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Goodbye Izmir Alsancak Stadium: The Past and Present of a Country as Seen Through the Eyes of a Football Stadium

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Last year I wrote about the impending destruction of the stadium where I watched my first ever football match: the Alsancak Stadium in Izmir, Turkey. On August 3, 2015, the demolition started. The stadium that hosted the first game in Turkey’s highest professional league in 1959—between Izmirspor and Beykoz 1908—has now been consigned to history. All that remains are the memories, the songs of fans that still echo in our minds and radio broadcasts from a simpler time. One year ago Turkish sportswriter Bagis Erten compared the lovable venue to London’s Craven Cottage; sadly for the Alsancak Stadium—one of Turkey’s oldest, with football having been played on the grounds since 1910—it has ceased to exist while Craven Cottage is into its third century and going strong. As Mr. Erten notes, the Turkish government, in the AKP years, has enjoyed destroying the old to make way for new at the expense of history. While it is still unclear if a mall will be actually be built in the space vacated by the stadium, the story of the Alsancak Stadium also tells the story of the Turkish republic from 1923 up to today.

These days the AKP government—which has made no secret of its disdain for “heathen” (gavur) Izmir—has had it out for Turkey’s third largest (and most liberal) city. And the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) has followed suit, adding insult to injury by penalizing four of the city’s teams—Karsiyaka SK, Goztepe SK, Altay Izmir, and Altinordu Izmir—in the wake of the Alsancak Stadium’s demolition. Three of the teams have been fined 30 thousand Turkish Liras—Altay got away with a fine of just half that, maybe they were pitied because the official name of the stadium was the Altay Alsancak Stadium?—while all four teams had their applications for licenses to play rejected by the TFF. The reason? The teams don’t have a stadium in which to play their games. Obviously, this is bizarre. Some club officials noted that “It wasn’t us who destroyed the Alsancak Stadium one month before the start of the season”. But this is Turkey. The teams from Turkey’s oldest footballing city are being penalized for a governmental decision to destroy their stadium. But the absurdity doesn’t stop there.

Back in 1870 football came to Izmir. As one of the Ottoman Empire’s largest ports the city was open to foreign influence, and British sailors brought football with them. With the Sultan suspicious of organized sport it was mainly Italians, British, and local Greeks and Armenians who played the game. In 1910 the grounds that would become the Alsancak Stadium first hosted football. But it wasn’t Altay that owned the stadium then—it was the Greek team Panionios that owned the land. After the population exchange of 1922 Panionios relocated to the Athens suburb of Nea Smyrni. The club that was founded in 1890 in Izmir continue to play today across the Aegean in the Nea Smyrni stadium while their old land has been taken away from Izmir’s teams in 2015 like it was taken away from the Greek side in 1922. History is brutal like that, the wrongs only repeat themselves.

In 2012 Daghan Irak wrote an informative piece regarding the Alsancak stadium in which he uses history to help explain the present:

 

Tarihi bir kere köklerinden söktüğünde, yerine koyduğun her şey de köksüz oluyor. Mirası bir kez reddettikten sonra hiçbir şeye sahip çıkmak zorunda kalmıyorsun. Bugün Alsancak’ı yıkıp AVM dikebiliyorsun, çünkü Panionios Stadı’nın üstüne de Alsancak’ı yapabilmiştin. Aynı şekilde mesela İstiklal Caddesi’ndeki Circle D’Orient ya da Saray Sineması da AVM olabiliyor, çünkü onların gerçek sahiplerini 1955’te elinde çivili sopalarla kovalarken zihinlere de formatı çekmiştin. 1915’ten itibaren sistematik olarak müsadere edilen azınlık mallarını dağıttığın sonradan görmeleri “muteber insanlar” olarak takdim edebildiğin için artık her şeye saldırı serbest.

“When you uproot history, everything you plant in its place becomes rootless. When you reject your heritage once, then you no longer have to own up to anything. Today you can build a mall in the place of the Alsancak Stadium because you once made the Alsancak Stadium in the place of the Panionios Stadium. Just like Istiklal Street’s [Istanbul’s main pedestrian street off of Taksim Square] Circle D’orient and Saray Cinema can become malls because you chased away their real owners in 1955 with sticks, reformatting everyone’s minds. Because you have systematically confiscated the possessions of minorities since 1915, and called their new owners “legal owners”, now every kind of attack is allowed.”

