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Amedspor Upsets Bursaspor On The Field While Ethnic Tensions are Highlighted Through Football

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The Bursapor-Amedspor Turkish Cup match on 31 January, 2016 confirmed what many in Turkey feared. Amedspor’s surprising upset victory—1-2 to take them into the quarterfinal—was the biggest shock. What happened off the field, however, was sadly all too predictable.

While the away fans of Amedspor were not allowed into the stadium due to security concerns the match was still televised live on ATV, a channel known to be close to the ruling AKP government. During and after the match, fans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with announcer Gökhan Telkenar. Among other things, he refused to refer to the Amedspor team by name. Instead, he called them “onlar”, or “them in Turkish”. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior by the employee of a national TV Channel only served to exacerbate the divide between Kurds and Turks that has recently been re-emphasized by the government, prompting some commentators to even speak of civil war.

As with most things in Turkish football, however, the entire situation was not without irony. An Tweet by Amedspor asked the rhetorical question “Bursa Takımında Türkiyeden sadece 2oyuncu var. Gerisi hepsi yabancı.

Bizde Türkiyenin her halkından oyuncu var.
Ama biz hainiz Bursa milli”/”On the Bursa team there are only two players from Turkey. Everyone else is foreign. On our team we have players from every group [of people] in Turkey. But we are the traitors and Bursa are national[ist]”. A cursory look at the line-up card confirms Amedspor’s assertions—at least as regards the starting XI. Bursaspor’s lineup boasted two Turks—Goalkeeper Mert Gunok and Forward Sercan Yildirim—while everyone else was non-Turkish: there was a Cameroonian, a Japanese, a Senegalese, an Australian, a Hungarian, a Slovak, and two Czechs. By contrast, third-tier Amedspor had a lineup of all Turkish nationals.

The founder of Amedspor’s fan group, Barikat, Bilal Akkalu had spoken before the match explaining the troubles his team faces during away matches. The home teams treat Amedspor as if they, in Mr. Akkalu’s words, “come from another country”. The divisive policies of the AKP government are swiftly manifesting themselves in Turkey’s most popular sport, football. Where the sport could once unite the country—such as during Galatasaray’s run to the 2000 UEFA Cup and Turkey’s international success during the 2002 World Cup and 2008 European Championships—the sport (with the aid of the government) is now becoming a forum for airing political differences predicated on ethnic lines. The process started during last year’s Turkish cup and, unfortunately, seems to be continuing. Let us hope that whichever team (and fans) Amedspor face in the quarterfinal round are more cognizant of the influence that football holds over the general populace. If sport can unite—rather than divide—let it be shown in the next round of matches. Otherwise, it will certainly be a difficult road ahead for both Amedspor and the Turkish nation.

Kocaelispor 1996-1997 Home Shirt in Memory of John “Shoes” Moshoeu

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I am posting this legendary Kocaelispor kit—sporting a classic Diadora design—in memory of the equally legendary South African midfielder John Lesiba “Shoes” Moshoeu.

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The fan favorite passed away on April 21 in Johannesburg, South Africa, after battling stomach cancer. He was 49 years old. On Monday April 27 hundreds of South African football supporters came to Soweto in order to say their last goodbyes to a footballer who represented Bafana Bafana 73 times; he was selected to the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations squad for the last time at 38 years young before retiring at 42. Western media noted that he was one of the symbols of post-apartheid South Africa, one of the building blocks of the nation’s footballing success following the dark years of apartheid.

Moshoeu was a fan favorite wherever he went, and Turkish fans remember him fondly from the days of his ten-year adventure in Turkey from 1993-2003 during which he represented some of Turkey’s biggest clubs including Genclerbirligi, Kocaelispor, Fenerbahce, and Bursaspor. Local websites from Kocaeli did not forget a footballer that played a big part in their club’s golden years, winning the Turkish cup in 1997. Moshoeu himself never forgot Turkey (even though he initially had a tough time fitting in due to his skin color–foreign players were a novelty in the Turkish league of the early 1990s); for the last two years he assisted in coaching youths at a Turkish school in Pretoria and has been involved in many social development initiatives. Ilker Yilmaz, writing for hayatimfutbol.com, noted that he “didn’t neglect to pay football back for all it gave him…because he was Mandela’s man”.

