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Archive for the ‘Football in Turkey’ Category


Turkish eye of the storm
Besiktas 1-0 Bursaspor (05:11:10)
Three fans were put in hospital with knife wounds following the Besiktas v Bursaspor match on Sunday, meaning every news agency reported on it for all the wrong reasons. EFW Turkish correspondent Ulas Gürsat was at the match reporting on what really happened. Ulas is a football reporter for the Turkish daily Haberturk Newspaper:

A small bit of history was made on Sunday at the İnönü Stadium, because for the first time in seven years away fans were allowed to travel to a match involving Beşiktaş and Bursaspor. What could possibly go wrong?
These two teams have become huge rivals following events surrounding the finale of the 2003/04 season. Bursaspor were fighting relegation with Akcaabat Sebatspor and Rizespor, both of whom had to play Beşiktaş as the season drew to a close. Beşiktaş lost those games, and in the eyes of Bursa, did so on purpose – therefore relegating them to the second division, and thus the newest football rivalry in Turkey was born.
It took Bursa three seasons to regain their spot in the Süper Lig. Upon doing so the Turkish FA instructed both clubs not to allow away fans into their respective grounds for this fixture for fear of crowd trouble. Neither team were happy with the ruling, but after today, it will probably be back for some years to come.
This match kicked off at the unusual time of 14:00. It’s quite rare for matches involving ‘big teams’ to kick-off in daylight. Beşiktaş had played in Europe on the Thursday beforehand, and Bursaspor are due to play Glasgow Rangers in the Champions League on Tuesday. Therefore – in the interests of both clubs – the authorities settled on an afternoon start, which isn’t something we’re used to, but everyone seemed to like it – to begin with, anyway.
Beşiktaş is a district of Istanbul, and almost everybody in that area supports Karakartallar (The Black Eagles). But they also have fans from all around Istanbul and indeed the whole of Turkey. I started my short journey to the stadium from Kadıköy, a large, populous, and cosmopolitan district on the Asian side of Istanbul. I took the ferry with the other BJK fans from Asia, and even though it was early, their fans were not only in high spirits – they were drinking spirits, and the singing had already started.
Sunday morning worship. The Black Eagles take to the streets of Istanbul.
The ferry pulled in just 500 metres from the ground. Upon our arrival, there was a heaving mass of excitable fans. The reason? Well, my appearance had coincided with the 1200 visiting fans and shouts of pleasure and confusion were raining across the streets. The BJK fans approached their rivals, but had three of four lines of police in their way. By way of a greeting, the two sets of fans exchanged pleasantries in the form of beer cans, glasses, stones and small bombs.
Beşiktaş fans were very determined to get to their rivals, but the police were equally intent on stopping them. Bursa fans, for their part, threw everything they could lay their hands on to defend themselves whilst trying to gain entry into their section of the stadium. This continued inside the İnönü, but this time seats were the weapon of choice.
Beşiktaş fans gather to welcome their rivals.

Bursa fans make their way into the stadium.
Pleasantries are exchanged.

Fighting, that’s done. Now to support the teams.
Tensions continued to rise throughout the match, not helped when a Bursa fan ran onto the pitch with a green flag. He knew he couldn’t gain entry to the pitch from the away sector, because of the fences, so he posed as a BJK fan, and ran onto the field of play from the home end. Beşiktaş fans are famous for their noise, today was no different, and if anything they were louder than normal. It’s an incredible experience to watch a match here.
It was a tough game played out in front of a full stadium. The home side won it with a Filip Holosko strike. Bursa blamed the defeat on the sending off of their star man Volkan Şen. He was showered with missiles as he left the pitch for his troubles.
Bursa fans fenced in to their section.

So this chap invaded the pitch from the home section. Mentalist.
Volkan Şen is not alone as he exits the pitch after his red card.

