinch the 2013-14 Spor Toto Super League championship, their 19th overall, has eclipsed all the hardships of the last two seasons. And they won the championship with three games to go, 12 points ahead of their nearest rival, defending champion Galatasaray.

As a matter of fact, Fenerbahce needed only one point from the match against Rize to be crowned champion. But with their former closest rival Besiktas losing 3-0 away against Sivasspor, the Canaries were guaranteed the coveted league title no matter the outcome of Sunday’s game.

The match was played behind “closed doors,” meaning male fans were banned and women and young children were allowed to attend. But that did not stop the celebrations from kicking off even before the match ended.

The women in the stands were screaming at the top of their lungs, and outside the stadium thousands of predominantly male fans were waving flags, singing and celebrating in scenes of wild delight.

After the match, the players hugged each other, Yıldırım and coach Ersun Yanal as they sang Fener’s songs of glory.

There were wild celebrations across the country — at town and city squares and in the streets — as well as convoys with drivers honking their horns and flashing their lights.

With first the summer heat and then the mud, freezing rain, sleet and snow during the winter months, the Fenerbahce players and fans eventually were rewarded for their hard work and devotion; they deserve some big-time festivities.

And it is worth noting that 15 players have tasted a league championship for the first time in their football careers. They are Bruno Alves, Emmanuel Emenike, Erten Ersu, Samuel Holmen, Michal Kadlec, Hasan Ali Kaldırım, Serdar Kesimal, Egemen Korkmaz, Dirk Kuyt, Raul Meireles, Alper Potuk, Moussa Sow, Mehmet Topal, Salih Ucan and Pierre Webo.

The Canaries were also undefeated at their Sukru Saracoglu Stadium this season. They played 15 matches at home, won 13 and drew two — thereby extending their unbeaten home streak in the league to 21 games.

The championship was a personal triumph for coach Yanal in his first season on the Fener job. The 52-year-old Yanal coached Eskisehirspor last season and led the team to eighth place in the Super League. He had previously coached Denizlispor (1996-2000), Ankaragucu (2000-02), Genclerbirligi (2002-04), the Turkish national team (2004-05), Vestel Manisaspor (2005-07) and Trabzonspor (2007-09), but achieved only scant success. In fact, he left or was forced to leave almost all these teams, except Eskisehirspor, before his contract expired.

That Yıldırım summoned up the courage to hire Yanal in the first place, despite his imperfect record, is worthy of praise. Despite winning the league championship, the Canaries are banned from Europe next season. But winning the 2013-14 championship is a big consolation, nevertheless.

Messages of congratulations came from near and far to the triumphant Canaries, but the biggest surprise came from archrival Galatasaray. “We congratulate 2013-14 Spor Toto Super League leader Fenerbahce,” read a statement posted on the Galatasaray website. “And we are sending our love to our eternal rival and everlasting friend.”