Remembering Ivan Turina: One Year Later

Exactly one year ago, our football family suffered a great loss with the untimely passing of Ivan Turina, former AIK goalkeeper, but more importantly, a hero and friend to his local community. Last year, our friend Özgür Kurtoglu wrote a piece on what Ivan Turina meant to him personally. Exactly one year later, here’s Özgür looking at how a heavy weight still remains over Stockholm.

There’s a bronze statue in Miroševac, a torso placed upon a square of what looks like limestone, but it’s a figure not easily distinguishable via a solitary photograph shared on Facebook for someone without a trained eye for that sort of thing. It stands in the corner of a slightly larger than normal burial plot, next to a bench for visitors to rest upon, and a meter or two away from the cold black stone of a grave adorned with a flower arrangement, a scarf and a bottle of Coca-Cola. Another bottle remains placed inside the Friends Arena in Stockholm, within a now unused and semi-vacant booth in the locker room of AIK, in front of a Croatian flag. It will probably never be entirely vacant, in all honesty, but it does stay unused, even though it is still clearly occupied by the presence and the massive absence of Ivan Turina.

It’s May 1st, and Kyriakos “Kenny” Stamatopoulos is at Ärvinge Idrottsplats in the northern Stockholm suburb of Kista. He is there with teammate and Costa Rican international Celso Borges, and they’re watching AIK striker and local hero Henok Goitom coach his own team, Kista Galaxy. I know this because my younger brother knows this, because he plays for that team and keeps his years spent in AIK youth teams and the relationship to the club born out of it alive in the Swedish 4th Division, playing for a team founded by an AIK supporter and player. I ran into Kenny at the AIK club shop a month or two ago, while I was working on the #dresscodeblack campaign tied to the new kit release for the upcoming season. He was there to get some jerseys personalised, for friends and family and his kids, and was basically just as laid-back and easygoing as his dear friend and goalkeeping colleague had been known to be pretty much all the time outside of the stadium. He is also someone who has talked about having to leave the room whenever his wife speaks to Senka Turina on the phone, because the knowledge of her loss becomes too unbearable for him to cope with, still. He’s spoken about being ushered into a role at AIK that he never wished to have to deal with in this way.

Kyriakos Stamatopoulous, called Kenny by some and Stam by others, is our first choice keeper now. He always challenged Ivan for the starting spot in goal when they played together, and now he’s a given in goal while goalkeeping coach Lee Baxter works with his 22 year old future replacement, Patrik Carlgren, prepping him for a future where Kenny is no longer able to play. The season has started like all AIK seasons start: other champion candidates lock in their gameplan and run through matches like it’s nothing, while AIK slides behind desperately trying to make things work: champions Malmö FF are 1st, grabbing 16 points out of a possible 18, while AIK are 9th with a measly 8. Things will hopefully click sooner rather than later; AIK will hopefully start playing the football the entire country suspects they can, and perhaps the predictions of a title challenge will come to fruition.

But there’s a hole there, constantly. Friends Arena still feels wrong, and it isn’t getting better; a new turf was installed a week before the opening match of the season, and has now fallen apart and been replaced. Since the arena holds 55000 spectators, AIK asked for heavy-duty curtains to seal off the upper tier when the previous season ended in November, and the company running the stadium started looking for options in mid-March. The drainage system is broken and floods the pitch during medium rain, the ventilation is non-functional and does nothing when a single flare is lit inside the arena, and before the opening match of the season on March 31st, the garbage left from the national bandy final played at Friends Arena on March 16th was still there. Even the AIK players’ booth was coated with dust left to gather and sit for six months, without anyone responsible for it to be cleaned doing anything. Friends Arena is comfortable and shiny and has all the features foolishly expected from a modern football stadium, but is utterly horrible for football, so we all collectively miss our real home: Råsunda. Something which just reminds us of losing our home. Which just reminds us of our losing our Ivan. Add these feelings up, and a wonderful spring day in Stockholm, like May 2nd, feels miserable. All of it just feels wrong: the pathetic excuse of a football stadium we’ve been forced to play in, the vast emptiness looming over where Råsunda once hosted AIK and Pelé and thousands upon thousands of wonderful football players, the gutwrenching hollowness of remembering Ivan, and May 2nd is just a horrifying torrent of memories that ultimately haunt us and hang over our hearts like daggers.

There’s a bronze statue in Miroševac, a statue of a giant. A statue of a leader, a father, a friend, a husband. A statue of a proverbial wall, a mighty last defence, a guardian rarely seen in black and yellow but the penultimate defender of those very colours. There’s a bronze statue in Miroševac of Ivan Turina, keeper gloves neatly tucked in under his left arm, standing next to his grave. He is no longer keeping our goal in Stockholm, and watching AIK warm up before matches and remembering why Ivan isn’t there, goofing around with Kenny and Lee Baxter, is still mind-numbingly painful. But, exactly one year after I broke down in tears on the subway on my way to work, I know now that I don’t think I want you back here among us AIK faithful. I don’t, because I’d rather see you retire your #27 jersey immediately if it meant you’d get a chance to hold your son for the very first time, to hold your wife and your daughters again. I’d gladly accept you leaving AIK if it meant not seeing little Bruno next to your statue, next to your grave, rather than in your arms.

I miss Ivan Turina. AIK misses Ivan Turina, both the goalkeeper and the giant of a human being. But I’d give up my wonderful memories of him playing for the club I love if it meant he’d be running around right now, running after his son and his daughters on a sun drenched field somewhere in Zagreb, maybe in their summer house on Murter with his best friend Jerko Leko and his family, with his wife watching them all, smiling, laughing. I wouldn’t hesitate for a second.

This was a guest article by Özgür Kurtoglu, a member of the AFR family. Additionally, photographs come courtesy of Jesper ZermanAnnika Berglund and AIK. You can follow Özgür on Twitter at @BordeauxBlues. Comments below please.  

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