My view from the press box.
Happily, there was no further trouble after the match, but I learned later that three people had been taken to hospital with knife wounds during the violent scenes before it. Beşiktaş took the all important three points, but they won’t be taking any of their fans to the return fixture if this was anything to go by.
For many more photos of the day CLICK ME.
Further reading: EFW visit to Besiktas. And the video of their fans.
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Me Tarzan, you Jane
Manisaspor 0-2 Bursaspor (20:11:10)
Ulas Gürsat continues his new weekly column for EFW. Ulas is a football reporter for the Turkish daily Haberturk Newspaper:
If you fancy a trip to watch Manisaspor, one of Turkey’s oldest clubs, then bare in mind that you don’t need to hang around in the city of Manisa for too long – it’s very dull. Just 45 minutes away by car is Izmir, and that’s where you want to be staying. Izmir: party capital, Manisa: probably not.
But don’t let that put you off completely, because their football team, brilliantly, are nicknamed The Tarzanlar (Tarzans). They may not be famous for their partying, but they are rightly celebrated for their Tarzan, seriously. His real name is Ahmet Bedevi, and he fought in the Independence war of Turkey. After retiring from the army, he dedicated his life to planting trees, and took residence in the Sipil Mountains – wearing just his shorts. When the Tarzan movie showed in Manisa, locals thought it mirrored the life of Bedevi. He died in 1963 and became known as Manisa Tarzani (Tarzan of Manisa) – a famous cult hero. Statues of him adorn the city, and ceremonies are held for him each year on the anniversary of his death.
Manisaspor Megastore open for business.

A pre-match Simit bread with sesame anyone?
The Sipil Mountains overlook the stadium. On a quiet day you can make out the screeches and calls of Tarzan, Jane and little Cheetah.
This Manisaspor v Bursaspor match attracted the biggest crowd of the season to the Manisa 19 Mayis Stadium. After their spectacular win against Galatasaray, Manisaspor fans fancied a repeat of that success, and the thick end of 17,000 fans turned up. Bursaspor fans, for their part, also packed their section arriving in a dozen or so buses.
Planning isn’t quite what it should be at Turkish football matches. There wasn’t enough room for the away fans, and so some of them adopted a ‘Trojan tactic’. They purchased tickets in the home sections and 15 minutes into the game they broke through the line of security and tried to gain access to the visitors pen. It’s a common tactic at busy matches in Turkey.
Unfortunately, the jungle instinct came out in the local Tarzans, and there was sporadic violence in pockets of the stadium. Hooliganism at Turkish league matches still occurs on a regular basis, actually. You can see a fight nearly every 3 or 4 games.
A small fight breaks out in the stands. Luckily, Tarazan was later seen swinging through the trees to put a stop to it.


The Bursa fans using their ‘Trojan tactic’.

Locals respond with a bit of a sing-song and some pointy arm action.
Bursaspor won the game with an own goal from Ömer Aysan Baris, and a Pablo Batalla effort in the last minute of the first half. Manisaspor’s performance failed to reach the dizzy heights of that victory away to Galatasaray last week. They seemed over confident after that win. And Bursaspor returned to winning ways after losing against Trabzonspor. Normal service resumed.
In terms of food, Manisa is not so different to many other Turkish towns. Sunflower seeds, rice with chickpeas, meatballs are the things you can try. But there are some specialities of Manisa. The Manisa kebab isn’t too special, consisting of a spicy meatballs on pita. But for something different, how about the Mesir Macunu. It’s a paste made up of 41 varieties of spices, herbs and roots. And furthermore, it is believed to be a natural form of Viagra. Perfect for ‘getting you up’ after a 0-2 home defeat no?
We are top of the league, say, we are top of the league.

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Welcome to hell! Anyone?

