Aziz Behich has candidly spoken of his fear after friends and former teammates were affected by the devastating earthquakes in Turkey.
The Kahramanmaras quake and its aftershocks destroyed — or seriously damaged — over 150,000 buildings and killed more than 50,000 people across Turkey and Syria.
Cities such as Adana, Gaziantep and Malatya all felt the force of the disaster, which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale.
Former Newcastle United footballer Christian Atsu was killed in a collapsed building in Antakya, near the Syrian border.
Although a fiercely proud Australian, Behich has Turkish heritage and has spent the majority of his professional career in the country, turning out for Bursaspor, Istanbul Basaksehir, Kayserispor and Giresunspor.
In sombre fashion, he recounts a recent conversation with his former Basaksehir roommate Fredrik Gulbrandsen — now on the books of Demirspor in the affected city of Adana — in which he described the scene as “like looking at death”.
“When it happened I couldn’t get a hold of one of our friends in Gaziantep, a young boy who came through the ranks at Bursaspor when I was there,” said Behich.
“But thankfully he got back to me about 24 hours later to say he was alright. But he was saying the city was pretty knocked out.
“One of our other good friends, a Norwegian guy named Fredrik (Gulbrandsen), who was a roommate when we won the league (with Istanbul Basaksehir), was in his house when it hit.
“He is injured at the moment so he wasn’t away with his team — but he managed to get out.
“He felt the building shaking so quickly got out and then ran to one of his team-mates’ apartments close by to get his team-mates’ wife and kids, because he knew they were on their own.
“He told me it was just the scariest thing — like looking at death in front of your eyes.
“I have another two good friends who stay in the cities which were hit and they didn’t know whether their apartments are still standing. Thankfully, they were fine too.”
Turkey charity efforts
Like a number of others in Dundee, Behich and his wife have been moved to support the charity efforts of Inler Spor Ve Egitim Vakfi (ISEV), which was established by another of his former team-mates, ex-Napoli hero Gökhan Inler,
“It’s so sad to see,” he continued. “I’ve spent more than half my life in Turkey and it’s terrible.
“My wife and I have been donating and helping out as much as we can.
“A really good friend, Gökhan Inler, the ex-Swiss captain, has a charity to help out so we are getting involved with him and doing what we can.
“There are a lot of people homeless at the moment, so there is just so much needing done.
“He (Inler) does a lot of charity work. It’s medical stuff for hospitals and things like that he’s trying to sort out.”
Behich added: “I only felt tremors once when I was there, that was it — never a full-blown earthquake.
“Turkey is known for it happening but even with that, it’s horrendous when it does happen and causes so much devastation like that.”
The ISEV charity can be found at: https://www.isev.org.tr/about-page/