Home

Farewell to Boleyn Ground/Upton Park: Community and Modern Football

Comments Off on Farewell to Boleyn Ground/Upton Park: Community and Modern Football

I will preface this with an admission: I am not a “fan” of any team in the English Premier League, although I do have sympathies for certain teams. Among those teams is West Ham United, a team I saw play two falls ago on Green Street. As someone who appreciates fan culture, I enjoy the ritual of “bubbles” at Boleyn Ground/Upton Park. After the final match at the ground, with West Ham pulling out a 3-2 victory over Manchester United, I am left thinking “what next?”.

The pageantry of the celebration was amazing and did justice to the end of an era. But I cant help but realize that this end of an era is yet another manifestation of the modern football that many fans are speaking out against.

Slaven Bilic, the Croatian coach of West Ham United for whom I have great respect after his year in Istanbul with Turkish side Besiktas, made his own views clear on the move to the Olympic Stadium. He noted that “The Upton Park stadium was a first home. No matter where you move after that – if you move to a fancy apartment, a big house or to a mansion – your favourite one is always the first. You are losing something because it is impossible to make the Olympic Stadium a fortress”. His analogy is apt—even if the new surroundings will be posher, they cannot replace the memories (and atmosphere) of “home”. His assertion (referring to Arsenal’s ground change) that Highbury felt dangerous, while Emirates is for selfies, is also spot-on—new grounds have become tourist destinations.

Of course, not everyone agrees with me. Dave Kidd of the Daily Mirror seems glad to be rid of Boleyn Ground/Upton Park, where the author first “witnessed serious violence, hardcore racism, drug-taking, frightening levels of crushing and the warm feeling of having your leg urinated upon by a man who was never going to travel across a sea of humanity to the toilets at the sides of the North Bank.” While it is hyperbolic, I’m sure that all of the incidents mentioned have, indeed, happened inside the ground. But…then again…in what old ground have such things not happened? I still remember my first baseball game at the Boston Red Sox’s iconic Fenway Park; a drunk man vomited at my mother’s feet and the language was not something I should have heard at that age. That was, needless to say, the last Red Sox game for my mother. But that was the 1990s; since then rising ticket prices have been the preferred way to keep undesirable elements out of the stadium—without destroying it and building a new ground. While the pre-match violence was unfortunate, it is hard to believe that the move to a new stadium will stamp out this kind of behavior either. To blame the ground on the activities of patrons seems wrong to me, and I cannot agree fully with Mr. Kidd’s claims that the Boleyn Ground/Upton Park “should not be mourned” and that it is “not worth idealizing”. It is fan mentality—not a stadium—that incites violence.

It is not just for the fans that I lament. The effect of the ground’s closure is felt even harder by the small businesses that make a living on the game-day experience of football fans, the establishments that make game-days around the world. The BBC did a great piece on the future of Upton Park (the neighborhood), detailing the local issues. The owner of one pub estimated that he would lose two thirds of his income—almost 500,000 Pounds—while a restaurant owner claimed that a quarter of his earnings come from West Ham fans. The Mayor of Newham is more optimistic, noting that the families moving into the 800 new flats being built in place of the stadium will contribute to the local economy and that “only a few businesses” set up to cater to fans will suffer. While this may be true, it is certainly the end of an era. As the BBC notes, fans will no longer crowd the Upton Park tube station (as even I have).

_89511969_tube

Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/36170590#orb-footer

As stadiums move—often in the name of money—from their traditional locations within the community to outside of the community, a piece of the game is lost. As this happens, it is important to remember that it is not just the fans that are affected. There are many others—from small-business owners to part time programme sellers—that feel this change not just emotionally, but financially as well. The old style football supporter—who was tied to the team because, perhaps, they could take in a match from their flat—is on the way out as well. For me, the disassociation of sport from place is what really hurts; sport adds meaning to geography. Unfortunately, in the world of modern/industrial football, it seems like money is the only thing that matters.

340564FE00000578-0-image-a-72_14629142734563405CFF300000578-3583769-image-a-136_14629180047873405D03700000578-3583769-image-a-127_14629179608563405631700000578-0-image-a-48_1462911094859

Images Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3583769/UPTON-PARK-PICTURE-SPECIAL-West-Ham-bid-farewell-Boleyn-Ground-style-Winston-Reid-scores-winner-dent-Manchester-United-s-Champions-League-hopes-emotional-night.html

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

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

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.

 

D031335510 D031335500 D03133549 D0313353

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

Beylerbeyi 75. Yil, Beylerbeyi, Istanbul, Turkey — (Beylerbeyispor SK and Anadolu Üsküdarspor): Anadolu Üsküdarspor-Beylerbeyispor (0-1) Matchday

Comments Off on Beylerbeyi 75. Yil, Beylerbeyi, Istanbul, Turkey — (Beylerbeyispor SK and Anadolu Üsküdarspor): Anadolu Üsküdarspor-Beylerbeyispor (0-1) Matchday

Despite not being on the same level as Besiktas’s Inonu Stadium or Fulham FC’s Craven Cottage, the Beylerbeyi 75. Yil is still a beautifully situated stadium. Despite its current dilapidated state, it is clear that with a little bit of a make over the 75. Yil could become a fairly decent ground. The all-seater (which is missing more than a few seats) has a capacity of 5500. For anyone looking to get away from the urban sprawl in Istanbul for a few hours a trip to the Beylerbeyi 75. Yil to see a match, followed up by a fish meal on the Bosphorus, makes a good afternoon trip. The stadium is right off the Bosphorus bridge, following the “Welcome to Asia” sign. It is about a 15 minute walk from the Boğaziçi Köprüsü Metrobus stop, or a similar 15-20 minute ride via dolmuş from Üsküdar’s port–the stadium is a five minute walk inland from Beylerbeyi’s center. Here are a few more pictures from the derby between Anadolu Üsküdarspor and Beylerbeyispor.