Galatasaray 0-2 Manisaspor (14:11:10)
Ulas Gürsat continues his new weekly column for EFW. Ulas is a football reporter for the Turkish daily Haberturk Newspaper:
Welcome to hell? If only. They’d roll out the red carpet to greet anyone from overseas to Galatasaray next season. Right here, right now, they are in a very bad place, and – possibly not for the first time – their fans are a little unhappy with life.
After serving Gala and Turkish football for 46 years well-ish for 46 years, the infamous Ali Sami Yen Stadium is soon to be no more. In January, the club will move into their new Seyrantepe Stadium, and the two stadiums couldn’t be any more contrasting.
Ali Sami Yen was the founder of the club.

A corporate new world of mod€rn football awaits.
So, this match was one of the last to be played in the old ground. And fans of the Cim bom would have preferred for this to be remembered as a celebration, ah.
Galatasaray are having one of their worst seasons in recent memory. After 12 rounds of the Turkish league, they sit in tenth position. The board reacted by sacking Frank Rijkaaard and called back the legendary Gheorghe Hagi, but things have not improved.
During this game, the fans let their thoughts about the board be known. They turned their back to the pitch and chanted names of past heroes; Metin Oktay, Hakan Şükür and the like, to remind the current regime of just how big this club is. At the end of the match, they refused to leave the stadium for over an hour and continued chanting obscenities against the current owners.
Who turned out the lights? Fans remain behind to voice their anger.

Don’t look back in anger.
Manisaspor won this game with ease by utilising their pacey wingers to good effect. Gala barely had a shot worthy of note. Last years top scorer Aziza Makukula and Simpson’s penalty secured the points for the, ahem, Tarzanlar (Tarzans).
Just three more home games left until the bulldozers demolish the Ali Sami Yen, and turn it – rather like Highbury – into a block of flats. The fans are hoping that the new stadium will bring with it some fresh optimism and new hope.
Istanbul is a huge metropolitan city and the Ali Sami Yen was smack bang in the middle of that city. It was easy to come and go from the stadium. And with all the buildings and stuff surrounding the ground, you are spoilt for choice in terms of food. Sultanahmet Koftecisi (Sultanahmet Meatballs) are always popular with the fans, as are the kebab, but good luck with getting a kebab, because the queues are always enormous.
Misir (corn) is maybe not the normal thing you’d think of eating before a match, but these are very popular in Istanbul. And you have to finish eating them before you get to the stadium, because the Turkish police won’t allow you take a corn cob inside, bizarre eh? If it’s cold then opt for Kestane (chestnuts), they are sure to warm your cockles – and no mistake.
Pre-match Turkish style.
Salad with that Sir?
Offensive weapons?
Next up on these pages will be a trip to see Manisaspor v Bursaspor, until then Sağlığınıza!
– Have you been to Galatasaray? Got any stories? Feel free to comment below –

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Mardy Bum
Antalyaspor 2-2 Bursaspor (06:11:10)

Ulas Gürsat continues his new weekly column for EFW. Ulas is a football reporter for the Turkish daily Haberturk Newspaper:
The Mardan Stadium isn’t the best place in Turkey to watch football. It’s an ugly, modern ‘shopping mall’ in the middle of nowhere. Its been nicknamed ‘Mardy Bum’ by some lazy English bloggers looking to crowbar an Arctic Monkeys song title into any article about Antalyaspor (hi ya – Ed.).
Antalyaspor started to play in Mardy Bum this season as their old Atatürk Stadium – a name so common for stadiums in Turkey – was shut down, deemed to be both old and dangerous.
Mardan itself is a complex which opened in 2008 and run by Mardan Palace Hotel. Antalya is regularly used by teams from Turkey and beyond for pre-season training camps. So, the Mardan Palace Hotel saw this potential and built the 10,000 capacity stadium – so different to what fans are used to in Turkey.
The move has changed the profile of the fans of Antalyaspor. They now have to travel out of town to watch their football in a stadium devoid of any history. The passion has gone and the noise the Akrepler (Scorpions) were famous for has become a distant memory. It goes against all good feelings about watching football and being a supporter, and nobody expects them to be playing at Mardan for much longer.
If you come to Antalya for a game you can go to coincide it with a visit to the beach as it’s hot all year round. The game kicked off in November, but the temperature was still in the mid-twenties. Before the match, fans relaxed in swimming pools and down by the sea. If you’re reading this back in England, and you’re feeling the chill, you might want to consider supporting Antalya!
Pre-match Antayla style.

