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Yusuf Ziya Öniş Stadium, Sarıyer, Istanbul, Turkey — (Sarıyer): Sarıyer-Beşiktaş (0-4) Matchday

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A few more photos from the Sarıyer-Beşiktaş Ziraat Turkish Cup Group Stage match at the Yusuf Ziya Öniş Stadium:

 

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You Bring the Fish We’ll Bring the Raki: Brotherly Love By the Bosphorus

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This is certainly not the FA Cup, with its thrilling history of lower league sides upsetting the favorites against all odds. Its not the French cup, where the exploits of Calais (my personal favorite) and Quevilly live on in memory. No, it is just the Ziraat Turkish Cup group stage. The chaos outside the stadium tells me that a big team is in town for a rare fixture and that the small Yusuf Ziya Öniş stadium cannot cope with the excitement. Fans with vodka and beer in hand mix on the streets with the riot policemen trying to organize the crowds. It is nigh on impossible and the fans are milling in the streets, blocking through traffic and my entrance to the ticket booths.

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I decide to head to a nearby market and grab a beer while I ask for some advice. Turkish giants Beşiktaş have made the trip up the Bosphorus to face third tier Sarıyer for a small Istanbul derby and the home fans are excited at the prospect of seeing their heroes in person. According to the shopkeeper there are no tickets on sale but he urges me to try my luck. Things are flexible, to a point, after all. I finish my Bomonti and head back to the gates. The fans are still mixing vodka with orange juice on park benches and the cops are still engaging in shoving matches with those trying to enter without tickets. I thread my way through the rowdy scene and ask a young cop about tickets. He shakes his head and I can tell that the helmet is too big, it looks like a rented Halloween costume. “No tickets, No tickets”.

“Are you sure? There is a guy getting some at ticket office 1 right behind you!”

“No tickets”. He doesn’t even bother to turn and look, perhaps his visor is equipped with a mirror? Of course it isn’t.

“Where is your chief? I want to speak with your chief.” Asking for a higher authority never fails, it helps the younger cops feel like they’re doing their jobs correctly. I’m sent over to the chief who is struggling to keep up his end of the shoving match with his arms constricted by the tear gas launcher slung across his chest.

“Where can I get tickets?”

“There are no tickets.” Its always the same answer, like they’re speaking from the same script, but I can play that game as well.

“But what about the guy at ticket office 1? He’s getting tickets.” This has the desired affect as the cop spins around and orders a subordinate to ask the ticket office what is happening. The subordinate’s report upon returning is neither what the chief expected to hear nor what he wanted to hear.

“They’re selling tickets.”

“What? First they say they’re sold out, now they’re selling them again?!” Exasperated the chief police officer pushes me through, cursing under his breath.

At last I’m at ticket office 1 grabbing a twenty seven lira ticket to the Beşiktaş section. I’m not used to sitting in away sections, but after London why not join the Beşiktaş faithful on another trip away from home? The entrance to the home section looks like a nightmare anyway.

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Inside the Beşiktaş fans have almost filled all of their section of 4000 fans and are creating an atmosphere reminiscent of the old Inönü Stadium. The Beşiktaş chants are coming with an intensity equal to the player’s play on the field as a squad made up of mainly reserves keep surging forward, threatening the Sarıyer goal. Cenk Tosun and Olcay Şahan score two quick goals in the first ten minutes, a sign of a comfortable victory ahead for the visitors.

With the result looking certain—Beşiktaş win 4-0 after all—I take my time to study the fans around me. To my left a father is teaching his young son what it means to love Beşiktaş as he joins full force in the chanting.

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They are cheering with the Sarıyer fans. It is undoubtedly a rarity in football these days.

“Sarıyer sen bizim Kardeşimizsin!”

“Sarıyer you are our Brother!”

I remember a trip to the bank a couple years ago where I learned first hand about the brotherhood of these two teams. I had been waiting in line with a number twenty spots behind the one being serviced. Just as I was resigning myself to an hour’s wait a man saw my Sarıyer scarf and, walking over, said “Sarıyer are our brothers”. He was wearing a Beşiktaş shirt and gave me his number, two behind the one currently being serviced. I was momentarily shocked, but the relationship between the two teams intrigued me.

