Uncancelling Hakan Şükür

Heroes & Humans of Football

02-05-2024 • 47 mins

Hakan Şükür is Turkey’s greatest ever footballer, highest goalscorer, and still the man who holds the record for scoring the fastest goal in a World Cup after just 11 seconds in 2002. But for the last nine years, he’s been living in self-imposed exile in the US, moonlighting as an Uber driver, and having his legacy wiped from the records of Turkish football history. Turkey’s ruling AKP party has branded him a “terrorist”, and even saying his name on TV can get you the sack, as one commentator found out during the Qatar World Cup.  This is the story of a footballing hero who has suffered a humbling fall caused by politics, upheaval and a failed coup in Turkey. Şükür, whose father was born in Bosnia and his mother in North Macedonia, helped Turkey finish third in the 2002 World Cup and led his Galatasaray team to a UEFA Cup triumph in 2000 – the first European trophy won by a Turkish domestic side and the high watermark of Turkish football this century. Known as the “Bull of the Bosphorus” for his goal-scoring instincts, Şükür combined his football career with membership of Turkey’s Hizmet movement, a religious organisation led by Islamic scholar, Fethullah Gulen, which has been dubbed as part of Turkey’s “deep state”. The movement recruited lawyers, civil servants, politicians and footballers – and were active in the Galatasaray changing room in the 2000s, says author and anthropologist John McManus.  During the 90s and 2000s, Şükür is a Turkish superstar, and Gulen is allied with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the conservative AKP party, who became prime minister in 2003 and the country’s current president. After retiring from football in 2007, Şükür became a member of parliament for Erdogan’s party while retaining his Gulen affiliations, but claims he was always a reluctant politician. In 2013, Gulen and Erdogan have a spectacular fall-out and Şükür, a national hero, is caught in the middle of an internecine struggle for power and influence in Turkey. In 2015, he flees to the US after being prosecuted over a tweet which “insults the president”. Şükür would never return to his homeland.  The episode charts the spectacular cancellation of a footballing icon whose political allegiances put him on the wrong side of an increasingly authoritarian government. In telling his story, Simon and Mehreen attempt to uncancel Hakan Şükür. Timestamps: 00:00 - Introduction to the episode on Hakan Şükür 01:23 - Simon's first impression of watching Şükür play for Turkey 02:00 - Şükür's peak at the 2002 World Cup   04:25 - Şükür's background and early career 06:25 - The "Welcome to Hell" match between Galatasaray and Manchester United 11:23 - Şükür's performance at the 2002 World Cup, including scoring the fastest ever World Cup goal 14:04 - Explanation of the Gulen movement and Şükür's involvement 23:54 - How Şükür likely got recruited into the Gulen movement   27:52 - Şükür's career after retirement and move into politics 31:04 - Breakdown of Şükür's relationship with Erdogan starting in 2013 34:15 - The failed 2016 coup attempt and Şükür being branded a terrorist   38:20 - Şükür living in exile in the US and working jobs like an Uber driver 41:40 - Şükür continues to criticise Erdogan from exile despite threats 44:36 - Discussion on whether Şükür can ever return to Turkey Follow @heroesandhumans everywhere. Instagram TikTok Facebook X Visit our website for news & updates heroesandhumans.com