 

If a country doesn’t respect its past—in this case the close relationship between Turks and non-Muslim minorities during the Ottoman years—in the present, then how could you expect any historical structure to have meaning? How can you stop the rampant thirst for money through construction projects—in the name of the AKP’s extreme capitalism—if you don’t care about history? The stadium wasn’t even owned by Turks before the population exchange of 1923, so now it can be taken from its new “owners” and who knows what will be built in its place.

A Turkish businessman living in France has claimed that he can make it ready for matches in 45 days, but that seems unlikely given the legal hurdles that will have to be jumped through. Meanwhile, the TFF explained the fines it gave Izmir’s teams. Apparently, they didn’t present a “Security Certificate” for the stadiums they will be playing in. That’s all well and good but how could a team present a “Security Certificate” for a non-existent stadium? It’s the same story just in different words: If you won’t vote for us, then you won’t have football.

 

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All Images Courtesy of: http://fotogaleri.hurriyet.com.tr/galeridetay/97592/2/1/izmir-alsancak-stad-y-k-l-yor

May Day and Football’s Interaction with Political Developments in Turkey: Early May 2015

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NOTE: An Updated Version of This Post Can Be Found at Balkanist.net at http://balkanist.net/may-day-footballs-interaction-political-developments-turkey/

 

Another May Day came and went in Istanbul with much of the same old—police force used to suppress demonstrations on the “Worker’s Holiday”. This year, however, there was a little bit of an international feel to it all in the wake of the Baltimore riots back in the USA. The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, kicked it all off with a photoshopped picture of himself with blonde hair in response to comments made by Ankara’s AKP mayor Melih Gokcek who tweeted “Where are you stupid blonde, who accused Turkish police of using disproportionate force?” The uncouth comment was directed at U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf, as Mr. Gokcek was—apparently—still seething over the fact that the U.S. had criticized Turkish police for using disproportionate force during the Gezi Protests two years ago.

Mr. Gokcek is indeed an interesting character, and football fans will know him better as the man who buried the famous football club Ankaragucu in debt after his son, Ahmet Gokcek, became chairman (with a little of his father’s help, naturally).

As for the May Day itself the football fans from Besiktas’s Çarşı group kept up their civic duty as they entered Besiktas’ square much to the delight of onlookers.

Before:

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After:

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/as-it-happened-turkey-marks-tense-may-day-as-police-enforce-lockdown-in-central-istanbul.aspx?PageID=238&NID=81804&NewsCatID=339

And the international feel didn’t end there—A Çarşı banner was unfurled in Athens during May Day celebrations as well (http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/dunya/28893041.asp). I say celebrations because only in Istanbul does May 1 become a war zone…still, there was some time for football on Istanbul’s blockaded streets.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/dunya/28893041.asp

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.hurhaber.com/sisli-de-1-mayis-sebebiyle-kapatilan-caddede-futbol-oynandi/haber-721781

A week after May Day’s violence President Recep Tayyip Erdogan scheduled an AKP rally on May 9 for a “general opening ceremony” (it is still unclear as to what was being unveiled) in the Izmir Ataturk Stadium, one of Turkey’s largest stadiums, in order to galvanize his support in a province that has never voted for him. The pictures tell the story; in some shots it seems as if there are more police than citizens and even the decision to move people from the stands onto the playing surface failed to produce the illusion of a large boisterous crowd. Before the rally, Mr. Erdogan said that AKP supporters wouldnt be able to fit in the stadium. But, of course, there is a reason: The AKP’s Izmir province president Bülent Delican said that the low turnout was the fault of Izmir’s governor and vowed that “The happiness of those who criticize us will be short lived. The AKP organizations will reckon with those who are now smiling on May 24 at Gundogdu [a main square in Izmir where the AKP is planning a major rally]. The AKP have 466 thousand members in Izmir. We can fill nine stadiums like that one”.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/turkiye/274897/Erdogan_in_izmir_de_bos_tribunlere_yaptigi_mitingin_faturasi_valiye_cikti.html

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More Cops than Citizens? Perhaps.

 

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Her Trabzonspor iPhone cover isn’t fitting for someone from Izmir…Then again, the AKP is known for bussing in supporters from all over the country to attend their rallies.