Just in case….
I’m hearing you liked the Turkish food recommendations in the last article? Well, there are a couple of places to eat Pideli Köfte (Meatballs on pita) around the stadium. It’s not as good as the Iskender which I mentioned before, but still It’s good to eat. You should have it with tahinli piyaz – a kind of bean salad with a sweet sauce.
As expected, we saw Coşkun the Raper in the stands. He lives in Antalya, is a big fan of Antalyaspor, and is well respected by the fans. His real name is Coşkun Göğen and he was an actor – always playing the bad guy in the movies. He became famous for playing the role of a rapist in nearly all his movies, which made him a bit of a cult character. He doesn’t act in movies any more, but he is still ugly.
Coşkun arrives to the ground.


Pideli Köfte anyone?
Bursa had played Manchester United a few days before this match in the Champions League, and the tiredness showed early on. Antalyaspor were two up at half time and in cruise control. But, Bursaspor’s manager Ertuğrul Sağlam is making quite a name for himself and his half time team talk worked wonders. They pulled two goals back in the second half to draw the match 2-2. Not a bad result for last years champions Bursaspor, because Antalyaspor are a good side, and it’s still not really easy to play two games in a week for Turkish teams.
The match ended on a sour note for Bursaspor’s experienced right back Ali Tandoğan – who’d scored the first goal. But, in doing so, he clashed head with a defender. Tandoğan’s skull is broken and that could mean the end to his playing career. This was of course the biggest loss of Bursaspor in Antalya and turned us all into Mardy Bums for the day.
Mind your heads.

The obligatory netting over the away fans.
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Crocodile Walk

Bursaspor 1-1 Fenerbahçe (29.10.10)

EFW is delighted to announce that we’ve made a new signing. Starting today Ulas Gürsat will be bringing us weekly updates from games all over Turkey. Ulas is a football reporter for the Turkish daily Haberturk Newspaper:

Fittingly for Halloween we kick off this column with a look at Fenerbahçe’s visit to Bursaspor. Fitting because Bursaspor are Fener’s favourite worst nightmare. This doesn’t stem from last seasons double over the Istanbul giants, but moreover because of the events on the final day of last season. This is a story that needs telling.

It was a sultry spring evening in Istanbul – at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium – and Fenerbahçe were leading the Turkish Super League. Their opponents were Trabzonspor. At the same time, second placed Bursaspor were playing against Besiktas at home. And, just a single point divided the two teams. It was widely expected that Fenerbahce would cruise home and clinch the title. Special T-shirts for that day had already been prepared.

But it didn’t happen. Fenerbahce could only draw with Trabzonspor. And this is where it gets interesting; Fenerbahce fans thought they’d won the title and began celebrating on the pitch. They even started doing the crocodile walk. Ah, the crocodile walk, more of that later. They celebrated because they’d heard the score in the Bursa match was 2-2. Actually It wasn’t. Bursaspor had beaten Besiktas 2-1 and they were the real champions.

Match tickets start from around 50 Turkish Lira (£20).

In true Turkish tradition, fans arrive hours early.

Best seats in the house – tick.

It was an historical night for Turkish football because Bursa had ended the dominance of the big four teams in the league. Meanwhile, back in Istanbul, Fenerbahce fans soon realised that the scoreline from Bursa had been misreported – it was an hoax. So why did they think it had ended 2-2 at the Bursa Ataturk Stadium? Well, the guy on the Fener PA system had announced it so with his mic. As such – amid wild celebrations – the Fener players stopped attacking Trabzonspor in last few minutes. Happiness then turned to misery as news spread out via mobile phones as to what had really happened. Fenerbahce fans burned some seats, threw bottles at the police, and Trabzonspor and Fenerbahce players escaped from the stadium in police cars and ambulances.

