From Gigg Lane to the Champions League

HEARD the one about the former Bury trainee looking forward to playing in the Champions League quarter-finals?

Colin Kazim-Richards has come a long way since he made his pro debut for the Shakers in an LDV Vans Trophy tie against Stockport at Edgeley Park in August 2004.

Almost four years on, via spells at Brighton and Sheffield United, Kazim-Richards is now playing for Fenerbahce, who reached the last eight of the Champions League last night by knocking out Sevilla on penalties.

The striker came on as an extra-time substitute last night, helping Fenerbahce become only the second Turkish team to reach the quarter-finals.

Kazim-Richards’ story is an astonishing one, well told in an article which appeared in the Times back in December.

Born in August 1986 in Walthamstow to an Antiguan father and a Turkish-Cypriot mother, Kazim-Richards was turned down by Wimbledon at the age of 15.

He was picked up by Bury after playing in a trial match for cast-offs in Preston. After breaking into their first team in 2004, he was quickly snapped up by Brighton for £250,000, a sum won for the club by a fan in Coca Cola’s ‘Win A Player’ competition.

One year on from that, he won a move to Sheffield United, newly promoted to the Premier League. He only scored one goal for them – a cleverly-taken curled equaliser through a crowd of bodies in a 2-2 draw against Bolton – but he did enough to alert Fenerbahce.

And now, thanks to his Turkish bloodline, he is a full international too. He made his debut for Turkey in a friendly against Brazil last June. And he can call Roberto Carlos a team-mate too.

“Fenerbahçe are the people’s team. In Turkey alone they have 30 million supporters. They are a big, big club. It is worlds apart from playing for Bury or Brighton. I turn up for training and see Roberto Carlos or Stephen Appiah and think, ‘Wow, I used to watch these guys on television.’

“Roberto helped me a lot,” Kazim-Richards said in that Times article. “When you’re young and people tell you things, you think: ‘Why is this guy telling me to do this?’

“But when Roberto Carlos tells you to run back, you remember that he’s played 118 Champions League games, won three Champions Leagues, three World Cups – you go to his house and there are pictures of him with Pelé.”

And the article also made it clear that he is enjoying life in Turkey.

“Life is good. Istanbul is one of the best cities in the world.

“People think of Turkey as a quiet Muslim country, but the nightlife and shopping in Istanbul is like America and the traffic is unbelievable.

“Going over the bridge from the Asian to the European side, it’s solid from 5 o’clock in the morning.”

Ah, I’ve heard Bury can get pretty wild, Colin.

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