 

In European football there are many such relationships, but they are often international friendships. When I went to the PAOK-Aris derby in Salonika, Greece, there were Borussia Dortmund and Botev Plovdiv flags in the stands, a mutual support club of three teams that share the colors of yellow and black. On the walls of PAOK’s Toumba Stadium one can find graffiti for the “Orthodox Brothers” of PAOK and Serbia’s Partizan Belgrade, two teams that share black and white as their colors. On the other side, supporters of Olympiakos Piraeus—PAOK’s bitter rivals from Athens—share a friendly relationship with Partizan’s eternal rivals in Belgrade, Red Star Belgrade (Both teams are red and white).

In Italy there are some domestic friendships that mainly break down along political lines. S.S. Lazio Roma’s fans have a strong fascist identity and maintain a friendship with Hellas Verona, a side whose Ultras share a right wing political stance. Due to on the field play, Lazio are also friendly with Inter Milan and Triestina. Internationally, Lazio have important friendships with Real Madrid (themselves Franco’s team), Espanyol, West Ham United (due to Paolo Di Canio, famous for his fascist salute), and Levski Sofia who flew Lazio flags at the Eternal Derby of Sofia that I attended.

 

On the other end of the political spectrum in Italy is AS Livorno, a team with a strong left wing identity from the city where the Italian communist party was founded. They have good relationships with other left wing supporters, most famously Olympique de Marseille and AEK Athens (whose fan’s political activity I have also written about). Livorno also have a famous friendship with Turkey’s foremost workers team, the team of the railways Adana Demirspor, whom they played a rare friendly with in 2009. After all, it isn’t every day that a Serie A team come to visit a (then) third division Turkish team.

While I do not know the roots of the Beşiktaş-Sarıyer connection, I personally believe that some of it may be rooted in politics. The district of Sarıyer borders Beşiktaş along the Bosphorus and, like Beşiktaş, has been a Republican People’s Party (CHP) stronghold in recent elections. In the 2014 local elections the CHP’s Murat Haznedar won Beşiktaş’s mayoralty with 76.1 percent of the vote. His nearest challenger was the AKP’s Zeynel Abidin Okul who took 16.6 percent of the vote. In the same elections the CHP’s Şükrü Genç won Sarıyer’s mayoralty with 51.1 percent of the vote, besting the AKP’s Mahmut Sedat Özsoy who took 39.2 percent of the vote.

When looking at past elections in both Beşiktaş and Sarıyer the same trend is evident. In the 2011 general elections the CHP won 64.17 percent of the vote to the AKP’s 20.28 percent in Beşiktaş. In the 2010 Constitutional referendum (seen as a referendum on then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rule) 77.73 percent of Beşiktaş’s voters rejected the change, and in the 2009 local elections 68.9 percent of Beşiktaş voted for the CHP’s Ismail Ünal as mayor to the 15.8 percent who voted for the AKP candidate Sibel Çarmıklı.

In Sarıyer’s 2011 general election vote the CHP narrowly edged out the AKP 41.79 percent to 40.32 percent. In the 2010 referendum 55.94 voted against the change, while in the 2009 local elections 37.5 percent of Sarıyer voted for the CHP’s Şükrü Genç to 31.8 percent who voted for the AKP’s Mehmet Akif Şişmanoğlu.

In fact the CHP strength in Sarıyer has been so prominent that it even prompted some gerrymandering by officials in 2012 when three neighborhoods with strong AKP support were taken from Şişli district (A CHP stronghold) and tied to Sarıyer in order to lower the CHP advantage. Şişli district saw strong support for the DSP candidate Mustafa Sarıgül, who is now a CHP member, in the 2009 and 2011 elections. However, in three neighborhoods of Şişli, there was a conspicuous AKP advantage in 2011. The vote totals in the 2011 general elections from the three gerrymandered neighborhoods, Maslak, Huzur, and Ayazağa are below:

Maslak Mahallesi

AK Parti: 452

CHP:389

MHP:191

AKP Advantage: 63

 

Huzur Mahallesi

AK Parti: 2.060

CHP:2.621

MHP:636

CHP Advantage: 561

 

Ayazağa Mahallesi

AK Parti: 12.549

CHP: 3.424

MHP: 2.427

AKP Advantage: 9,125

 

Total:

AK Parti: 19.748

CHP: 15.994

MHP: 5.115

 

If these three neighborhoods had been added to Sarıyer in the 2011 elections, when the AKP won 71,301 votes and the CHP won 74,066 votes, the almost 4,000 extra AKP votes would have won the district for the party. By taking pro-AKP neighborhoods out of a district that they have no hope to win and putting them in a district that sees a tighter race the AKP can ensure electoral victory by way of gerrymandering, an unsightly scene for a democracy indeed.