After that traumatic night, this Bursaspor-Fenerbahce match was always going to have a real edge. Before the game everyone expected insults from the Bursa fans mocking that fake 2-2 score. And they didn’t disappoint. Before the game they chanted “Husband of Fenerbahce is coming” And they opened a huge Banner with a picture of celebrating Fenerbahce fans from last year declaring “We said everyone will make a crocodile walk”.

So, just what is the crocodile walk? Well, it’s a traditional goal celebration in Bursaspor. It was introduced to Bursa by Ugandan player Majid Mususi in the middle of 90’s. And they called it Timsah Yürüyüşü (Crocodile Walk). I Don’t know how to describe it but you can just take look at he picture. After that celebration, Bursaspor’s nickname became “Yeşil Timsahlar” (Green Crocodiles).

The famous Bursa crocodile walk lead by Majid Mususi.

Erm, lads. Ahem, you’ve not actually won the league. This is going to look rather silly in the morning.

Translation: “Didn’t we say everyone will do the crocodile walk one day?”.

So, to the Game. Fenerbahçe dominated the first half and opened the scoring through Semih Sentürk. In the second half Bursaspor raised their game and Serbian Midfielder Ivan Ergic equalised. A draw pleased both sides, and in truth, it produced the best football of this season. Both teams fought for the win with passion. It was great to watch. Bursaspor battered the Fener goal in the closing stages, and Sercan Yildirim in particular was outstanding.

I’ve heard you like to think of your bellies over there at EFW right? (cheeky scamp – Ed.) So what to eat in Bursa? There isn’t too much around stadium aside from the famous doner kebab. Sunflower seeds are also popular amongst fans, but not to those who have to clean up the stadium. However, just a twenty minutes walk from stadium you can find one of the best meals in Turkey. It’s called the Iskender and consists of a doner on a plate with a special sauce and yogurt. It’s impossible to eat more that one and you must try it. It’s worth the journey alone.


A good point well made.

The Fenerbahce fans penned into their section with some rather over the top netting.

The Iskender. Don’t return from Bursa without trying it.
Follow European Football Weekends and our new Turkish correspondent Ulas Gürsat on Twitter.

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Istanbul part 2

Beşiktaş 3-0 Gaziantepspor (21-09-09)


After the previous nights VIP treatment at Fenerbahçe and in the interests of keeping things real, the next evening we travelled by public transport and stood behind the goal with the hardcore home support for the Beşiktaş v Gaziantepspor encounter.

The match didn’t kick off until 21:45 so beforehand we set out on a ten hour pre-match of sight seeing, eating and drinking. Istanbul is a food-lover’s paradise and the best place we found to eat and drink were the plethora of Meyhane bars branching off the side streets from the main road between Taksim and Tunel. These establishments serve up Turkish tapas to die for and all washed down with some very agreeable local beer.

Beşiktaş İnönü Stadium really is located in an idyllic spot. Set on the European side of the Bosphorus, opposite the imposing Dolmabahce Palace, clock tower and mosque, it’s the only stadium in the world from which you can view two continents (Europe and Asia). Pele once famously described it as the most beautiful in the world. It was renovated in 2004 and it’s quite passable on the inside. However, it doesn’t look as though anything has changed on the exterior since the year dot.

Initially, there wasn’t too much noise in the stadium. Then the two teams trotted out, the Turkish national anthem was played – as it is before every league match in Turkey – and then all hell broke loose in the stands. It was a breathtaking show of support. They engaged in choreographed singing from stand to stand, side to side and top to bottom. It was almost impossible to keep your eyes on the match. I’m happy to declare the competition for Europe’s best fans officially closed.

