It all started in early 2013 with an email from a Kevin Lloyd, a former Australian Army member and a rugby player, who was in charge of putting together a very memorable tour. On behalf of the Australia Army Rugby Union Old Boys “Leopards", Kevin proposed Istanbul Ottomans RFC an ANZAC Day veteran match for commemorate the Gallipoli Battles & ANZAC Day Centenary to take place in April 2015, in Gallipoli, Turkey. "What a great idea”, Ottomans thought, something we had been dreaming about for many years. A truly memorable event to mark the Centenary thru brotherhood of rugby, which resonates with the idea of brothers in arms of the battles past, where estimated 250.000 were killed on Gallipoli and around.
After exchanging numerous emails regarding the details of the possible fixture, the City of Canakkale announced a call for proposals for commemorative Centenary events/projects to take place during 2015, which seems to be a perfect fit for the fixture. We put in a proposal but also knew that the event was still a long way away and that it could be a bumpy road getting the event done right.
Patience paid off and by pulling the right strings in the right places, we managed to secure a grass pitch in the town of Gallipoli for the oval. It almost seemed unreal! This was going to happen!
Leopards arrived a couple of days before the fixture in Istanbul and we hosted a meet & greet night at our local pub. Both teams were happy to finally meet and get to know each other. Later at the pub, Ottomans presented Leopards a token of their appreciation, a one of a kind Leopard skin fez, which has become the official Leopards tour fez since then.
Ottomans headed out to Gallipoli a day early to set up the field and get “ready" for the fixture. This was a great opportunity for those retired/veteran Ottomans to get together ahead of the fixture, roll a couple of cold ones and catch up as well, as most of us had not been on the field together for many years. In the meantime, Leopards, traveled thru the area visiting many sites and enjoying the scenery.
The day of the fixture turned out to be glorious, perfect weather and pitch conditions for the oval. Locals started dropping into the stadium, music blasting out of the speakers getting folks in the mood, both teams were in pre-game socialising activities, but tension was also building up.
Paul Martinez, a former referee, had asked to be the linesman at the match, but due to words getting lost in translation throughout pre-fixture correspondence , he was assumed to be the referee, and with no one else around to run the show, Martinez accepted the challange and took charge.
Before the kick-off, National anthems sung, followed by Last Post, for the fallen.
Right off the kick-off, it was obvious that, this was not going to be a simply a veteran fixture, but it was a serious bout. Both teams took it seriously and fought until the last whistle as if they were in their 20’s. A couple of injuries and many aching body parts later, the match came to an end in a draw, as it always does. Both teams gathered around the midfield to greet each other, pose for the local newspapers, and receive gifts from local dignitaries.