So back to the football. Beşiktaş have won the match 4-0, after much mutual chanting, and the atmosphere is, indeed brotherly. But not to the cops, who seem to want something to happen. They have blocked the exits, saying that the policy is home fans out first, then away fans. But that is in matches where there is tension right? And if there is no tension…why not create it—that seems to be the mentality of the cops. We’re literally locked in, and the Beşiktaş fans give our captors a little piece of their mind.

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A small chant of “Mustafa Kemalin Askerleriyiz” comes up—“We are Mustafa Kemal’s Soldiers” before a less political and more effective chant comes up from the Sarıyer stands.

 

“Hep beraber, kapıya—Hep beraber, rakı’ya!”

“All together to the doors—All together to raki!”

 

The Beşiktaş fans answer them as only they can:

“Balıklar sizden—Rakılar bizden!”

“The fish are on you—The raki is on us!”

 

Indeed, Sarıyer’s badge sports two fish in an oval shape, so why not. The cops don’t know what to do, and it is clear that the only thing on people’s minds is a relaxing meal of fish washed down by Turkey’s famous anise flavored liquor. The cops relent, the doors are opened, and we are all released onto the streets, blue and white shirts mixing with black and white shirts in a march all the way to the shores of the Bosphorus.

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Yusuf Ziya Öniş Stadium, Sariyer, Istanbul, Turkey – (Sariyer SK): Sariyer SK-Nazilli Belediyespor (0-0) Matchday

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A few pictures of the Yusuf Ziya Öniş Stadium taken during the TFF Second League Kirmizi Group match between Sariyer and Nazilli Belediyespor. The stadium itself was completed in 1988 and hosted many first division matches when Sariyer was in the top flight from 1998 to 1994 and the 1996-1997 season. The stadium has three stands, all covered, that provide a capacity of 10,000. Most of the stadium is colored in the team’s colors–navy blue (to symbolize royalty) and white (to symbolize cleanliness). The stadium is named after Yusuf Ziya Öniş, the first president of the Turkish Football Federation and one of the leaders in trying to bring a professional system to Turkish football. After playing for Galatasaray SK in Turkey and Servette FC Geneva in Switzerland he became president of the Turkish Football Federation from 1922-1926 and of Galatasaray SK 1922-1925. After resigning from this post he became part of the breakaway Güneş Spor Külübü until it dissolved in 1938. Before his death in 1960 he returned for a second stint at the head of Galatasaray SK from 1950-1953. Outside of football, he was also a high ranking executive at both the Türkiye İş Bankası and Denizbank.

Interestingly, despite the stadium being named after a man with close ties to Galatasaray SK, Sariyer currently are very close to Besiktas JK. It is not uncommon to see the scarves of the Çarşı group at Sariyer matches and the two clubs often play exhibition matches against one another, most recently in 2012.

 

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Istanbul Excursions: A Visit to Sariyer–October 8 2014

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I take bus 152 on the Hacıosman-Kısırkaya route and get off in the center of Sariyer; to me it is one of Istanbul’s most beautiful districts. The location is picturesque, on the northwestern shore of the Bosporus where it opens up into the Black Sea. I stand on the pier and look past the green hills where the grey waters flow into a grey horizon, it reminds me of the previous times that I have come to see matches here.

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The fans are generally a respectful bunch, and I have taken girlfriends to matches here before. It’s a relatively short trip from the center of Istanbul, and the delicious börek and pide restaurants make for some good pre-match meals. Here I even became friends with a couple of young girls three years ago, their headscarves might have made us different but it didn’t matter when the subject was football. Another time that arbitrary boundaries were bridged by sport. But that was three years ago, and every year the differences within Turkish society seem to become more and more pronounced.

