Fabio Borini on adapting to Turkey at a club with no permanent stadium
Ex-Chelsea and Liverpool striker Fabio Borini returns to Super Lig action after a ‘traumatic’ month since Turkey’s devastating earthquake… the Italian discusses adapting to a club – managed by Andrea Pirlo – that has no permanent stadium or training base
- Fortunately, Borini and his family neither felt nor heard anything last month
- Borini returns to Super Lig action with his club Fatih Karagumruk in Turkey
- He discusses family life, working under Pirlo and adapting to a new culture
Experience taught Fabio Borini to hatch a plan just in case the ground ever shook beneath his feet. Again.
‘Pack an emergency bag with everything you need,’ the striker explains. ‘Keep it close to the door at night so you don’t have to think when you go out. Don’t lock the door.’
It was a strategy Borini used in Italy, where tremors once left his family sleeping in the car for a week – ‘if not more’.
‘My wife was a little bit shaken,’ he explains.
So he taught her about the bag and the lock. ‘It is traumatic,’ Borini continues. ‘You just need to be prepared… there’s nothing else you can do.’
Fabio Borini and his family were luckily not impacted by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria
Borini, who is now playing for Fatih Karagumruk, returns to Super Lig action this weekend
Borini enjoyed spells at both Chelsea and Liverpool before moving to Sunderland, Milan, Hellas Verona and now Karagumruk
Fortunately, Borini and his family neither felt nor heard anything last month, when buildings began to crumble and devastating earthquakes flattened parts of southern Turkey and northern Syria.
Twelve hours from their home in Istanbul, the body count began a grim climb. It now stands at more than 50,000. ‘We found out in the morning, like everybody else,’ says Borini, the former Chelsea, Liverpool, Sunderland and Swansea striker who is now playing under Andrea Pirlo at Fatih Karagumruk.
Sportsmail met Borini on February 7, when snow sabotaged training and lunch was served to the sound of winds howling off the Black Sea. It was the day after tragedy struck.
This weekend, Karagumruk return to Super Lig action after nearly a month, during which football became a vital vehicle in the race to deliver aid.
Turkey’s top flight will be two teams short after Gaziantep and Hatayspor – both based near the epicentre – withdrew from the league. Hatayspor’s stadium has become a camp for the homeless; their sporting director Taner Savut and winger Christian Atsu were among those lost; their manager, Volkan Demirel, coached Fatih Karagumruk last season.
‘Most of the staff, we know them,’ Borini says. Two fitness coaches, who briefly went missing, were thankfully found alive.
In Turkey, the return of football has sparked expressions of both grief and anger.
There have been tributes to the dead and displaced. At Fenerbahce, supporters brought scarves and toys, destined for those in need during this cold winter. But fans also turned on the government over the relief effort and the system that allowed so many buildings to crumble.
Borini says that adapting to what you have available has taught him not to moan – which he was doing at the start
Former Newcastle and Chelsea player Christian Atsu, who had been playing for Hatayspor, tragically died in the earthquake
A month on from the earthquake that rocked Turkey and northern Syria, the death tolls stands at more than 50,000
Pirlo and his players did their bit, packing trucks with aid. This weekend it’s back to the day job against Sivasspor.
Borini is one of several Italian players and coaches at Fatih Karagumruk. Not that you would know it. Here, they consider the 31-year-old to be more of an Englishman – and with good reason.
Borini’s wife Erin is from Liverpool; he speaks with a northern twang. The family still have a house outside Manchester and Borini identifies more with northerners than Italians. English is effectively his first language, it’s certainly the tongue in which his mind whirrs.
‘We have a little daughter – I should speak to her more in Italian,’ he admits. But? ‘The TV is in English, my phone settings are in English, everything is in English.’
Even the food. Borini’s wife tends to order grub from British Corner Shop, an international delivery service for expats.
‘She just did an order,’ Borini laughs. ‘Heinz soup, baked beans always, bacon… crumpets.’
He’s one of several Italian players and coaches at Fatih Karagumruk playing under Andrea Pirlo
Borini landed in Turkey in January 2021, joining a team without a permanent stadium or training base
They get in sausages for breakfast, their nanny – also English – had a recent craving for pork. Not easily found in a mostly Muslim country. But not beyond this lot.
The 31-year-old first moved to England as a teenager, joining Chelsea’s youth teams in 2007.
‘My development there was key to my career because I learned the job – more than playing football,’ Borini says.
He collected FA Cup and Premier League winners’ medals at Stamford Bridge. Then came stints at Swansea, Liverpool, Sunderland. It was on Merseyside where Borini met his wife but and on Wearside where happier memories were made on the pitch. ‘They live for football,’ Borini says.
The striker landed in Turkey in January 2021, joining a team without a permanent stadium or training base. In a country where normal rules don’t apply.
‘It has taught me how to adapt to what you have,’ Borini says. ‘Don’t moan about what you could have and don’t have – which I was doing the first few months.’
He explains: ‘You don’t have a training ground? Ok, in my free time, twice a week I go to the park to do my extra training… if you need to do recovery, you go to a hotel or a pool.’
Borini has 13 league goals this season, behind only Enner Valencia of Fenerbahce.
‘I needed probably more time than I expected to adapt because culturally it’s very different,’ he explains. ‘Here it is all a bit loose.’ Borini laughs.
Pirlo has effected some change since taking over last summer: ‘He brought structure in the way we train and the way we work… in terms of discipline.’ There is only so much a manager can do, though.
‘Culturally, priorities are different,’ Borini adds. ‘For us Italians, how you eat and rest is very important, here not so much.’ The priorities in Turkey?
Borini has scored 13 league goals this season, behind only Enner Valencia of Fenerbahce
‘It’s how little you do, sometimes,’ Borini chuckles, adding that strategy around pressing, for example, can be left up to players.
The 31-year-old is out of contract in the summer. He would relish another chance in England. For now, he is part of Pirlo’s Italian job.
‘Most managers that were footballers in the past, they compare their football to the modern day, which is not the same. He doesn’t do that,’ Borini says. Pirlo has adapted to Karagumruk’s unique challenges and, before the tragedy, had begun to make his mark.
‘He just kicked players out,’ Borini says bluntly. ‘He’s the type of manager where he can’t ask for the ball (anymore). But he will take the decision that requires personality.’
This weekend, Pirlo must lead his squad back towards normality, in circumstances for which no player or manager can truly prepare.
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