It’s supposed to be a time for finding fitness, blowing off the cobwebs and gradually building towards the new campaign.
However, there are times when pre-season matches take on a competitive edge that belies their description of being friendly.
Such was the case on this day in 2003 when Liverpool took on Galatasaray in the Amsterdam tournament in Holland.
What should have been an attractive match to decide the competition – the Reds had drawn with hosts Ajax a few days earlier – instead descended into chaos with two red cards, claims of fake injury and all manner of tetchiness.
It perhaps didn’t help that the teams had become well acquainted having faced off twice in the Champions League the previous year, and that relations between England and Turkey were at a low ebb with the pair scrapping for qualification to the following summer’s European Championships.
Familiarity, then, bred contempt in the Dutch capital on a warm August evening.
Matters turned feisty in the second half when a poor tackle from Igor Biscan on Berkant Goktan prompted a fracas after which Steven Gerrard, who only emerged from the bench for the final half-hour, was booked.
“In that original tussle Hakan Sukur went to grab him and pinch him,” said then Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier.
“Steven reacted, but in football it’s never the provocation that gets punished but the retaliation.
“The whole thing was started by a bad tackle by Igor Biscan, but the guy was not even injured.”
Gerrard, no doubt mindful of being punched by Galatasaray defender Bulent Korkmaz in the tunnel at England’s Euro 2004 qualifier with Turkey a few months earlier, had already become involved in an ongoing spat with Hakan Unsal.
But it was a tackle from another Liverpool substitute, Neil Mellor, four minutes from time that sparked the next free-for-all.
Mellor was given a red card for going through the back of Gabriel Tamas, moments after which Gerrard was shown a second yellow for dissent by frazzled referee Rene Temmiunk and followed his team-mate down the tunnel.
“I don’t know what happened between between Steven and the referee later on,” added Houllier. “Maybe as one of our leaders he was frustrated with Mellor being sent off and that got to him.
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“But he didn’t use any foul language or insult the referee, because I asked the referee immediately afterwards if that was the case and he said no.”
It didn’t end there, as Galatasaray wing-back Fabio Pinto seemingly spat at Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland after the final whistle as the Turkish side celebrated their win.
“Sure, it wasn’t very friendly at the end, but sometimes emotions can get the better of players,” said Galatasaray boss Fatih Terim.
“That was not about the internationals or the countries involved. Anyway, we will win the game in Turkey and qualify.”
England went on to draw in Istanbul two months later and eliminate Turkey.
Oh, and the final score in Amsterdam? Emile Heskey scored Liverpool’s equaliser as they lost 2-1. But nobody remembers that.
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