Sports, Life

Ilhan Cavcav: Legendary chairman of Genclerbirligi

Cavcav leaves mark in Turkish football, running Genclerbirligi for 37 years with unique style of management

Muhammed Enes Calli and Emre Asikci   | 22.01.2020
Ilhan Cavcav: Legendary chairman of Genclerbirligi


Turkish Super Lig club Genclerbirligi's legendary chairman, Ilhan Cavcav is being commemorated on the third anniversary of his death on Wednesday as one of the most influential and controversial sports figures in the history of Turkish football.

Cavcav, who was a child of a Kosovar-origin family that migrated to Turkey in the early 1900s, was born in Turkey's Ankara in October 1935.

Never far from controversy with the leaderships of other clubs, Cavcav firstly served Genclerbirligi as a player, later becoming a "legend president" for 37 years.

Cavcav began as a board member of Genclerbirligi in 1977 and became a club's president one year later, in 1978.

He left the Ankara club for a short time when he disagreed with the other board members but was re-elected as chairman in 1981.

Genclerbirligi was promoted to Turkey's top-tier football division in 1983 and won two Turkish Cups during his presidency.

Under his management, Genclerbirligi finished in 3rd spot of Turkish Lig in 2003 to qualify for the UEFA Cup.

Genclerbirligi advanced to the fourth round of UEFA Cup -- last 16 -- in 2004 and named the club as "surprise team of the year" for 2004.

Transforming Genclerbirligi's financial structure

During Cavcav's tenure, Genclerbirligi built modern youth academy facilities -- an important step in getting young talent on the field in the coming years.

His transfer strategy mainly focused on finding and recruiting young players at low costs and selling them to other teams at much higher prices, led to the development of a successful financial structure in the club.

Having built a reputation as a "selling club" in Turkey, Cavcav's Genclerbirligi sold 34 players to the Turkish Super Lig title holders, Fenerbahce, Besiktas, Galatasaray, and Trabzonspor.

Cavcav had a dominant personality with his unique management style and even followed amateur league matches to recruit young talented players.

Turkish midfielder Tarik Dasgun, who started his career at Genclerbirligi’s youth academy, was one of the most expensive signings in the Turkish league when he transferred from Genclerbirligi to Fenerbahce in 1995.

Cavcav also signed on many foreign players from African countries with lower transfer fees, with Genclerbirligi becoming one of the first Turkish clubs to discover the African transfer market to recruit young, talented and less costly players from the continent.

The Cameroonian international Nijtap Geremi was one of Cavcav's famous sales after he inked a contract with La Liga club Real Madrid for a €5 million ($5.5 million) in 1999.

Cavcav was also an iconic character in Turkish football, who became famous for constantly changing managers.

He worked with 42 different head coaches, hiring managers a total of 56 times in 37 years.

Bakkal was at the top of the list among managers and worked with Cavcav in Genclerbirligi in three different times. (Sept. 2005 - June 2007, January 2008 - Nov. 2008, Feb. 2015 - May 2015).

Working for Turkish clubs' financial future

Besides being a major figure in the rise of Genclerbirligi, Cavcav took the initiative to solve the problems of Turkish football by helping establish the Turkish Union of Clubs.

He was head of the union in 2000-2002, 2004-2005 and 2013-2014 seasons and was later awarded the position of honorary presidency.

In addition, he played an important role in creating the "pool model", through which broadcast revenues were distributed to Turkish clubs.

The legendary chairman died on Jan. 22, 2017 in Ankara at 81 years old.
Following his death, Cavcav’s son, Murat Cavcav, became the club's president.

Genclerbirligi were relegated from the Turkish Super Lig at the end of the 2017-2018 football season after the club played in Turkey's top-tier football division for 29 consecutive years.

The club returned to Super Lig this season, currently sitting in the 13th place with 18 points.

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