Strangely “Shoes” Moshoeu’s untimely death came just three days before Kocaelispor—the team for which he shined—celebrated its 50th anniversary. One local sports blogger noted that while the club legend battled stomach cancer his old team was battling for its future; Kocaelispor have fallen to the amateur ranks of Turkish football and might even lose their legendary Ismet Pasa stadium, long a feared destination for visiting teams in Turkey’s top flight. Football is a strange game—a young man from South Africa can, somehow, travel halfway around the world and end up with his fortunes intertwined with a small team far away from his home, becoming a hero in the process. Gencay Keskin says it well when describing why he would don a black and green number ten Kocaelispor shirt and yell Moshoeu’s name, running through a football match under the summer sun:

 

“Çocukken futbolcular tam anlamıyla birer kahramandır. Formalarını giymek istersin, saçlarını onlar gibi tararsın, uğruna bir sevdaya tutunursun. İşte benim hikayemin kahramanı ‘Moşe’.”

“When you’re a kid footballers are most certainly heroes. You want to wear their jerseys, comb your hair like theirs; for them you hold on to a passion. This is the hero of my story, ‘Moşe’ [The Turkish transliteration of Moshoeu].”

 

Former Turkish international footballer Saffet Sancakli, Moshoeu’s teammate at both Kocaelispor and Fenerbahce, also shared his memories with hayatimfutbol.com:

 

“İnsan öldükten sonra hep iyi şeyler söylenir ya, onun için söylemiyorum; çok kaliteli bir arkadaştı. Kimseyle problem yaşamazdı. Gergin bir ortam oluştuğu zaman hemen yumuşatırdı ortamı. Çok pozitif bir enerjisi vardı. O kadar mütevaziydi ki medyadan kaçardı, öyle çok konuşmazdı. Sevdiğimiz, saydığımız bir kardeşimizdi.”

“After someone dies good things are always said, that’s not why I’m saying it; he was a very quality friend. He didn’t have problems with anyone. If things got tense he would immediately diffuse the situation. He had a lot of positive energy. He was so humble that he ran away from the media, he didn’t talk a lot. He was a brother we loved and respected.”

 

I send my condolences to the South African football community and the Turkish football community. We have lost a legend–both on and off the field–in John “Shoes” Moshoeu. Toprağın bol olsun mekanın cennet olsun Moşe…

 

In memory of John Lesiba Moshoeu: 18 December 1965-21 April 2015.

 

 

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Image Courtesy of: http://hayatimfutbol.com/korfeze-yanasan-sevda/);

 

 

John Moshoeu of South Africa

Image Courtesy of: http://www.goal.com/en-za/slideshow/3992/10/title/south-africas-10-greatest-footballers-of-all-time

 

 

E-Ticketing Scheme Hits Roadblock in Turkey: What It Means For Turkey and Football

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On May 8th a court in Turkey decided to halt the new “Passolig” system “to avoid consumers being treated unjustly” according to a report in the Hurriyet Daily News. The new system had come into effect almost a month ago on April 15 and heralded an end to traditional paper tickets sold at ticket offices. Anyone who wanted to attend a match in either of Turkey’s top two divisions—the Spor Toto Super Lig and PTT First Division—had to get a card. At the time I was aghast. Having gone to many matches internationally I immediately thought of those like me—how would any foreign football fans get tickets?

The courts should be commended for making a decision that promotes both the health of Turkish civil society and Turkish democracy, not to mention Turkish football as a whole! After implementation the system led to drastically reduced attendances for Spor Toto Super Lig games. In fact, just one (1!) fan of Eskisehirspor acquired one of the new cards. Even when some clubs lowered ticket prices to just 1 Turkish Lira (0.47 USD, 0.35 EUR, 0.27 GBP) it failed to spark interest in the cards. This is mainly because in order to obtain the Passolig card it means providing a picture and personal information—which is written on the back. The card is basically a combination of an ID card and bank card (issued by MasterCard). The rather optimistic reasoning behind the need for personal information can be read as a poor attempt to justify the most blatant of moves to full-on Industrial Football:

 

PASSOLİG Card not only allows fans to safely enter stadiums without waiting in queues, but it also provides clubs a chance to know more about their fans and create new sources of income. Moreover, this card presents its users a wide range of shopping options with its widespread contracted merchants. Its personalized campaigns will both enrich and facilitate user’s lives.

