It's been quite a weekend for the Turks. First their football team stole the Euro 2008 quarter final in Vienna on Friday night in the last kick of extra time from the brilliant Luka Modric (the new Cruyff) and his Croats. And then, today, Prospect and Foreign Policy magazines announced an equally stunning victory for the charismatic Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen and his surfing Sufis in their poll to find the world's top public intellectual.
I wonder what some of my more xenophobic Greek friends must be thinking. It's the Greeks, of course, who are the reigning European champions, having sensationally upset Portugal in the Euro 2004 Lisbon final. But, in this year's competition, the Greeks were publicly spanked, badly losing all three of their games to the Czechs, Russians and Spanish. And now the Greeks might have to watch the Turks lift the Euro 2008 trophy in Vienna. All the Turks have to do now is beat the Germans in their Wednesday semi-final and then overcome either Spain or Russia in Sunday's final.
But I'm sure it's the Gulen victory that has my Greek nationalist friends really crying into their Retsina. After all, rather than on the football pitch, it has been in the generation of public intellectuals that the Greeks have historically most excelled. And now, the Turks have stolen that mantle too, with Gulen formally anointed today by Prospect and Foreign Policy as Socrates 2.0. Worse still, the Greeks didn't have a single living public thinker in the top 100, while Turkey also took at the #4 spot in the intellectual hall of fame with the post-modern novelist Orhan Pamuk.
National triumphs usually come in threes, of course. So what's the next victory for the Turks? Is that old Turkish-Greek chestnut, the Cyprus issue, about to be solved by EU foreign ministers, thereby paving the way for a triumphant Turkish entrance into the European Union?