Istanbul Derbies

By | November 24, 2009

As I have purchased my tickets for several football games in Istanbul during the winter break, I wanted to share some videos with you that make me get excited each time I see them. Yet, before that, I want to say something about the team and supporters culture back home.

Firstly, although I am a Galatasaray fan since the day I was born, I really have to give credit to Besiktas and Fenerbahce supporters for making the Istanbul derbies a special event for everyone who is present in the stadiums. As much as I hate anything related to these teams, including their supporters, each time I end up finding myself in one of their stadiums especially during weekends when Gala plays away. At the end of the day, it is a joy to watch the games while I hope for the opponents of Besiktas and Fenerbahce to win the game.

I had to watch several derbies with the Besiktas and Fenerbahce supporters as I did not have tickets in the Gala side in the past few years. It was one of the most disgusting feelings that I have experienced in my life. Not being able to cheer for your team, hiding your feelings when you team gets close to score, trying to act cool as if you are one of them and wishing it was a game in our stadium, the Ali Sami Yen Hell.

A derby in your neighborhood is different. Thousands gather before the game encircling the stadium. There would be people everywhere, a hectic crowd closing the traffic… Thus, if you are driving around during the stadium, my suggestion is don’t, because you will stop wherever you are for hours. Gathering early around the stadium and singing is one of the traditions. One side yells sari (yellow) and the other side shouts stronger kirmizi (red) until one of the sides quit… and other chants that have ossified in the collective memories of millions. You might be amazed how these supporters do not get tired.

Yet, it is not solely the supporters that you see around; it is also about everything else. For example, the subjects of the Turkish informal economy can easily be traced during any of the matches. On the pavements you might see random people selling various products… Different size Gala and Turkish flags, a variety of styles of scarves, corn-sellers, sandwich sellers, small moveable mobile devices wondering around selling everything from rice to different meat products, from fruits to deserts… And kids who want to profit from this scene, some beg and some work… The water-sellers are the most striking one as the kids have stand in front of a plastic bucket that is full of ice. The last time I went to a game in August, one water bottle was about one dollar. Considering the fact that it is 1/4th of what it is in supermarkets, one can easily point out that even these kids aim to screw you on foot. If you wonder about the quality, some are okay but some are…oh my god… you do not even want to touch the bottle and wonder from which fountain they have filled the bottle. Also, the blackmarket dealers… who tries to quadruple the already expensive ticket prices. You do not have call anyone to find a ticket before a game if you do not have any, trust me, they will find you, and not even once. Every 10-20 steps you take around, a guy will ask ‘brother, you need tickets?’ Thanks to God there is alcohol… one of the inevitables of the game.

But if you do not play home, you just have to digest a similar scene with different colors around you. In all of the derbies that I have watched with the away supporters, the worst part was the random conversations that I found myself in about how they will (you can put many creative curses here) Galatasaray (and supporters&their relatives).

For those who have not experienced these surreal moments in their lives, I can tell that it might be a pain for the first time and especially if you do not ‘die’ to watch the game, you should not be aiming to go even near a stadium during these times. You are not allowed to sit during the game. You have to stand on your chairs. If everyone is on foot, you will not see the game sitting on your seat… Did I say your seat? Sorry fellas, but unless you have a supporter card, even if your ticket tells you to sit at a certain seat, it is a first come first serve culture. Thus, do not be surprised if someone else is already seated in your place when you reach your section. Just try to find a place and stay steady because someone will tell you to slide bit by bit and at the end you might end up a mile away where you first came. Also, pray that there will not be any fights anywhere around your section. Believe me, two people is more than enough for that fight (that you thinks is far away from you) to include you in couple of minutes. And believe me you will find people just behind you, or in front of you that are very enthusiastic to join it. During the game you will also see orchestrators who lead the songs and chants. These are very organized chants. And half the time, people will be more interested in yelling and dancing than actually watching the game.

Yet, you cannot continuously hide your feelings as an away fan… You just cannot be as keen as them. That is the sole reason I got assaulted by a drummer with his stick last May during a  Besiktas-Galatasaray game for not cheering up for Besiktas… Tough times.

Coming  back to my initial point, here are some videos:


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