The second round of Group A matches at the 2008 European Championship posed an interesting question for Hakan Yakin. Turkish in name and origin, here he was playing against their national team for Switzerland. Scratch that, here he was scoring for the Swiss side against Turkey, putting the country at risk of elimination. At least he didn’t celebrate.
Granted he is not alone in such a scenario. Teammates that night, which conveniently ended in a 2-1 win for Turkey, included Eren Derdiyok and Gökhan Inler. Meanwhile former record national goalscorer Kuba Türkyilmaz is also of Turkish origin. Switzerland is renowned as a melting pot of many different cultures, with approximately 70,000 Turkish citizens living in the country.
One such person was Yakin’s mother Emine, whose first husband traumatically disappeared in 1972 before his body was found in Lake Geneva. As part of immigration laws at the time, Emine had to remarry to enable her to bring over her six children from Turkey. Soon she met and wed a welder by the name of Mustafa Yakin, giving birth to Murat on 15 September 1974. Some two and a half years later, his younger brother Hakan was born, with both growing up in the Münchenstein area of Basel.
Such upbringing wasn’t easy. Their parents frequently argued prior to divorcing in 1982. Mustafa preferred education over football, getting irate at stepson Ertan Irizik – later a professional with St. Gallen – taking Hakan and Murat to football trials. This would pay off as both Yakin brothers entered the academy of Concordia Basel, quickly moving onto one of Switzerland’s premier clubs. For Murat, this came in 1992 in the form of Grasshopper Club, whilst three years later Hakan joined local giants Basel.
A dependable center back renowned for his accuracy from set-pieces, Murat won the Swiss title in 1995 and 1996 before moving to Stuttgart the following summer. In his place, Grasshoppers brought in Hakan, although it was not a like-for-like switch. The younger sibling was a completely different player; a maverick attacking midfield renowned for his temperamental nature and rock star lifestyle.
Such ability would help Hakan guide Grasshoppers to a further league title in 2001, whilst Murat struggled away from home. The defender failed to settle in Germany, being sold to Fenerbahçe after one season and briefly moving to Basel in 2000. He quickly returned to Germany with Kaiserslautern, although would fall out with coach Andreas Brehme, who he threatened to “beat him so badly that he no longer knows who he is”.
Football abroad also proved difficult for Hakan. He returned to Basel in 2002, however his form soon attracted larger European powers. In the summer of 2003, he was bought by Paris Saint-Germain to replace Ronaldinho, only for the French side to cancel the deal after Yakin “forgot” to declare a hernia in his medical. He would later struggle during his own spell with Stuttgart after moving in January 2004, punctuated by two games on loan at Galatasaray.
A family trait, both Yakin brothers enjoyed the best years of their careers within the borders of Switzerland. Upon returning to Basel in 2001, Murat would win the league’s best player award in 2002, going on to captain the side to three Super Leagues and two Swiss Cups. Three of these trophies would be shared alongside Hakan, who won the same personal honour in 2003. Despite the brothers’ extensive careers, these two seasons are the only time they played together at club level.
Internationally this was longer-lasting. Murat made his debut in 1994, whilst Hakan had to wait six years. The duo were both named in Köbi Kuhn’s squad for Euro 2004 – Switzerland’s first major international tournament for a decade – after which Murat would retire on 49 caps to focus on his domestic game. Hakan, meanwhile, continued until 2011, appearing at both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.
Having moved to Young Boys in 2005, in 2007/08 he led the Super League in both goals (24) and assists (15) at the age of 31. Despite this, the club lost the league to Basel late on, meaning Hakan never won a trophy in the Swiss capital. He would also come up short in 2010/11, where he played a large part in helping unfancied Luzern lead the league for the majority of the season.
Whilst here he would end up facing Murat once again, who was busy getting Thun promoted in a managerial capacity. The 2010/11 season set up Murat the coach against Hakan the player in an odd twist of their sibling dynamic. In two contests, Hakan would lay on an assist each time, although both matches would end in 1-1 draws.
Even stranger was to come. In the summer of 2011, Murat took the Luzern job, meaning he was now his brother’s boss. With Murat in charge and Hakan the main man on the pitch, Luzern again led the league in an impressive first half of the season. Hakan left in January 2012 to wind down his career with second tier Bellinzona, although Murat still took Luzern to their highest ever league finish, their sole title in 1989 aside.
At the end of the following season, Hakan would retire, whilst Murat continued to impress managerially. After sacking Heiko Vogel in October 2012, Basel appointed their former captain as head coach. Murat would lead the club to back-to-back leagues and a Europa League semi-final, which was lost to eventual winners Chelsea, whilst blooding young talent such as Mohamed Salah. He was widely seen as a future star of management, linked with the likes of Southampton and Tottenham.
In June 2014, Murat was appointed at Spartak Moscow, although this proved disastrous as he finished sixth and was sacked within a year. With Hakan then joining as his assistant, in spells with Schaffhausen, Grasshoppers and Sion it failed to get better. The duo are now back at Schaffhausen, although last season ended ninth in the curtailed ten-team second division.
Regardless of this downturn in fortunes, the brothers’ reputation on the pitch remains secured. Hakan and Murat Yakin are arguably two of the best players Switzerland has produced in recent decades. It may be phonetically Turkish, but in the cities of Bern, Basel and Zürich, the name Yakin stands for legend.
By James Kelly @jkell403