 

Stadion Lokomotiv/Lauta, Plovdiv, Bulgaria – (PFC Lokomotiv Plovdiv): Lokomotiv Plovdiv-Botev Plovdiv (1-1) Matchday

Comments Off on Stadion Lokomotiv/Lauta, Plovdiv, Bulgaria – (PFC Lokomotiv Plovdiv): Lokomotiv Plovdiv-Botev Plovdiv (1-1) Matchday

Some more pictures of the Plovdiv derby in the Bulgarian Cup quarterfinals. For more information on the stadium please see my Stadion Lokomotiv/Lauta pictures posted earlier, taken during a visit before renovations were completed.

 

20141028_170535 20141028_170554 20141028_170558 20141028_171151 20141028_174201 20141028_174256 20141028_174331 20141028_174337 20141028_174433 20141028_174544 20141028_180101 20141028_180109 20141028_180649 20141028_180653 20141028_181221 20141028_183223 20141028_184028 20141028_184631

IMG-20141028-WA0095 20141028_184709 20141028_184656 IMG-20141028-WA0096 IMG-20141028-WA0100 20141028_184810 20141028_184817 20141028_184628

20141028_184804 20141028_184810 IMG-20141028-WA010020141028_184948 20141028_184955

 

Boleyn Ground/Upton Park–(West Ham United FC): West Ham United FC-Queen’s Park Rangers (2-0) Matchday

1 Comment

More pictures of the Boleyn Ground taken during the East London-West London derby between West Ham United and Queen’s Park Rangers in the Premier League. The Boleyn Ground has been home to the “Hammers” since 1904 and, after a series of redevelopments in the 1990s, has reached a seating capacity of 35,016. The club rented the grounds from the Roman Catholic Church in 1912, and a church still stands outside the stadium–grounds for religious and lay worship side by side. The name Boleyn Park comes from the relationship between Green Street house and Anne Boleyn who supposedly stayed there. Now many refer to the stadium as Upton Park after the neighborhood it is in. One can reach the stadium from central London by taking either the District Line or Hammersmith & City Line to the Upton Park station. My one suggestion would be grab a bite to eat–or a pint–around the stadium post match and wait for the crowds to thin out if you’re not in a rush as the queue for the Upton Park tube station is chaotic immediately after the match–it took us about thirty minutes and involved a long walk.

20141005_122714 20141005_123156 20141005_123239 20141005_124226 20141005_124525 20141005_124555 20141005_162509 20141005_162126 20141005_162122 20141005_180917 20141005_180958 20141005_182159

White Hart Lane, London, England–(Tottenham Hotspur FC): Tottenham Hotspur-Besiktas JK (1-1) Matchday

1 Comment

Some more pictures of White Hart Lane taken from the away supporters section during the UEFA Europa League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Besiktas JK. White Hart lane opened more than a century ago in 1899 when the first match saw a modest crowd of just 5,000. While the record attendance is an astounding 75,038, from a match in 1938, the new seating regulations mean that the current capacity is 36,284. Since this is smaller than the capacity of many Premier League stadia there are plans for reconstruction afoot. Luckily, I was able to make it out before another classic British ground fades into the past. The stadium has a cosy feeling, there is no denying that, and as a fan it feels as if you are almost on the pitch. To get there, take the Victoria line to Seven Sisters station and change for a National Rail service to White Hart Lane station.

20141002_200440 20141002_200734 20141002_200737 20141002_200937 20141002_200943 20141002_202109 20141002_201824 20141002_210848 20141002_213510 20141002_215209 20141002_215317 20141002_215745

 

Emirates Stadium, London, England — (Arsenal FC): Arsenal FC-Galatasaray SK (4-1) Matchday

Comments Off on Emirates Stadium, London, England — (Arsenal FC): Arsenal FC-Galatasaray SK (4-1) Matchday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some pictures of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium taken during the UEFA Champions League group stage match between Arsenal FC and Galatasaray SK. England’s third largest stadium with a capacity of 60,272, Emirates was opened in 2006 after Arsenal left their iconic ground, Highbury. I wish I could have made it out to Highbury before its demolition and transformation into lofts but all good things must end. Emirates stadium is easy to reach from central London as it is accessed by the Arsenal and Holloway Road Underground stations on the Picadilly Line. As a note, Arsenal station is usually closed on match days and Holloway Road is the station used for entrance and exit.

20141001_193129

 

 

20141001_193349 20141001_193732 20141001_194034 20141001_194054 20141001_194057 20141001_195701 20141001_202105 20141001_202108 20141001_210344 20141001_213449 20141001_213954 20141001_214354 20141001_214356 20141001_214359 20141001_215138

 

Older Entries