Images Courtesy Of: http://www.rotahaber.com/siyaset/erdogan-in-izmir-mitingi-ilgi-gormedi-h529662.html

 

Maybe they can. But the issue at hand is not whether the AKP can fill stadiums with boisterous supporters; the issue is the rhetoric used by representatives of the AKP. The AKP member quoted above, Mr. Delican, makes no effort to mask the contempt he feels for his political opponents. Such vitriol has no place in a democratic society whose President is—ostensibly—expected to represent all members of a country, not just those that voted for him or her. Unfortunately the events of May 1, 2015 were not anomalies; they are just further indications that the AKP is looking to dig in their heels during the run up to elections in June, and that criticism—or even lack of support—will not be taken well.

Altay Izmir SK 1997-1998, Home Shirt 18

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In honor of the Izmir Derby I recently attended I am posting another vintage shirt from one of Izmir’s teams—Altay Izmir. I already went through the history of Altay when posting their centenary shirt, so this post is strictly about the shirt. It is a classic Puma design, similar to the Neftochimic Burgas, Cercle Brugge, and Czech national team shirts already posted. I would say it dates to the 1997-1998 season, when Altay played in the first division. This is somewhat of a “Moby Dick” of shirts since I remember once seeing this shirt in a store, as a child, and not being able to get it but–thanks to the magic of the internet–I was able to track it down.

Since there is no sponsor or name on this shirt, I would assume that it is at least player issue—perhaps from a pre-season match. The classic Puma pattern on the arms is pretty, and the Puma writing in the heat pressed felt “18” on the back adds a nice touch. The fabric, however, is heavy (again, Puma produced in Turkey) and I would hate to be a footballer wearing this shirt on a stiflingly hot late summer day in Izmir.

 

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Karşıyaka SK 1996-1997, Away Shirt Match Worn 4

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Since posting two posts concerning Karşıyaka SK, it seems only fitting that I also post a picture of one of their shirts. I have a few, but this is far and away the rarest of the Karşıyaka shirts I own. Karşıyaka—or Kaf Sin Kaf—as they are affectionately known by their fans (the names of the Arabic letters that spell out KSK—Karşıyaka Spor Külübü) are the team from the eponymous district of Izmir, located on the northern shore of the Izmir Bay. It is a traditionally western district of Izmir, not to mention the home of my family in Turkey. I have been a fan of the team since childhood; when a team’s colors are red and green, the colors of Christmas, it makes it easier for an American kid to gravitate towards them I suppose.

This is a match worn example of a Karşıyaka shirt from what I can only assume to be the 1996-1997 season. It is a typical Adidas design from the era, and the heat pressed felt number “4” on the back also fits with the era’s shirts. Aside from being a unique design for Karşıyaka (their shirts tend to emphasize the green and red instead of the white), the sponsor patch on this shirt is very interesting. The Yaşar Yatırım that we see here has actually been sewn on above another sponsorship. Interestingly, Yaşar Yatırım refers to a business pursuit of a wealthy Turkish businessman from Izmir, Selçuk Yaşar. He founded the Selçuk Yaşar Sports and Education Endowment and as such his name adorns many schools in Izmir, as well as the Yaşar University. He has been a major player in the Izmir sports scene, even serving as the honorary president of Karşıyaka SK. His current holding group, Yaşar Holding, was founded in 1945 and includes many famous Turkish brands including the foodstuff company Pinar and Dyo Paints.

This is all, of course, beside the real point here: The shirt. It is a typically thick fabric from Adidas, as shirts produced under the Adidas license in Turkey tended to be in that era. The thin Adidas stripes within the fabric prove it to be authentic, and the fact that the trademark three stripes on the shoulder alternate in red green and red add subtle detail to a truly unique Karşıyaka SK shirt.

As the fans would say . . . KAF KAF KAF, SIN SIN SIN, KAF SIN KAF SIN KAF!

 

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Izmir Derby Part III: Karşıyaka SK Izmir-Altay Izmir

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It surprising how Izmir—arguably Turkey’s most Western city—can sometimes look like the provincial backwaters of central Anatolia or south-east Turkey. Maybe it was the darkness that had just settled—that purgatorial hour where the streets are still crowded; not due to economic activity, but rather from the people (men) leaving their jobs to go back home to their loved ones (wives), families, or television screens. Or maybe it was the strange curve of the road, dodging a Fiat Doblo coming at me a little too fast while trying to look away from the blinding lights of the BIM grocery store to my right. I was taken back in time five years, to a night bathed in a similar shade of darkness where I negotiated a similar curve in a similar setting—albeit as a pedestrian—in the center of Şırnak, Turkey, just off the border of an Iraq then simmering on the brink of all-out civil war. There the street urchins had stuck to me like glue, fitting since I certainly stuck out as a “foreigner” on those dark forgotten frontier streets. Here in Buca district of Izmir province and off the coast of Greece I was at least sheltered by the four doors of my green Ford Mondeo, negotiating the dark alleys while glancing at my phone in search of the Buca Arena.

