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Ankara eager to cop the lot in Portugal

An actor in a Turkish crime series, Ankara's Halim Dönmez has a dramatic finale planned in Portugal, saying: "Our journey will end in Barcelos, where we are confident of winning."

Mustafa Köseci, Halim Dönmez and Fatih Deniz ©Sportsfile

Eric Cantona and Vinnie Jones proved that former professional footballers can move into acting, but at the UEFA Regions' Cup, Ankara's captain is looking to follow the same career path in the opposite direction.

Away from his day job as sports teacher, Halim Dönmez is an occasional star of Turkish crime series Behzat Ç, but given the choice of football or acting, the 26-year-old told UEFA.com he knows which one would suit him best: "I enjoy the acting very much but I also like playing football. Given the choice I would prefer to be a famous footballer."

His dreams of making it big at Beşiktaş JK, the club he supports, still burn brightly, but in the meantime, his team-mates are enjoying seeing their captain on camera. "We watch him on TV and whenever we see him we are very happy and proud of him," said striker Fatih Deniz, 23.

Described by goalkeeper Mustafa Köseci as a "brother and very good friend", Halim played five of six matches in qualifying as Ankara became the only side to go all the way from the preliminary round to the finals.

"It was a long road to get here," said Halim of mini-tournaments in Croatia and Slovenia, adding with a fair degree of assurance: "We are very proud of that but don't think we are finished here; our journey will end in Barcelos, where will we are confident of winning the cup [on 28 June]."

Halim, Fatih and Mustafa all started at the Cidade de Barcelos on Tuesday as ten-man Ankara opened their campaign with a goalless draw against Leinster & Munster, a result which owed much to Mustafa's excellence between the posts.

"We would prefer to have won the game and though I'm still happy with my performance, it could have been better," explained Mustafa, a student in Konya, who has conceded just once in six appearances in the 2010/11 edition. "I produced some good saves yet I also made some mistakes, but fortunately they weren't big ones. I can be much better and I will try to be in our next match."

That comes on Thursday against South Region Russia in Vila Verde, where Fatih will be striving to add to his five-goal haul from qualifying. "The most important thing is that we win the game, so it doesn't matter who scores," said Fatih, a livewire presence on the left of Ankara's attacking triumvirate against the Irish team. "On the other hand, there is pressure on me; people expect me to score. Whenever we need a goal people look to me."

Whatever happens in northern Portugal this week, the Galatasaray AŞ fan will play with pride and enthusiasm, aware of how privileged he is to be donning the red shirt of Turkey.

"We aren't playing for money but for our national colours. As Turkish citizens that is very important because we know not many people at home will get this chance. This will be an incredible story to tell our friends and families in the future."