Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother of all derbies: Fenerbahce vs Galatasaray

The Turkish soccer league season came to a glorious, deafening close on Saturday night. In past years, the season ended without playoffs, and the league champion was whatever team had accumulated the most points over the season. This year, however, they implemented playoffs, called the Super Final, which lasted for 6 weeks and in which only the top four teams were involved -- which ended up being Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, Trabzonspor and Besiktas, all of which are Istanbul teams except for Trabzon.

Each of the four teams started the playoffs with half of the points they'd accumulated during the season, and whoever had the most at the end of the Super Final would be declared champion. Fenerbahce was league champion last year, but they're deep in the match-fixing scandal, so a lot of people don't trust that they rightfully earned that trophy. This season, Galatasaray was ahead at the end of the regular season, and they went into the Super Final with nine points more than Fenerbahce. Trabzon was third, and Besiktas a dismal fourth, and I think it's fair to say neither of those teams had a hope of finishing higher.

So, anyway, Saturday night saw the last game, between major rivals Fenerbahce and Galatasaray -- and Fenerbahce had managed to whittle down the point difference, leaving Galatasaray only one point ahead. To win the title, Galatasaray needed to either win or tie -- but they were playing at Fener's stadium on the Asian side, where they hadn't won in 13, as you can imagine, there was quite a bit of excitement leading up to this match.

Early Saturday morning, we had sort of forgotten about the game (Cagatay's team is Besiktas, and we don't have the cable channel to watch the Spor Toto games) and made the mistake of heading over to the Asian side for something else. By the time the afternoon arrived, Bagdat Street was packed, with about half of the people in the streets decked out in Fenerbahce gear, waving flags, blowing horns and just generally getting revved up for the match. These photos aren't doing it justice, alas.

We left just as people were starting to walk toward the stadium, probably around 4pm, though the game didn't start until 7, and it took us forever to get to the ferry -- probably because half the road was blocked off for pedestrians.

Then I forgot about it and went to the movies with a friend on the European side, in Nisantasi. We came out around 9:30, when the game had just ended. The score ended up being 0-0, so Galatasaray won the title, and people were just going nuts. We came out and there were all these horns honking, guys shouting and singing, flares going off... Even in the metro, it was a scene. In my car, guys were jumping up and down, banging on the roof, singing at the top of their lungs, and the air was thick with sweat.

When I got home, we watched a bit of the aftermath on TV. It had been agreed that the trophy would be handed to the winning team on the field, which did not go over well with the Fenerbahce fans (who had thrown flares and stormed the field). Apparently it was suggested that Galatasaray be given the trophy in the dressing room (which was rejected) and the prime minister had to intervene in the situation. There is a fantastic photo of the chaos on the field here, on Today's Zaman's website.

Celebrations went on well into the night. One of my coworkers said a Galatasaray fan and a Fenerbahce fan got into a knife fight outside of his building, and a man died in another city when overexicited fans fired a gun up into the air (this is a popular tradition in Turkey; sometimes you see ridiculous stories where brides or grooms or wedding guests get injured). Apparently, 47 fans were arrested during the revelry, and 36 were injured. Pin It

1 comment:

  1. Hello Melinda,
    What a great blog! Here's a piece from Norwegian TV about this derby:

    best regards,
    Svein and Lourdes


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