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The 13,000 capacity Buca Arena was built in this frontier district of Izmir’s city limits in 2009 when the old Buca Stadium proved itself to be obsolete. Indeed, the Buca Arena is only the second stadium in a city with a population of over four million to have stands on four sides of the field (the other is the Ataturk Stadium, for those who are curious). Tonight I was going to see the Izmir derby between Karşıyaka SK and Altay Izmir SK in the second round of the Ziraat Turkish Cup. I was lost in the maze of Buca’s forlorn back streets because of the closure of the Alsancak Stadium, which I wrote about a few days ago. Otherwise, this match would have certainly taken place there. Alas, it wasn’t to be. But I was still determined to take in my third Izmir derby, and the maze of pitch-black streets would not deter me.

 

Indeed I followed the bright glow of the stadium’s floodlights to a vacant lot dotted with stones that bordered on boulder size where I parked my car. Following the directions of a well-meaning police officer I headed up hill from the lot to get a 20 Turkish Lira ticket for the closed stand and walked back down hill to the entrance by the lot. I had paid ten Liras extra to walk ten extra minutes; the entrance immediately by the ticket booth was for the 10 Lira seats. The irony didn’t escape me but the pat-down at the entrance (it was cursory at best) proved my decision to pay a little extra to be sound since the cops never suspect the fans who pay more money to create trouble at games. Indeed they were right, there was no trouble during the match, even though the riot police seemed to walk around the perimeter of the field at random intervals, dragging their helmets and shields behind them. My optimistic side preferred to think that they were just getting some exercise.

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I watch the first half in a veritable daze, just taking in the feeling of watching a match on a fall evening where the temperatures tell you that summer is giving its last breaths, unable to hold up against the inevitable onset of winter. The gusts from the west tell me that soon my flip-flops and shorts will have to be retired. On the field Karşıyaka wear their traditional red and green kit, while Altay wear a special design that has made headlines in Turkey. It is a turquoise kit with an Izmir themed design that strays from their traditional black and white, the colors their fan section is bathed in. In place of a sponsor it has the silhouette of Izmir’s symbols, the clock tower in Konak Square and the statue of Ataturk on horseback that stands in Izmir’s Republic square, with seagulls flying above them. In short, it’s a shirt that eschews a sponsor in order to tell the story of a city—a shirt I hope to add to my collection soon.

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(Image Courtesy of: http://galeri.haberturk.com/spor/galeri/442610-altayin-yeni-formasi-begenildi)

Meanwhile n the field twenty-two men chase the ball beneath an advertisement for the Bucaspor Football Academy:

 

“Bucaspor Gençliği, Milli Takımların Geleceği . . . İyi Birey, İyi Vatandaş, İyi Futbolcu . .” 

“Bucaspor’s Youth, The National Team’s Future . . . A Good Individual, A Good Citizen, A Good Footballer . .”

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I find the message a satisfying one. After all, football is not the end all and be all of life. What matters is being a good person and a good citizen, wherever you live. Beneath the advertisement stand the core of Karşıyaka supporters, behind them their classic banner reads “The Red of Turkishness, the Green of Islam”. At least I know where I am I reason as the first half ends with the score knotted at 0-0. Karşıyaka have had many chances but just haven’t managed to capitalize against their city rivals that sit one division below them in the Turkish football pyramid.

 

At half time I decide to sample the food that is on offer—its always good to sample match-day cuisine in various places. I think back to the sausage stuffed pastry in Tallinn, the popcorn in Kiev, and the Souvlaki in Thessaloniki as I grab myself a sandwich stuffed with shredded sosis and cheese. If I attended a match a day I wouldn’t live past forty eating the stadium fare, but I reason that a few times a year won’t hurt as I dig in. After all, the sosis and cheese sandwich is a common form of fast food in Izmir—and nothing less would do at the Izmir derby.

