Firts female president in Turkey

The presidential seat of a football club is considered a man’s job all over the world. In the conservative society of Turkey, there’s a common joke that the “right” president needs to have a thick mustache. Not anymore; Berna Gozbasi made history a few days ago, as she was elected president of the Superlig club Kayserispor. She’s the first woman who takes after such responsibility in Turkey.

Born in Gelibolu, Cannakale province, Gozbasi has no roots from the inland province of Kayseri, but she flourished there, both in sports and business. She was an active basketball player back in 2000s and wore Kayserispor jersey when playing in the top female basketball league in Turkey. She had already completed her studies in business administration at the Dokuz Eylul University in Izmir and starter her professional career as the export manager at the zinc-lead metal industry “Cinkir”, based in Kayseri. There she made her family and gave birth to two daughters.

In 2001, Gozbasi started her first personal business, an export and foreign trade consulting company. After helping dozens of small companies entering the export business, she transformed the company into a mattresse and bed base exporting business itself. Her name was made synonym of success, she received international media attention and honors and was the first female member of the Kayseri Chamber of Industry.

During Erol Bedir’s presidency, Berna Gozbasi was offered the opportunity of entering the Kayserispor board and she accepted. She was quickly upgraded to vice president and after Erol Bedir resigned in early October, her name was the top choice of all directors. Even the coming out Bedir encouraged her, but the crucial support came from the club’s honorary president Mehmet Ozhaseki, who is a key figure in the region. He has been Kayseri mayor from 1998 to 2015, when he resigned to be elected member of parliament and served as Minister of Environment and Urban Planning for two years (2016-18).

Nobody expects from Berna Gozbasi to spend her own money helping the team, but her fresh sight is deeply needed, in order to find new ways of financing the club. Kayserispor is a historic club of the region and has a stable presence in top football league, but this season is struggling. After a bad league start they currently hold the last position of the table and the main target for this season is to avoid relegation.

In her inaugural speech as club’s president, Berna Gozbasi showed her intelligence along with her realism. She said that “the president’s chair would not have been offered to me if the team had not been at the bottom of the league table”. This is a reality, but also offers a bright chance for her. If she succeeds in keeping Kayserispor on top league and develop the club’s brand name to attract sponsors, she could make history once again.

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