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I wander the back streets, lined with historic wooden houses built in the traditional Ottoman style. Some are derelict while others have been restored as I search out a spot for a pre-match drink in the British style. I find my spot just off the main square, Meydan Pub. It looks admittedly dodgy, and the irony of the AKP and MHP offices opposite the entrance doesn’t escape me.

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As the waiter pours me a raki I attempt to justify my drinking at 3 in the afternoon by telling him I’m going to the match.

“What match?” he asks with obvious indifference.

“Sariyer-Nazilli Belediyespor.”

He just raises his eyebrows in a look of surprise as he slides the ice bucket over to me. Turkish 2nd division football doesn’t exactly elicit much passion in these parts.

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I soon see why—it’s a miracle that I don’t fall asleep during a first half that ends as it began: 0-0 with no real chances to speak of. I stretch my legs during the break, walking below the stands as the last fans are let in, all free of charge. They’re all young kids, just out of school—normal for a rare Wednesday afternoon fixture.

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“Does my hair look good? Wait, lets not go in yet. (Saçlarım düzgün mi? Bekle, daha girmeyelim)” She steals a look at the stands. “Lets wait a bit”. Two young girls share an exchange that I can’t help but chuckle at as I overhear it. If she was looking to impress a particular boy I would think the football stadium would be the last place to flirt. Her “Too cute for you” t-shirt only makes it a more ridiculous scene.

“Atilla! Atilla! What are you doing at a match, you’re a married man now?! (Atilla, Atilla! Ulan evlendin bahtlandın ne işin var maçta?!)” The two men embrace and I laugh at myself this time. All the small town lives that have converged at the Yusuf Ziya Öniş Stadium on a Wednesday afternoon make for some good people watching, there can be no denying that. If only the football was as amusing as the conversations.

I decide to dig into a köfte sandwich for my halftime snack, in memory of “Köfte” Hüseyin—a Sariyer fan who passed away in June at a young age from a heart attack. I look at the banner hanging behind the goal that he himself had written as I eat: OLACAKSA SENDEN BİR MENFAATİM BİR BAYRAK OLSUN O DA TABUTUMDA DURSUN (If There Will Be One Profit I Get From You May It Be a Flag That Can Lie On My Coffin). The meat and onions are good even if the bread is a level above rubber; I feel like my teeth are going to snap off as I take a bite but I don’t care. Let it be my one act of remembrance for a man I never knew but who shared the same passions as I do—may he rest in peace.

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The second half is a little more lively but it still seems unlikely that any goals will come. As the fans get restless they mouth a tongue in cheek chant—“This isn’t the cinema or theater, fans that don’t yell can fuck off! (Burası sinema tiyatro değil, bağırmayan taraftar siktirsin gitsin)”. I choose not to be offended and continue watching in silence. Two school age boys start fighting over a scarf in front of me before their “Abiler”—older “brothers”—put them in their place. “You little pricks, instead of fighting you bastards should be yelling! (Ulan ibneler, kavga edeceğinizi bağırin piçler!). In this way, the smaller teams are definitely a society unto themselves.

With three minutes left Sariyer get their chance but it goes just past the post—Sariyer are left to settle for their sixth draw in seven matches. We all know that this is hardly the stuff of a promotion contender at this early stage of the season as we file out into the grey afternoon under a light drizzle coming in from the north.

 

I have nowhere to go so I decide to head back to the pub. It is full this time with businessmen sipping beers in their work clothes; it is almost European in a sense. That is, until you raise your head to look at the TV. I follow the news reports. A curfew has been declared in six eastern provinces, including Diyarbakir, where a friend of mine has gone for the Bayram. Those old familiar battles between Kurds and Turks should have long gone out of style but ISIS have reignited them. Far from those bloody battles I sip my raki on the shores of the Bosphorus, watching it all unfold on Show TV. It doesn’t look good, and as I watch I recognize the city. I had been to a match there five years ago and I know those streets well.

All I can do now is hope that cooler heads prevail. As a writer for Hurriyet Daily news said, quoting Martin Luther King Jr., “We must learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.” Hopefully, all involved can take heed.