Trabzonspor have never qualified for the men's UEFA Champions League but their female side are hoping to do just that when they become the first women's side to represent Turkey in European club competition.
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Trabzonspor have never qualified for the UEFA Champions League but their female side are hoping to outdo their male counterparts when they become the first women's side to represent Turkey in European club competition.
Having finishing five points clear at the top of the Turkish league last season, Trabzonspor take on hosts ŽNK Krka, Italy's ASD Torres Calcio and Slovakian side FK Slovan Duslo Šaľa in UEFA Women's Champions League qualifying round Group D in Slovenia from Thursday. Hakan Yılmaz, formerly assistant coach of the men's side, has been in charge of the women's side for two years and works in tandem with Hamit Cihan.
"If we succeed in this qualifying round, we'll be in the Champions League," the 38-year-old Yılmaz told uefa.com. "This means a lot. I have so much confidence in my team that we might even achieve what the men have not. We don't just look at this as being the women's team of a club; we are representing Turkey and that's a national responsibility."
Turkey have not been among the leading forces in women's football – indeed they were absent from international competition between 2000 and 2006 – but Yılmaz believes things are beginning to change, at least in Trabzon. "Many people don't know much about women's football," he said. "There's so much talent in this part of Turkey that we could create the backbone of all Turkish women's football here. We have three Georgian-based players, some of our players are teachers, some of them are still studying. They have potential. We have been working with psychologists in addition to training."
However, their European debut will be a step into the unknown when it comes to the opposition. "We didn't have much information on them," the coach said. "We just know the previous records of Slovan Duslo Šaľa and Krka and learned that ASD Torres Calcio will have their first experience in the competition like us. We are wondering about them too."