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As I sit on the dirty plastic seats Turkish pop blares from the loudspeakers, giving us some half time entertainment. Eating this grease bomb of a sandwich with Hande Yener’s Alt Dudak (you know you want to listen) blaring in the background and looking at the young couples decked out in red and green that sip tea two rows in front of me I can’t help but wonder what life would have been had I grown up only in Turkey. Before my mind sends me on a tailspin of “what-ifs” I reason that being half and half is a blessing too, and I just sway along to the music in a bid to stay warm in the winds that are blowing in, colder and colder.

 

I’m still thinking of where I’ve been and where I’ll go when the second half starts—for some reason the Izmir derby has become a reflective one for me. There are no skirmishes between rival fans, just a celebration of a city and its football clubs. Both teams are still playing an even game before the hour mark, when the Karşıyaka goalkeeper gets sent off with a straight red card for an intentional hand ball outside the box. Down to ten men Altay get more chances, but Karşıyaka still hold their own. In fact, it seems like a miracle that they keep throwing away the chances they have at the Altay end. It is indeed a full on display of attacking football at its best.

 

Just when it seems like that we are destined to see a goalless draw Altay hit off on the counter attack, one long ball grazes the head of Altay’s Tahir Kurt and the ball slips past Karşıyaka’s reserve goalkeeper into the corner of the net. 87th minute and it is 0-1 to the “visitors”. The stadium falls silent except for the Altay corner, and that is where the Altay players rush to.

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But there is no booing. Karşıyaka’s fans take it on the chin, and it is refreshing to see such brotherly love between the two teams—it is a rare scene at a derby like this. With three minutes left Karşıyaka waste no time as their two Brazilian stars Juninho and Kahe push forward. Again, they inexplicably muff their chances in front of goal but I get one of those strange feelings that an equalizer is going to come. It just has to, and I stand riveted to the scenes unfolding in front of me.

 

Indeed as the clock reads 90 and the five minutes of added time wind down the chance comes, and in spectacular fashion. Karşıyaka are pouring men forward and the cross comes in, it is headed out before being hit on the volley from the 18 yard box. The shot gets blocked in front of goal and as the rebound hangs in the air above the six yard box Juninho takes his chance; sizing the ball up he hurls himself in the air and with a deft bicycle kick sends the ball hard into the back of the net. 90th minute and the score is 1-1 as the Buca Arena explodes.

 

We are going to get another half hour of football tonight—which means Karşıyaka will have played a full hour with ten men. The end-to-end stuff continues through the extra period as the tense Karşıyaka fans around me react to every move of the ball with visceral emotional outbursts but there will be no goal forthcoming. The victor will be decided from the penalty spot in a shootout. The cops to my left begin to put on their riot gear—they definitely do their best to make normal sporting moments tenser then they should be.

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It is Karşıyaka who go first in the shootout, Kahe’s strong blast finding the net despite the goalkeeper’s guessing the correct corner. Altay equalize with a simple finish, the keeper diving in the opposite direction. It is now Juninho’s turn to keep it going for the “home side”. He already came up with the biggest goal of the night but his work is not done yet. But football—like life—doesn’t always give you a storybook ending. Juninho skies his kick over the bar and can only hold his head and slowly walk back to the center of the pitch in a now silent stadium; hero becomes villain in one small moment. Indeed it is a sign of things to come. Altay hit their next three penalties while Karşıyaka hit both of theirs, keeping within striking distance, before Karşıyaka’s Nigerian forward Chikeluba Ofoedu puts his spot kick in the same place Juninho put his—into the stands. Altay’s players rush into the field to celebrate, they have taken the match 5-4 on penalties and move on to the third round, another Izmir derby in the books.

 

The shootout in its entirety:

 

 

 

Izmir Ataturk Stadium, Izmir, Turkey: Galatasaray-Atletico Madrid Charity Match for the Families Affected by the Soma Mine Disaster (0-0) Matchday

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A Few Photos from the match for charity between Galatasaray and Atletico Madrid at Izmir’s Ataturk Stadium. The proceeds are to be donated to the families affected by the Soma mine disaster. For the Matchday write up please click on either English or Turkish.

 

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Cesme Sehir Stadyumu (Cesme City Stadium), Cesme, Turkey: Cesmespor-Urlaspor (2-1) Matchday

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“Hey John! How’s it going?” comes a voice from my right.

“It’s going—just another match, as you can see!” I reply, cheerful in the sunlight.