The Istanbullus football fans are the loud and raucous yin to the often quiet and impassive Premiership fans yang. Beşiktaş fans must afford themselves a chuckle when they hear the English media declaring Newcastle fans to be ‘the best in the world’ or that Fratton Park can be ‘a bit intimidating’. Not even the Kop on ‘another famous European night’ can come close to Beşiktaş and this remember was just a run of the mill league match with only 50 or so away fans for competition.

Beşiktaş won the match at a canter. Gaziantepspor were crawling on the very bottom of the ocean of bad. They could have been awarded a penalty shortly after half time but the referee took one look around the ground and sensibly – fearing for his own personal safety – pulled out a red card and sent the opposition striker off for diving – a very wise move.

Despite the lack of away fans, roughly half the population of Turkey had turned out to steward and police the match both inside and outside the stadium. At one point, I nipped to the loo and returned, looked across the stand and thought ‘I can’t believe my wife is alone in the middle of that lot’. At no point did either of us feel threatened though, indeed she enjoyed the whole experience immensely.

I had been a trifle concerned with being met with a cordial response at these matches, what with being English and all. I needn’t have worried, we were met with warmth and smiles all round. In fact 100% of the Turkish people we met during the week were friendly.

After the football we had four days to investigate Istanbul. We must have explored every nook and cranny, every mosque, palace, Grand Bazar, Spice Bazar and the weird and wonderfully bazar (sic).

Thank your lucky stars you don’t have to drive there. The number one sound you’ll hear is the chorus of car horns being sounded by frustrated drivers. The traffic situation in Sultanahmet appears to have been organised by the Trotters Independent Security. Thankfully the public transport system is excellent. You can also expect to see a serious amount of cats. There are at least two sitting on every street corner and the Istanbullus appear to cherish them.

If you like a beer then make sure your taste buds are up for sampling a drop of Efes Pilsen. Weighing in at 5% abv it’s pretty much the only beer you’ll be able to lay your hands on.

The Turks are a very proud nation. Everywhere you look, the Turkish flag flies proudly and prominently. Providing you don’t insult them, respect their culture and keep your wits about you then it’s as safe as houses. Welcome to hell!? Welcome to paradise more like.

On our last night in Istanbul, news filtered through of the Albion’s win over Manchester City in the Carling Cup. I believe that beating the richest club in the world technically means Brighton are now the best team in the world. A strange old week then but what a cracker – cheers Turkey!

Outside the main stand. This is the nicest bit by a country mile.

Ready for action. The fans warming up. Note pitiful away support to the left of the scoreboard.

The main stand which incidentally costs an arm and a leg to get in. Even they were up and singing towards the end.

The Yeni Acik stand behind the goal which we were in the middle of.

The Kapali stand is the best I’ve ever encountered for noise. The bit at the top in the middle has to be seen to be believed during the match.

Blue Mosque, you saw me standing alone, without a dream in my heart…..good old Manchester City.

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Fenerbahce


Fenerbahçe 3-0 Gençlerbirliği (20-09-08)

When I explained to my work colleagues that I intended taking my wife to Istanbul for a feast of football and culture, I was met with blank expressions, upturned noses and I rather got the feeling they thought I was a bit of a mentalist. Three words kept on being repeated back to me ‘Welcome to hell’. Well, if spending our 3rd wedding anniversary watching two games of football, in two different continents in one of the world’s great cities is an act of madness, then lock me up and throw away the key.

We flew to Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen from Luton Airport very early (6am) on Saturday morning. I have an annoying inability to sleep on planes. The only moment of brief excitement on the near 4 hour flight occurred when a member of the cabin crew woke up all the remaining passengers to ask them if they fancied purchasing either a scratchcard or an Easy Jet teddy bear.

Now then, I’d better explain how we ended up getting picked up by a chauffeur from the airport who took us to our hotel. A friend of mine suggested that as we were going to see Fenerbahçe, I should try and contact Turkish international and ex-Brighton player Colin Kazim-Richards and let him know we were coming.

