As readers know, football in Turkey is a political sport. This politicization of sport is most often blatant in the naming (and re-naming) of football stadia, but recently it has become increasingly apparent in the re-naming of football clubs. In a bid to invent tradition in the Hobsbawmian sense, new football clubs have been “invented” in the last decade challenging the existing hegemony in Turkish football, represented by clubs whose history stretches back to the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. The latest example is the case of Gaziantep Buyuksehir Belediyespor, the Gaziantep municipality’s club playing in the second tier, which as of 15 June 2017 has become Gazisehir Gaziantep Futbol Kulubu. That this should come at the same time that Gaziantep province’s most famous team, Gaziantepspor, was relegated from the Turkish Super League for the first time since 1990, should come as no surprise. After all, this is a challenge to the cultural (and sporting) hegemony of Gaziantepspor (I have written before about government efforts to take land from Gaziantepspor). That the new team’s badge should so resemble Gaziantepspor’s is no coincidence; it is part of the one dimensional thought I have written about that discourages new ideas is  inherent in late stage capitalism. That the new team’s name—“Gazisehir Gaziantep”—should so closely resemble Istanbul’s Basaksehirspor is also no coincidence; both are invented traditions.

 

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The New Logo, eerily similar to Gaziantepspor’s current logo. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.birgun.net/haber-detay/gaziantep-buyuksehir-belediyespor-un-adi-ve-logosu-degisti-164917.html

 

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Gaziantepspor’s Current Logo. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.iha.com.tr/haber-gaziantepspor-adanaspor-maci-saat-kacta-hangi-kanalda-624568/

 

2017-2018 Champions League qualifiers (and last year’s runners up in the Turkish league) Istanbul Basaksehirspor represent the most blatant challenge to the existing cultural hegemony in football because the club came to prominence following the decline of Istanbulspor, a team formed in 1926 by students from Istanbul high school, which had been a first division stalwart for years. That it was run by Cem Uzan—a controversial businessman who once ran for political office—meant a run of success for the club before it was repossessed by the government after falling into financial ruin following the departure of the Uzan family. With Istanbul’s “fourth” team—after the “big three” of Besiktas, Fenerbahce, and Galatasaray—out of the picture, it was only logical that a challenge would be mounted; it manifested itself in the form of Istanbul Basaksehirspor, a team born out of the municipality’s Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyespor which carries state backing in many forms.

This process was repeated in other cities with other teams. In Ankara it was Ankaragucu, a team formed in 1910, which fell into decline following the installation of Ankara mayor Melih Gokcek’s son as chairman. At that point Ankara Buyuksehir Belediyespor (again the municipality’s team) rose to prominence and became Ankaraspor; now it is known as Osmanlispor Futbol Kulubu (Ottoman Football Club), a thinly veiled piece of neo-Ottoman propaganda. Of course, as Ankaragucu has seen a resurgence (returning to the second tier for the upcoming 2017-2018 season), Justice and Development Party Mayor Melih Gokcek has pledged his support for Ankaragucu. Somethings, it seems, will never change, and politicians’ involvement in Turkish football is one of those things.

The re-naming—and transformation of clubs from state-run municipality sponsored entities into private entities—allows business opportunities for new owners and encourages crony capitalism. In this case it is Adil Sani Konukoglu who is the new chairman of Gazisehir Gaziantep Futbol Kulubu; according to Bloomberg Mr. Konukoglu is the head of Gaziantep-based Sanko holding. While Mr. Konukoglu pledged his full support for the team according to a piece on the Gaziantep metropolitan municipality’s website, it is clear that the club will have to deal with some baggage from their previous incarnation: the old Gaziantep Buyuksehir Belediyespor was accused of match-fixing in a game last season by Sanliurfaspor on 5 July 2017. On 13 July 2017 the Turkish Football Federation announced that it would look into the allegations.

These kinds of developments are typical in the climate of what some scholars have termed Turkey’s “authoritarian neoliberalism”. This kind of thought process permeates Turkish politics; it is not a conservative ideology at all. Rather it is a politics that privileges business interests above all while also cementing a new cultural hegemony. In such a climate it is tradition which is the first to fall by the way-side and the world of football is no exception.

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