Saturday, April 6, 2013

An Istanbul football game

As in almost every country in the world except for the US, soccer/football is a passion here in Turkey. I'd been jonesing to go to a game pretty much from the first moment I got here, but it never happened -- mostly because Cagatay is perpetually disappointed by the play of his team, Besiktas. (Of course, everyone here has a team that they're fiercely loyal to. Most towns have just one team, which usually sports the name of the city -- like Trabzonspor or Gaziantepspor -- but Istanbul has a bunch of teams, the most popular of which are Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besiktas. Last year, if you remember, we got caught outside in the mayhem following the Fenerbahce-Galatasaray championship game. But I digress...)

So, finally, about a week and a half ago, we went to a game, after Cagatay's friend organized a big group to go see the Turkey-Hungary match at Fenerbahce's stadium, part of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. We had great seats on the upper level, but sadly, the game itself was not that exciting -- it was pouring rain and neither team was able to do much with the ball. Play mostly hovered in the midfield, and the game ended 1-1, which means Turkey probably won't qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

This outcome was not all that surprising as Turkey hasn't qualified for the World Cup in a decade. But what did surprise me was the enthusiasm of the fans, or lack of. People cheered, don't get me wrong, but usually you see crazy passion, and it's chaos with fans going nuts and throwing flares and other projectiles onto the field. Take the Galatasaray-Real Madrid match that took place in Spain this week -- a bunch of fans got into a brutal fight with the police while another group in Istanbul tried to attack a TV station supposedly because the commentators picked Real Madrid to win. Passionate, no? But it wasn't like that at this game, it was just civilized cheering...and what can I say, I wanted to see a little of that famous energy. :)

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