Turkish Football | The New English Disease

(Posted on 12/09/17)

Turkey is and has for a long time been one of the most intimidating and daunting countries in world football with a history of passion over spilling and the religious following of its supporters making headlines more often than the teams.

A unique nation which resides 50/50 in Europe and Asia, it’s a country of split culture with many western and eastern mixes that combine your local mosque with McDonalds. A beautiful cosmopolitan landscape popular with tourists and rich in deep history.

However, when it comes to football it can be anything but it’s friendly and diverse nature.

When it comes to it’s most famous city you have a choice, Galatasaray or Fenerbahce. Normally the decision is made for you, depending on which side of the city you live on you learn to embrace and love one, and despise the other.

And there’s that word, despise. No other word in the English language can come close to describing the mutual hate for each other and as much as they don’t want to hear it, neighbours.

Turkish football has been marred by some horrific acts over the last few decades, appearing to be behind the subculture of other fans in Europe where football violence has been outgrown. In England, football ‘firms’ died out as the new Millennium passed with police cracking down with new methods and technology as well as the threat of football banning orders.

This meant the likes of the Millwall Bushwhackers, West Ham’s ICF, the Cardiff Soul Crew, Portsmouth’s 6.57 Crew, Chelsea Head-hunters, Birmingham Zulu’s and even the brilliantly named Chesterfield B*****d Squad all but died out.

 

However, in Turkey these sort of firms are very much alive and literally kicking across the country. The  forementioned Galatasaray and Fenerbahce have history of bloody violence and in some case supporter deaths which has disgraced the game. Be it fighting each other of one of the two taking on opposition from around Europe, it’s often shrouded in controversy and at times public outcry. The most notable cases also involve English fans.

In 2000, Leeds United travelled to Istanbul to face Galatasaray in the UEFA Cup, but with small clashes happening across the city the day before the game it was already going wrong for the authorities. During the evening though, the worst happened as two innocent Leeds fans were stabbed to death in the city leading to the spotlight being firmly fixed on the fixture. No minute’s silence was held at the game the next day whilst Gala fans were banned from the second leg of the fixture at Elland Road.

In 2013, a Fener fan was stabbed to death during the aftermath of the derby, proving that progress is lacking in Turkish football.

Internally, the most high profile incident happened in 1996, as well known ex Liverpool manager Graeme Souness ran on to the pitch in front of the opposition supporters whilst in charge of Gala, and planted his side's flag in the centre-circle Sukru Saracoglu Stadium, it was the latest in the long line of surprising tales in the Intercontinental Derby. Souness' life became at risk with rival supporters baying for his blood, he went on to leave the club that season.

Of course, it’s not just Turkey that blights football in this way, with supporters in the likes of Poland, Russia and Ukraine also responsible for outbreaks of violence at home and during major international tournemants.

At Euro 2016, England fans faced life threatening injuries when the Russian supporters attacked them during the tournemant in France, whilst at Euro 2012 which was joint-hosted by Poland and Ukraine the authorities advised ethnic minority groups that they could be in danger if heading to the tournament according to the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ programme.

 It seems no matter where in Europe weather you are wearing the red and yellow of Galatasaray or the black and yellow of Fenerbahce, nobody as yet can stop what was described as by Margaret Thatcher in the late 1980’s as the ‘football disease’.

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