Graeme Souness has recalled his infamous Galatasaray flag incident, admitting he believed his time in Turkey was over only to be lauded as a hero.
The Scotsman, then manager of Galatasaray, sparked a riot when he planted a huge flag in their red and yellow colours in the centre circle of bitter rivals Fenerbahce’s stadium after beating them in the 1996 Turkish Cup final.
Galatasaray had drawn 1-1 after extra time with their Istanbul foes at the Şukru Saracoglu Stadium to take the trophy 2-1 on aggregate.
The moment Graeme Souness, then Galatasaray manager, sparked a riot by planting a huge flag in the club’s colours on the pitch of their bitter rivals Fenerbahce in 1996
Souness and his players rushed over to the away section to celebrate with their fans, who passed the flag over the wire fencing surrounding the pitch.
And Souness, speaking on The Football Show on Sky Sports News, explained his motives behind such a daring – and incredibly foolhardy – move.
‘When I first went there nine months earlier, one of their [Fenerbahce’s] vice-presidents questioned Galatasaray’s wisdom in signing a “cripple”, referring to me with the heart operation I’d had,’ he said.
‘A year later, we won the trophy in their stadium and we go over to where our supporters are and a big flag is handed over the wire fence.
‘All the players take a few waves of the flag, it’s handed to me and I have a few waves and look to hand it to someone.
Souness explained his actions were motivated by unkind words by a Fenerbahce director
Souness (right) on the training ground during his season in charge of the Turkish club
‘But there was no one to hand it on to as all the players had gone back to the halfway line to get the cup. So I’m jogging to the halfway line with this great big flag in my hand.
‘I’m looking into the stands that are emptying, I’m looking into the director’s box and saw this guy’s face. He was standing up.
‘I thought, ‘I’ll show you who’s a cripple”, which was not the smartest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
‘I managed to get the flag in after about the third attempt into the centre circle and turned around to see supporters now climbing the fences to get onto the pitch.
‘So I found a bit of pace from somewhere, sprinted into the tunnel and got away with it.
Video footage of the incident shows Galatasaray players celebrating their cup win with fans
Souness can then be seen running with the Galatasaray flag towards the centre of the pitch
Ignoring a flare that has been thrown, Souness plants the flag in the centre circle and runs off
The flag was quickly removed by a home fan who’d invaded the field as Souness runs away
Incensed Fenerbahce fans surrounded the tunnel and threw objects at Souness as he ran off
‘I’m sitting in the dressing room afterwards thinking “that’s me, I’ll be finished, I’ll have a plane ticket and be off tomorrow.”
‘Our board came in 10 minutes later with tears in their eyes, saying “this is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to the football club.” I’ve never kissed so many moustachioed men in my life.
‘It wasn’t a thing directed at Fenerbahce, it was directed at this guy who said unkind things about me.’
Video footage of the moment shows that the flag only remained in place for a couple of seconds before being ripped out by a Fenerbahce fan.
But that was more than enough to provoke a riot with objects raining down on Souness as he sprints down the tunnel shielded by police.
Galatasaray supporters pay tribute to Souness before one of their matches in 2014
The moment has gone down in Galatasaray folklore and fans paid tribute to Souness with an enormous tifo of the flag incident in 2014.
His actions were likened to those of the Ottoman general Ulubatli Hasan, who raised the flag of victory at the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. Galatasaray fans still refer to their former manager as ‘Ulubatli Souness.’
As it happened, Souness did leave Galatasaray shortly afterwards to manage Southampton.