Football, known as soccer in the United States, is the most popular sport in Turkey and nearly every single Turk supports a club.
Football was first introduced in Turkey by English residents at the time of the Ottoman Empire. The first matches were played in 1875 in Selanik, which is now Thessaloniki, a city in Greece. In today’s Turkey, when we meet someone, we have the habit of asking him (or her) about the club he (or she) supports before even asking his (or her) name. In fact, football is a family sport in Turkey: children, men, and women attend games.
Turkey’s top division is the Süper Lig, also known as Spor Toto Super Lig due to sponsorship reasons. This League is formed by 18 clubs. It is a round robin tournament in which every team meets each other twice in a season, at home and away. Each team plays 34 matches in a Süper Lig campaign. The season runs from mid-August to the end of May and 306 games are played in total. The points obtained at the end of the season determine the champion and there are no playoffs. The champion is given a berth in the group stage of the European Champions League. Furthermore, the most successful Turkish clubs are Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş, which are based in Istanbul, and Trabzonspor. There is a big rivalry between the three clubs of Istanbul and sometimes their matches against each other end up in violent fights. The stadiums of Galatasaray and Beşiktaş are located on the European side of the city, while the stadium of Fenerbahçe is situated on the Asian side.
Crazy fan support is ordinary in Turkish football. The Istanbul giants (Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, and Beşiktaş) possess stadiums that could accommodate over 50,000 supporters. It is really interesting that the seats are nearly full every game. In derby games, which oppose two teams of the same city, it is frequent to see flares, three dimensional choreographies, and sound bombing. Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe have about 15 million fans in Turkey while this number is around 8 million for Beşiktaş. All three have fan groups named UltrAslan, GFB and Çarşı respectively.
Turkish clubs play against European teams every year. They are known for their great atmospheres in their stadiums. For example, Galatasaray supporters welcome the rival team with slogans like “Welcome to Hell” or “Your Nightmare is Back”. The latest successes of Turkish clubs in Europe are Galatasaray winning
the UEFA Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup in 2000, Fenerbahçe reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League in 2013 and Galatasaray attain- ing the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League in 2013 too.
Actually, the two biggest clubs in Turkey are Gala- tasaray and Fenerbahçe. Galatasaray was established in 1905 and Fenerbahçe in 1907. In the beginning, Galatasaray was the club of the wealthier people, while Fenerbahçe was the club of the lower classes. With time, the class difference between the supporters has disappeared. The economic growth in Turkey influences directly the budget of these two clubs that keep increasing. The two associations are in the stock market so whenever Turkey’s economy is good, it directly affects them and they can easily find good investors in order to increase their financial capitals. Even though the budget of these two clubs are not enough to compete with the Europeans giants, both are able to handle transfers of worldwide known players such as Didier Drogba, Wes- ley Sneijder, Lukas Podolski, Luis Nani and Robin van Persie. Contrarily to these two teams, Beşiktaş, founded in 1903 is in big crisis. To overcome this situation, it sold two of its best players to the Chinese side Shangai Shenhua for a total of 21 million euros.
The biggest matchup in the history of Turkish football is between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe. Their rivalry is named the “Interncontinental Derby” for their geographical locations. It involves the two most suc- cessful clubs in Turkey and the game usually attracts large attendances. The fixture is more than a century in existence. A total of 380 games have been played and Fenerbahçe leads 144 to 122 in the number of victories. In terms of cups won, Galatasaray is ahead with 51 to 34. The supporters of these two clubs have long, infinite discussions over the question: Which club is better? On the one hand, Galatasaray fans state the fact that they have more cups, that they possess the UEFA Europa League title, that they won a match 7-0 against Fenerbahçe and that they won the league title in their rivals’ stadium in the last game of the 2011-2012 Süper Lig campaign. On the other hand, Fenerbahçe supporters emphasize the point that Galatasaray has not been able to beat Fenerbahçe in the Fenerbahçe stadium since 2000. They also say that they did not forget about the match they won 6-0 against Galatasaray in 2002. Another fact on which they are debating is the superiority of their fans.
Taking all into consideration, football occupies a significant place in every Turks daily life.