PASSOLİG Credit Card, along with PASSOLİG Debit Card and PASSOLİG Cüzdan Pre-paid Card, are designed to meet all your needs.

 From: http://www.passolig.com.tr/sikca-sorulan-sorular

 

Of course, the football fans saw through this. The desire for personal information is not to create better understanding of consumers and their desires, it is more to curtail the actions of fans that the government sees as a subversive element. Over forty supporter groups signed a declaration saying “The e-ticket system does not only demote the concept of supporters to a customer, but it also files all our private data. The system aims to prevent supporters from organizing and is designed to demolish stadium culture and supporter identity.” One look at all the promotions available to Passolig card holders would support the idea that supporters are being relegated to the role of consumer and consumer alone. For now, the court’s decision is a small victory over the pervasive forces of Industrial Football. But that is not the only victory.

The simple fact that an NGO—the Supporters Rights Solidarity Center (Taraf-Der)—successfully applied to the consumers’ court is in itself a victory for Turkish civil society. Of course, when the first hearing of the case is heard September 25 we will see just how far-reaching this victory is. But it does ensure that the new season will start without the Passolig cards, and therefore certainly represents a victory.

One of the basic facets of a representative democracy (like Turkey) is respect for NGOs that represent the people—one need only look at the victories of the NAACP in the United States to understand this. This is the reason that this court decision should be heralded, especially if it leads to substantial changes in the Passolig card system next fall. While it is extremely difficult to predict how things will play out in the ever changing and extremely complicated halls of the Turkish justice system, I feel that the ultimate outcome of this case will provide a bellwether for the state of—and health of—Turkey’s democracy going forward. As Turkish football is an extremely profitable sector in the Turkish economy I hope that the judges treat this case with the importance it deserves.

 

Note: The statistics posted below are from Sendika.org, a socialist website that—in their own words—aims to “say hello to the proletariat and row against the neo-liberal tide”. With the disclaimer about the website’s politics out of the way, please see how the Passolig card system effected attendances for a few matches in its first weekend, the 30th week of the Turkish Spor Toto Superleague season. Personally I take these numbers with grain of salt, but they still give a good idea of the situation:

Kayseri Erciyesspor-Trabzonspor

Attendance: 11,000

Attendance for the previous home match against Elazigspor: 23.550

Akhisar Belediyespor-Kayserispor

Attendance: 1,100

Attendance for the previous home match against Eskisehirspor: 2,500

Gaziantepspor-Genclerbirligi

Attendance: 4,200

Attendance for the previous home match against Kasimpasaspor: 8,000

Bursaspor-Elazigspor

Attendance: 20,000

Attendance for the previous home match against Galatasaray: 23,500

Besiktas-Fenerbahce

Attendance: 20,000

Attendance for the previous home derby against Galatasaray: 77,512

 

The stands at the Istanbul Ataturk Stadium were left empty during Besiktas’ match with city rivals Kasimpasaspor:

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Image Courtesy of: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/court-halts-controversial-football-e-ticketing-plan.aspx?pageID=238&nID=66193&NewsCatID=362

 

Just 285 Passolig owners made the trip to watch Kayseri Erciyesspor face Trabzonspor at the Kadir Has Stadium in Kayseri. Along with 2000 season ticket holders (exempt from the Passolig Card system), it meant just 2,285 fans were in attendance.

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Image Courtesy of: http://www.posta.com.tr/spor/HaberDetay/-Passolig–basladi-tribunler-bos-kaldi-.htm?ArticleID=224823

Galatasaray 1996-97 Home Shirt L/S, Match Worn

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He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them one by one before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher—shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple green and lavender and faint orange with monograms of Indian blue. Suddenly with a strained sound Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily.

