ο προπονητής Kemal που έγινε Leyla...
Turkish basketball star Hidayet Türkoğlu drew loud chants of “Hido, Hido” during the 2010 FIBA World Basketball Championship, and the crowd roared when Kerem Tunçeri made a last-minute lay-up against Serbia to take Turkey into the finals. Fans made their love for Turkey’s “12 Giant Men” abundantly clear during the championship event. Also praised was a 13th man, coach Bogdan Tanjevic. But another person responsible for the team’s success, the person who discovered and trained some of the stars of the Turkish national basketball team, was not present in that crowd. This 14th giant is Leyla Çalışkan, a famous talent scout for Turkish basketball, and a male-to-female transsexual.
Çalışkan worked largely behind the scenes until daily Hürriyet columnist Yılmaz Özdil wrote about her after the final game Sept. 12 between Turkey and the United States, which the U.S. squad won 81-64.“You do not know Leyla; it is normal, because she is not keen on fame. She has a modest, peaceful life... Although you would not want it, Leyla, I wanted Turkey to know who they should be proud of,” Özdil wrote, dubbing Çalışkan the country’s “14th Giant Man.”
“Both Hidayet and Kerem are children in whom I invested my labor. I trained Barış Ermiş for a while too. [Their performance in the FIBA tournament] is a situation that every trainer would be proud of. I am so happy that I shaped them when they were young,” Çalışkan told daily Milliyet in an interview published last week, after the final. Leyla Çalışkan was Kemal Çalışkan when she was training both Tunçeri and Türkoğlu. Tunçeri’s family brought him to the school where Çalışkan was working, but she was the one who spotted Türkoğlu in a game. “I found his address and met his family. His father objected strongly. He wanted [Hido] to be an accountant. But we convinced him,” she said.
Eventually, Çalışkan’s “special situation” was noticed at Çavuşoğlu College and she was fired from her job there. “I had not had the [sex-change] surgery yet [when they fired me], but I guess people were understanding [my situation],” she said. Çalışkan said she went through a very difficult and lonely period after she was fired and then decided to have a sex-change operation, which she had been postponing in order to keep her job. “However, I have never regretted having the surgery; I found my identity,” she said.
Subsequently, Çalışkan lost communication with both Tunçeri and Türkoğlu. When asked by daily Milliyet whether her gender change had played a role in this, she answered: “Maybe, especially on Hidayet’s side. We have never talked about it, but I guess my special situation has an effect on it.”
In the interview, Çalışkan also explained why she did not attend the FIBA championships. “Unfortunately, I could not go to the games as one invitation was considered too much to give me,” she said. “And as a person who put that much labor into basketball, it [would have hurt my pride] for me to buy a ticket with my own money.” Çalışkan has not abandoned basketball, however. She continues discovering new talents and actively works as a coach at the Yeşilyurt Sports Club and Elit Youth College.