He nods his approval, it’s the local sandwich maker soaking up the final days of his vacation. We are both in attendance for a provincial amateur soccer match between Çeşmespor and Urla Gençlik, both on seventh level of the Turkish football pyramid. Despite the obvious lack of quality on the field, there are still about one hundred and fifty people present. Perhaps they are out since it is one of the last warm days of fall after a rainy stretch, or perhaps they are out because it is also the last days of the six-day Muslim Festival of the Sacrifice, Kurban Bayramı. Either way, there is a palpable sense of community in the air. The people of this small seaside town have come out to watch their boys of fall—they know the names of all the players—face a team from the neighboring town.

 

My friend Engin and I sit watching the players—some sporting bellies more befitting of sumo wrestlers, as some of the crowd note—chase the ball across the battered pitch. There are still patches of mud, a reminder of the recent rain storms. The play is hard, as is typical of lower-division Turkish football. Çeşmespor’s first goal comes from a penalty, putting them up 1-0, before an Urla player is forced to limp off with a shoulder injury after a hard fall. The rest of the first half continues with the ball bouncing around midfield like on a billiards table.

 

The second half begins with a flurry of Çeşmespor attacks, and a headed goal puts the home side up 2-0.  With Urla down by two the play gets even harder, and the referee whistles a second penalty, this time the call going against the home team. The penalty is dually dispatched, setting the score at 2-1. Urla are pushing for an equalizer, and in so doing they are also increasing the physicality. The fans—who know so many of the players—are quick to get behind their friends. With time winding down the Cesme striker, number nine, comes off. His white jersey and shorts, his pale face, all are covered in mud. He looks more like a patient getting a facial treatment at a spa than a footballer. As he claps to the fans, my friend recognizes him. “He’s from our village, Dalyan.” This is grassroots football.

 

A through-ball sparks the Urla strikers into action and the Çeşme keeper is quick off his line; he dives down receiving both the ball and a nasty boot to the face.

“Fuck you!” comes a yell from behind me, and the two policemen on duty quickly spin around, conscious of the tensions that are always simmering right below the surface of any given situation in Turkey. Any spark could set it off. They know it all too well. The goalie is writhing in pain, and the fans have more than a few choice words for the referee.

 

“ENOUGH! ENOUGH LEAVE HIS MOTHER OUT OF THIS, STOP SWEARING AT HIS MOTHER!” A shrill female voice breaks the relative calm of this crystal clear fall day. To my ears, her straining yell feels uncomfortably out of place.

“If you can’t handle it, don’t come to away games! Stay in Urla!” comes a reply from behind me, a few rows up (there are only five rows). A pretty girl to my right, holding a sleeping child, looks nervously towards the commotion. She holds the child tighter. I watch as the two policemen head into the lion’s den of arguing fans. Everyone starts moving towards the crowd, it’s like a whirlpool sucking people in. The police try to separate people as sweaters fly through the air. It is an odd sight indeed. There is pushing and shoving, I see my barber—who is also the president of Çeşmespor—trying to separate the would-be combatants. At this point even the players on the field have stopped to take a look, wondering what all the fuss is all about. Some of the younger fans are being held back by their friends, it is they who want a fight most of all, anything to liven up their own boring provincial lives.

 

The referee finally ends the game, blowing the final whistle as the police attempt to push the away team’s fans outside the stadium gates. The woman is still yelling at the top of her lungs, and I hear what must be her husband giving her a lesson in football etiquette.

“Look, if you are an away fan you can’t yell like this. You have to bite your tongue, this isn’t our stadium! Stop provoking people!” No one wants a fight, but everyone knows that there are some unwritten rules in football that, when broken, can lead to unfortunate situations. In a small town in Turkey, where jobs and money are at a premium, these tensions are magnified and can easily spill over in that one space where people can let go of their emotions for ninety minutes at a time and scream the profanities that are taboo in any other social milieu: That space is, unquestionably, the soccer stadium.

 

My friend and I file past the nervous policemen, and outside another police car has just arrived, sirens wailing.

“I guess we got what we wanted. We saw some goals, saw the home team win, and saw some turbulence. What more could we have asked for?” says my friend laughing. He’s right—it was all a match could be. It was grass-roots football.

 

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A Calm Fall Day

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The players take the pitch:

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The locals meet at the stadium:

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The Cesmespor stands

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And things get a little dicey

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Ultras Are Everywhere

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