I made contact with Colin’s Dad through the Albion fans forum ‘North Stand Chat’ a few weeks prior to our trip. He turned out to be one of the nicest chaps one could hope to meet and could not have done more to make our trip a memorable one.

In an age when footballers often receive adverse publicity for their off the field activities, I’m only too pleased to report the following tale. Between them, Colin and his Dad Rod arranged for the aforementioned chauffeur to pick us up and take us into Sultanahmet to where we where staying. After a few hours of sight seeing, our friendly driver returned to take us to the Fenerbahçe v Gençlerbirliğie match.

Our chauffeur spoke only in Turkish and when he explained something to us en route to the game we both smiled and nodded in agreement. What he was in fact telling us was that he had to stop on our way at Colin’s house to feed his dog. So, in a surreal moment, an hour before kick off, there we jolly well were, standing outside a gorgeous house on the banks of the Bosphorus with a bowl of Pedigree Chum, scratching Colin Kazim-Richards dog behind the ear.

My wife and I are not used to being treated like royalty, indeed this was our very first time. We parked up beneath the main stand, out came two literally golden passes – which appeared to open every door we wanted – and before you could say ‘best seats in the house’ we were being ushered into that very place.

Fenerbahçe are Turkey’s biggest and richest club with an estimated fan base of 30 million. Their recently renovated Saracoğlu Stadium is – unusually for a Turkish ground – very modern. It’s located on the Asian side of Istanbul in the Kadikoy district. The teams president Aziz Yildirim has injected pots of cash into the club. He dug deep to sign Roberto Carlos, pleasing the locals and they have their own TV channel as well which rivals the BBC for ratings.

For me, these trips are as much about watching the fans as well as the football and at ‘Fener‘ there is lots to take in. They have five different singing sections, one behind each goal, one each on the upper tier of the half way line and just for luck, another in one corner of the ground. This resulted in an ear-splitting crescendo of noise that reverberated around the stadium for the full 90 minutes. The fans motto is “Hep Destek Tam Destek” (continual unwavering support), never has a motto been so apt.

After a scrappy first half in which Fener were leading 1-0, I managed to grab a word with Colin (who was on the bench). He told me that he would come over at the end of the match.

Fener upped their game in the second half, after going 2-0 up in the 64th minute Luis Aragonés – fresh from winning Euro 2008 with Spain and now coach with Fener – brought on our man. Just before taking the pitch to a huge ovation, CKR looked up to our seats, I gave him a bit of encouragement courtesy of a wave of the arm and he returned with a nod a wink. It was showtime.

As it happened, he did not put a foot wrong. It was as if the ball was tied to his boot with string. The Fener crowd were soon singing his name and as it echoed around us, up he popped with a near post header in the last minute to make it 3-0. Despite the excitement all around, Colin kept his word and at the final whistle he headed straight over to find me in stands. Without further ado he took off his shirt and handed it over to me in front of around 33,000 fans. I had a grin the size of the Bosphorus – what a moment! We had another chat and again he arranged for the driver to take us back afterwards.

That may sound like a fanciable version of the story but that’s what happened. It felt like I was on Jim’ll Fix It. It had proved to be a wonderful introduction to Turkish football and a fascinating insight into the city’s psyche.

That night we returned to our hotel and sat and considered all that happened over a nice cold beer on our roof top terrace overlooking the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofa – good old life

With the dog happy with his food we arrive at the stadium.


We appear to be in the best seats in the house – happy days!

I find a new ‘arty’ feature on my camera.

That’ll be Roberto Carlos then.

Right then Colin, if you can just entertain the crowd with your box of tricks, score a last minute goal and then run over and give your shirt to Dan then that’ll do nicely thanks mate.

CKR hands his shirt over to me. Grin the size of the Bosphorus ensues.

Fenerbahce make new 12 million pound signing.

My wife Ana and I popped back the next day to take in the clubs museum and have a less vociferous look around the place.

And returned on the ferry back to Sultanahmet afterwards at sunset. Happy anniversary indeed!

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