            ‘They’re such beautiful shirts,” she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such—such beautiful shirts before.”

                                                                          -F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

 

In front of the TV in a crowded hookah café watching Galatasaray face Bursaspor in the second round of the Turkish Super League season, I’m sweating in the late August night. It’s not the stress of the match making me sweat—I know there are still 32 matches to go in the long marathon that is a European football season—rather, it is the long sleeved jersey I am wearing that makes me sweat. Yet, it is totally worth it. It is a beautiful example of a shirt, from an era that quality won over quantity; from the 1996-1997 season to be exact.

It is an Adidas shirt, in the classic red and yellow quartered pattern that Galatasaray still wear today, even if the yellow became orange somewhere down the line. Around 2005, perhaps. The sponsor—Vakıf Bank—is sewn onto the front, the back has the official player’s sized number 11 (belonging, then, to Swiss striker Adrian Knup—now it is Didier Drogba’s) in felt. I feel the line where the red meets yellow. It is two pieces of thick fabric sewn together, a fabric not meant to cope with summer heat. My fingers can feel the special nature of the shirt, a far cry from the mass produced Nike line Galatasaray are wearing on the television, with sleek dri-fit fabric designed to keep the players cool. It isn’t to say, of course, that the new jerseys are bad. They are just, different. From different eras, before and after Industrial football came to Turkey, and with it multi-million dollar sponsorship deals. In the face of modern jerseys, this one is comical. It is an extra large and definitely match worn—but back then the players were smaller, and the sizing reflects that. It would now be sized a large.

As my fingers feel the fabric on my back my thoughts move from the game to Gatsby, and Daisy’s reaction to his shirt collection. I can feel a bond with Gatsby, one that goes beyond the pages and the years, but down to the human nature of collecting memories. Every football season, every goal, every foul, every shirt is a memory in and of itself. I was ten years old when this shirt was worn by Adrian Knup. Who would have known then that Galatasaray would go onto become UEFA cup champions, and one of the best sides in Europe for a spell. And now, that shirt is on my back, almost two decades later.

I get back to the match. Galatasaray are up 1-0 thanks to a goal by striker Burak Yılmaz, the man who has taken the nickname “Kral”, or “King”, from Hakan Şükür, the striker that starred for Galatasaray and Turkey in the late 1990s. He later became the Turkish Super League’s leading goal scorer, now he is an MP for the AKP—a move that has lost him more than a few casual fans. For me, he will always be the football star of my youth, even if I might not agree with him politically. After the “king’s” goal the tempo slows and mid-way through the second half Drogba is taken off, a questionable move to all of us watching. Indeed, the loss of a pressing forward up front allows Bursaspor to mount their attacks from the back, wave on wave crashing into the Galatasaray defense—a levy waiting to be breached.

The expected goal comes in the 74th minute, Bursaspor equalizing through substitute Enes. Two minutes after coming on, at sixteen he became the youngest goal scorer in Turkish Super League history. The happiness on his face was unmistakable; he was still a child, his jersey number 97 represented his birth year. Even though Galatasaray lost a victory on the night, I felt happy for the young man who had scored his first career goal; a young man who had not even been born when Adrian Knup wore the number 11 shirt on my back. But such is football as it mirrors life—the saying in Turkish, from a Turkish film about football, is “Futbol acayip şekilde hayata benzer”—“Football is strangely similar to life”.

I felt like someone driving down the highway, hearing their favorite rock and roll band on the classic rock station for the first time. It might not have made me feel old, necessarily, but it gave that unmistakable sense of time passing. Small moments like this—of realizing the passage of time—are what growing up truly is. It is coming to terms with life, and with it the knowledge that nothing is eternal. The “king” will not always be Hakan Şükür, the youngest goal-scorer in history will not always be Enes. As we know well, this too shall pass.

 

My unending thanks to Taylan Meşin for the Galatasaray shirt mentioned here, pictures are below.

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