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Tomhet, Idel Tomhet: Remembering Ivan Turina ⚽🇬🇧

Tomhet, Idel Tomhet: Remembering Ivan Turina ⚽🇬🇧
AIK v IFK Göteborg - Friends Arena, Stockholm, Sweden - May 6th, 2013 - 📸: Jesper Zerman

We tend to have a habit of talking about a ‘football family;’ a sort of community of fans, journalists, players and coaches who all interact to make our small corner of the world possible. Though we may bicker over rivalries, and obsess over insignificant rumors, we are all nevertheless interconnected. Our successes and moments of joy are shared, just as those moments of pain. This past week, the football family suffered a great loss with the sudden death of AIK goalkeeper, Ivan Turina. Here's Özgür Kurtoglu, remembering Ivan.

The first time I met him was outside a modest but popular bar called L'Angolo in the posher part of Stockholm. My best friend was DJ-ing that night, probably a mix of mild house and odd techno tunes, and the bar was in the same building, just a few floors down from the Croatian Embassy. Outside the embassy, in a corner of the bar, sat Goran Ljubojević and Ivan Turina, new signings to a team on the brink of implosion and relegation on the heels of a treble-winning season. Six months later, Goran left, tearing up his contract in mutual consent, saying “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you with more goals, but I can help by not taking your money when I leave.” And Ivan, well, Ivan stayed. I haphazardly thanked them both that night for coming to our rescue with an embarrassed laugh. They laughed in return, thanked me for the support, and Ivan went back to drinking his wine (as Croatians do) and smoking his cigar.

The dots representing events in my life are connected by football matches, concerts and records. These subjects, the type of stories that I know I shouldn’t write about, but feel the need to write, are not meant to be written or told or even reiterated by someone like me. I am but a music journalist, a hopeless romantic, savvy of the way things are, but in love with how they were in a pre-digital age; a devotee easily swayed by my ever-welling emotions and unwavering naïveté. I am too much of a fan to write about football; I learned and was taught that fact the hard way as early as the somewhat innocent age of 17. Every now and then I try, as soberly as I can, to peek inside my private and forgivingly small part within this circus that a woman I once loved called my second great love (her, supposedly, being the first), before I shy away cautiously so I don’t end up too deep.

I write about music. I’ve known music and played music for the better part of the last 18 years, and while my relationship with the arts and crafts is just as irrational as my feelings for football, my view of music can at times be far more pragmatic; I can distance myself from it, I can shut it out and shut it off, and despite it being my job, I can still escape from it. Football lives too far under my skin. The teams I support, that I’ve supported for the better part of my soon to be 24 years on this weird little watery rock, are pins and needles in my veins and in my bloodstream. So I let them fill out my calendar with their matches while I “toil” at shows and clubs where I spin records, or record stores where I may roam, and every now and then try to assemble a proper picture of what my life actually is;

Our last championship was preceded by a week of listening to the new Girl Talk record and followed by the second-to-last ISIS show I saw before the band broke up. I fell in love outside of Råsunda, my second home for 15 years, right before a game that started off that horrendous 2010 season that eventually brought us Ivan Turina, and spent the week after it at Stockholm University studying film music and popular culture. I was updated via Twitter on how that very man pulled off what is basically, after this decent effort from our Assistant Manager in the Champions League eons ago, the best performance ever to be put on display in an AIK shirt. After CSKA buried us easily at Råsunda in the first leg, I chose to see the fantastic Soundtrack Of Our Lives for the very last time at one end of Stockholm and then trudged my way, somewhat reluctantly, to see the pop disaster that is Coldplay at the other end, because just like everyone else, I knew this draw to be over. Ivan Turina thought and believed otherwise, and made sure every AIK player knew what he was trying to do. And he succeeded.

Ivan Turina is 32 years old. And he will always be 32 years old. On April 28th, when AIK finally managed to break our scoring deadlock at our new and somewhat unwanted stadium, and managed to turn an absolutely ridiculous game-winning goal into another draw, I ended up stuck in a stairwell for 15 minutes because of a malfunctioning emergency exit before making my way back up to the second tier to find a way out. That was the last time I saw Ivan Turina, out of the game because of a back injury and carrying his two daughters while dressed handsomely, impeccably, in a gray suit.

I saw him for 15 seconds at most, too busy being frustrated and annoyed to greet this behemoth of a man and his beautiful family, and immediately regretted it as soon as I got out of the stadium. Not because I had any inclination of what was about to happen, but because of basic courtesy; a football club is a family, at the best of times, but more so in the worst of times. This Thursday, on my way to pick up this month’s issue of the music magazine I work for to have it distributed around Stockholm, I received a text message. Then some Facebook notifications that were immediately followed by tweets and phone calls, all telling me something I still fail to grasp. Something that my mind still doesn’t quite comprehend, that it still tricks me into believing that I’m imagining it all. But it was all there in the newspaper.

/youtube [http://www.youtube.com/embed/v7U2YdFqGx4]

I could quote poets and laureates, lyricists and authors of the utmost and heartfelt vociferations ever put on paper by pen, to attempt to do the memory of Ivan Turina justice, but to what end? He became part of our family by being the commanding leader that he so naturally was, steadfast and intimidating, stationed at the very back of a football pitch guarding the keep of ten men dressed in black. I write for a living, but I know when my words and my tools fail me; I know when other actions and other expressions ring truer and louder than my words ever could. Ivan Turina was one of us, is one of us, and he became the beloved man he is on the green fields. His homage was sent out into the skies from our new home yesterday. It is only right that you see it as I experienced and took part in it; that you see it as we hope Ivan saw it.

So what more could I possibly say? As insanely hateful as it might sound, and I mean this wholeheartedly, I don’t want you to rest in peace, Ivan, because I want you to keep attempting insane volleys in the 93rd minute in an attempt to score against IFK Göteborg; I want you to look up to the flares and the inferno enveloping Norra Stå with an almost juvenile glee smeared across your face while the referee ushers in the rest of the players back into the tunnel, and you’re just nonchalantly walking out into the smoke to jog and enjoy the chaos we’ve created, that you’ve grown up inside at Maksimir.

I can’t sit there game after game wondering why you’re not out on the pitch warming up before remembering that you can’t, you won’t, ever again. I want you to stop because we all know that the fact that a Swedish journalist, who is both a football lover and a dear acquaintance, pointed out that its underlying sentiment does nothing but hurt all of us now: you were born to play for us, to keep our goal, to command the defense, to be loved by us for longer than we were allowed to be blessed by your immense friendship.

I want you to play until your knees give in and your back hinders you from lunging towards the ball, Ivan. I want you to die an old man. I want you here, because you were one of us long before you even knew we, AIK, existed. I want you here, because you were supposed to walk among us for longer than this.

Footnote: The Ivan Turina Charity Game, promoted by footballing friends (Daniel Majstorovic (AIK), Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ognjen Vukojevic (Spartak Moskva), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG), Dejan Lovren (Olympique Lyonnais), Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moskva), Eduardo Da Silva (Shakhtar Donetsk), Mario Mandzukic (Bayern München), of Ivan Turina, will be played between AIK and Dinamo Zagreb, Ivan’s first professional club, at Friends Arena in Stockholm on May 13th 18:30 GMT+1. All proceeds will go the surviving family of Ivan Turina. Click here more information.