The first one was former Fenerbahçe footballer Lefter Küçükandonyadis, also known as “the Professor." Born in Istanbul in 1925 to a fisherman of Greek descent and a Turkish mother, Lefter was my idol, whom I could watch only from Betamax video tapes and imitated his moves in the street games that I played in my childhood. The legend that he created was one of reasons that made Fenerbahçe my favorite team, as he was so much loved. When some Turkish nationalists rioted in Istanbul after the British agitation in 1955 against Greeks to gain an upper-hand in Cyprus, scores of reasonable Turks (and not only Fenerbahçe fans) had flocked to Büyükada, where Lefter was living, to protect him and his property from the anti-Greek mob.
Lefter's death should have devastated everyone both in Turkey and Greece.
The second one was Rauf Denktaş, the founding president of the Turkish Cypriot state and "the courageous leader that guided his community out of those terrible years when Greek Cypriots were trying to annihilate Turkish presence from the island" decades ago. I must acknowledge Denktaş' success in this paramilitary defence and even though I had opposed his pro-partition stance decades after, during the Annan referandum, he is proven right also politically, as a two-state solution seems like the only way in Cyprus now.
An overwhelming majority of Turks mourn Denktaş' death today, while I presume that most Greeks were not that unhappy.
As these two titans are falling, their deaths that divide Turks and Greeks are defining the distinct nature of football and politics; two games that people play and two games that play with people.
One of the last words of Lefter was a support message for the current chairman of Fenerbahçe, who was arrested during a controversial investigation on match-fixing, which some see as another instance of political persecution by the Turkish government.
On the other hand, one of the last words of Denktaş was in the Greek language. "Tell them (the Greek Cypriot government) that Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is an independent state," he told his wife just before falling into a coma yesterday.
While a footballer unites two nations in sorrow, a politician -as another giant figure in history- still manages to divide them once again with his death. It is not his fault, though. It is just life and what kind of roles it casts us...
I am sure as hell that both of these extraordinary individuals are having great time together while travelling to the Heaven now, speaking maybe in Turkish, maybe in Greek. Does it really matter?