Friday 7 January 2011

Turkish Sports - Football

Globally massive of course, Football is probably the most popular sport in Turkey. They're not half bad at it either. Reaching the semi-finals of the 2008 UEFA Cup, Turkey treated us to some spectacularly nail-biting matches. But, for some reason, they've not qualified for the World Cup since 2002, when they kicked ass all the way to 3rd place.

National football is really a three horse race. Though football supporters may have a local team, they will, almost always, also support one of three Istanbul teams:

1. Beşiktaş (BJK) - The cool colours of black and white and the eagle mascot. Not much to say about them really. They're good and they're reasonably quietly confident about it.

2. Galatasaray (GS) - My team by default (which is weird because I never watch football). A pretty rowdy bunch with a habit of throwing their seats onto the pitch when things are looking down.

Britons may remember Galatasaray after a 2000 UEFA Cup match in Istanbul when two Leeds fans were stabbed to death. The reason for the violence has been debated. Though official reports claim the British fans had insulted a van driver, my barber reckons they wiped their arses on some Turkish money.

Tip to visiting supporters: Turks frown on many of the fun things we take for granted. The great British passtime of mooning is seen as a rather serious insult. Should you wish to bare your backside, be prepared for rather severe shoeing. With that in mind, it'd also be best to rethink any plans to streak. Wiping your arse on any icons of Turkish national identity will envoke your travel insurance's post mortem repatriation clause.

3. Fenerbahçe (FB) - These guys are extremely vocal about their support. Though perhaps not as overtly aggressive as Galatasaray, they do chant a lot.

There's something I've observed over the years. If I were to create a list of people I would consider idiots, the vast majority are Fenerbahçe supporters. That's not to say all Fenerbahçe fans are cocks, but most cocks are Fenerbahçe fans.

The marketing behind these three teams is simply awesome. Perhaps things in the UK have changed since my departure but, here in Turkey, the 'Fenerium', 'GS Store' and 'Kartal Yuvası' shops litter high streets and shopping centres, selling everything from team kits to cuff links.

I'll leave this section with the inspiring speech by the National Team's Fatih Terim.