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Kamil Ahmet Cörekçi: From being released by Millwall to playing in the Turkish Cup final

Kamil Ahmet Cörekçi. Credit: Trabzonspor

Kamil Ahmet Cörekçi was released by Millwall for being too small and has been proving them and others wrong ever since.

The footballer from Gants Hill was part of Fulham's and later Millwall's academy as a youth as he aimed to make it as a professional in England but his dream of playing in his homeland was dashed.

Throughout his teenage years Londoner Cörekçi represented Turkey, who he qualified for due to his family lineage, and decided to head to the country to chase his ambitions, rather than waiting around in England.

“It was a tough choice because I had been born and brought up in England, played all my life in England, I didn’t know much Turkish at the time either," Cörekçi told ITV News.

"I made the decision because I was within the national setup in Turkey, so there were a lot of clubs interested in me out there, so I thought I’d take my chances out there because clubs in England didn’t look at me in that way."

Corekci came through at Millwall. Credit: PA

Cörekçi never expected to get released from Millwall, who were in League one at the time. He was a key part of their Under-18s, playing in the heart of their midfield as they won the league and reached the Fifth Round of the FA Youth Cup, losing to eventual finalists Aston Villa.

Although not the biggest, standing at 5ft8 tall he had held his own in the reserves and was shining on the international stage. A metatarsal injury late in the 2009-10 season hampered him but he still anticipated starting his professional career at The New Den.

“It was a big shock for me at the time, as I felt I was one of the best - if not the best - in the Under-18s, we won the league that season, we went far in the FA Youth Cup, I was going away to play for Turkey’s Under-17 and Under-18s national teams, I was playing for the reserves whenever they needed to call someone up from the Under-18s.

"For the last two months I had a broken metatarsal, so that was a big knock for me as well.

“I actually walked up in my crutches when I was being told that I was being released. I remember an article at the time where Kenny Jackett said I was technically very good but that my height would put the team at a disadvantage, so maybe it was that."

Kenny Jackett decided against offering Cörekçi a deal. Credit: PA

After his exit from Millwall, Cörekçi was not short of offers in Turkey where his reputation was high due to his performances for the national age group teams. He decided to join Bucaspor in the SuperLig, Turkey's top flight.

From playing in front of small crowds for the reserves and Under-18s at Millwall, he was thrust into huge games against some of Europe's biggest teams, as Bucaspor faced the likes of Galatasaray, Besiktas and Fenerbahce.

"It was very overwhelming, I was playing against really big name footballers, players I had looked up to as a kid, people like Simao, Quaresma, Hugo Almeida.

"I was obviously very nervous but I was just proud and happy to be on the same pitch as them. It was a very big step and a huge change for me.

"The atmosphere is very different, it's always electric for 90 minutes; in England I know it's very quiet and they clap for a chance, whereas here it is completely different."

Simao was a childhood hero of Cörekçi's. Credit: AP

The season ended in relegation for Bucaspor but Cörekçi's stock had risen, eventually earning him a move to Kayserispor, where he would spend 18 months.

It had not been a straightforward transition for the youngster who was still seen as an outsider despite his Turkish roots and representing the national team on 62 occasions up to B level.

"They see you as being a foreigner. It was a very difficult at the time when I went over. "Even when I went to the national team from England it was very hard for me and my Turkish wasn't fluent at the time, so it was difficult to communicate and stuff, but, at the end of the day, football is a universal language, so I let the football do the talking."

During the summer of 2011 he played for Turkey in the Under-19 European Championships, scoring in a 3-0 victory over Spain and earning a place in the team of the tournament.

Gerard Deulofeu was part of a Spain side defeated by Turkey at the 2011 Under-19 European Championships. Credit: PA

“It was an unbelievable feeling for me. I had a really good tournament, I scored against Spain, we won 3-0 against the likes of [Gerard] Deulofeu, who is at Watford now, and [Alvaro] Morata, who is at Chelsea, and a few other big names who are playing in Spain now played against me.

"Getting picked in the best XI was a great achievement for me and a big step."

Now playing as a right-back, Cörekçi moved to Eskisehirspor in 2014, another key moment in his career as he joined a team seemingly on the up. He became a regular, helping them to the Turkish Cup final in the same year, where they lost to a single Wesley Sneijder goal against Galatasaray.

Wesley Sneijder scored the winner against Corecki's side in the 2014 Turkish Cup final. Credit: PA

"We played really well in that game and we had a few chances to win it, it was my first season playing for Eskisehirspor , who have a very good fanbase.

"It is a city where they only support Eskisehirspor, so it was unbelievable to be a cup final against a big team like Galatasaray. I was gutted at the time to lose 1-0 but I wasn't really upset as I was just really happy to be in a cup final against such a big club, experiencing that great atmosphere."

The 2015-16 season ended in disappointment and relegation for the club, which the fans did not take well and showed their anger by setting fire to the stadium after the final game of the season.

"It was a very old stadium, a new one was being built, so they thought they set it on fire when we got relegated. It wasn't very nice at the time."

Trabzonspor have some passionate fans. Credit: PA

Better news came for Cörekçi in 2017 as he transferred to one of the country's biggest clubs, six-time league winners Trabzonspor, who can boast Hugo Rodallega among their ranks.

Injury has kept him out this season but he is back in training and hopeful of returning to action soon.

"A lot of people wrote me off in England but I always said that no matter how much it hurt me I was going to prove them wrong.

"By playing in the first division here I believe I proved a lot of people wrong but going to such a big club I was just proud to be here.

"It is a different vibe, different expectations, different kind of quality characteristic players, you can tell you're at a big club."

Former Wigan striker Hugo Rodellega also plays for Trabzonspor. Credit: PA

Despite playing his entire professional career in Turkey, Cörekçi is keen on proving himself back in England.

"I've always said I'd like to return one day, so if the opportunity came I'd always look at it. Football in England is a different gravy. Football was invented in England I would love to return there."