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Notes From the çArşı Hearing of December 17 2014: A Shift in the Relationship Between Football and Politics in Turkey?

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On Wednesday December 17 the first hearing for 35 members of the Beşiktaş ultra group çArşı accused of attempting a coup started with one of the first mass gatherings of the government’s diverse opponents since the Gezi Protests of June 2013. In trying to finish çArşı off the government may have unwittingly re-ignited the flames of opposition; perhaps that is why the timing of the December 14 operation against opposition media outlets aligned with Fethullah Gülen is not a coincidence.

Outside the courthouse in Çağlayan fans came to support çArşı in a show of football supporter solidarity. Alongside the familiar left wing Ultra groups of Istanbul’s Fenerbahçe (Sol Açık) and Galatasaray (Tek Yumruk) were fans of Izmir’s famous Karşıyaka and Göztepe in addition to fans of the worker’s teams Kardemir Çelik Karabükspor and Adana Demirspor.

cArsi

(Image Courtesy of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/spor/164211/cArsi_darbeye_karsi.html)

But football fans weren’t the only ones out on the streets; the family of Berkin Elvan, the anti-capitalist Muslims, and LBGT groups all came to show their support as well—as the writer Erk Acarer correctly notes, this is perhaps the first time such groups have come together since Gezi.

Inside the case had to be moved to a bigger courtroom in order to fit all the supporters who yelled the traditional Beşiktaş chant “Gücüne güç katmaya geldik, formanda ter olmayana geldik, Beşiktaş seninle ölmeye geldik…” (We came to add strength to your strength, we came to be sweat on your jerseys, we came to die with you Beşiktaş…). Indeed, the lawyers had Beşiktaş jerseys on as the accused met the judge with an eagle salute (a favorite of the fans). But what could those present say that hasn’t already been said? “Bu Dava Komik”—“This Case is Hilarious”.

As one writer says, the conversations between the judge and the accused are straight out of a Turkish film—perhaps out of the script of a C-Movie:

 

Evladım TOMA’yı ele geçirdik demişsiniz.

– Hâkim bey, o tarihte ehliyetim yoktu, bisiklete bile binemem ben.. (Koray)

 

– Barış sen Beşiktaşlısın değil mi, çArşı mensubu musun?

– Hayır Fenerbahçeliyim. (Barış)

 

– Örgüt lideri misin, azıcık da olsa darbeye yardım ettin mi?

– ÇArşı’da kimse kimseye emir vermez, biz darbeye de karşıyız, darbe gücümüz olsa Beşiktaş’ı şampiyon yapardık. Telefon kaydı üzerinden değil, somut şeyler üzerinden soru sorun. (Cem Y.)

 

Son apparently you said you took control of a TOMA [the infamous Turkish riot control vehicles].

-Your honor, I didn’t have a driver’s license at that time, I can’t even ride a bike. (Koray)

 

-Barış you’re a Beşiktaş fan right, are you a member of çArşı?

-No I’m a Fenerbahçe fan. (Barış)

 

-Are you the leader of the group, did you help the coup even a little?

-No one in çArşı can give orders to anyone else in çArşı, we are against coups; if we had the strength to start a coup we would make Beşiktaş champions [Indeed Beşiktaş haven’t won the title since 2009]. Don’t ask questions based on phone taps, ask questions based on concrete things. (Cem Y)

 

Aside form the tragicomic facts the truth is that the Turkish government may have miscalculated in regard to the çArşı case; the traditional relationship between football and politics has been turned on its head. In my own thesis I wrote about how the stadium had traditionally been a pressure-valve to release societal tensions within oppressive regimes. What happened in the stadium was controlled in the stadium, and it was better to allow people to vent in the controlled atmosphere of a ninety-minute soccer match. Cumhuriyet columnist Emre Kongar correctly points out this changing relationship in his column Fatima ve Çarşı (Fatima and Çarşı).

There is an old saying that Antonio de Oliveira Salazar ran fascist Portugal with the aid of the “Three Fs”: Futbol, Fatima, and Fado. [Mr. Kongar’s article refers to Spain’s fascist leader Franco as having ran the country with Football, Fiesta, and Fado but the true root of the Three F’s is Salazar’s Portugal; for more on the Three F’s in Portugal please see this external blog post and a French Wikipedia post on the “Triple F” since I unfortunately do not have my football literature with me in Turkey]. The basis of this cynical tactic is simple: to distract the people from the truth of living under an oppressive regime. The football part is simple: Benfica Lisbon had a very successful side in Europe during Salazar’s years. Fatima refers to Catholicism (Karl Marx’s old opiate of the masses) and a town in Portugal where the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared in 1917, while Fado refers to Portugal’s most famous music.

In Turkey it is no secret that the government has used religion and Islam in order to consolidate and mobilize their key supporters in rural Turkey. But football can be, in its own strange way, a religion itself. The sound of 30,000 people chanting in unison can be as powerful as watching pilgrims at a religious shrine; often fans view (and call) trips to historic stadiums like Old Trafford or the San Siro as veritable pilgrimages. And, as Mr. Kongar points out, it is an historic event when one of the “Three F”s—in this case football—transforms itself from being a vehicle for government control into being a vehicle for opposition to the government.

The attempt to silence çArşı was always going to be a dangerous game. As I have noted before, çArşı have done a lot in Turkey to move beyond just being an ultra group to being a real member of civil society. In a note released by çArşı the day of the trial they outlined all that they have done by invoking many literary images:

 

ÖNSÖZ: Kerem ile Aslı, Ferhat ile Şirin, Leylâ ile Mecnûn neyse bizim için BEŞİKTAŞ ile Çarşı da odur…

SONSÖZ: BEŞİKTAŞ

Prologue: What Kerem and Aslı, Ferhat and Şirin, Leyla and Mecnun are, for us that is what BEŞIKTAŞ and Çarşı are…

Epilogue: BEŞIKTAŞ

 

Here çArşı show their literary side, comparing their love for the team to the classic Turkish love stories of the past. And they continue, indirectly responding themselves to the “Three F” tactic:

“Düzen zaten istiyor ki, bir araya geldiğimiz sadece doksan dakikalık bir hayatımız olsun; bu süre zarfında sadece atılan gole sevinip yenilen gole üzülelim. Hayatımız doksan dakika içinde genleşip daralsın, orda başlayıp orda bitsin. Sahanın içinde olanlar dışında ‘görme, duyma, konuşma’ demek istiyorlar. O doksan dakikanın başlama vuruşuna kadar geçen zaman sanki hiç yaşanmamış gibi yok sayılsın. “Hadi şimdi dağılabilirsiniz! Unutun gitsin.” Öyle mi? Oysa bizim bir hayatımız varsa, bu hayat başkalarının hayatıyla mümkündür. Başkalarının hayatına sırt çevirenler, gözlerini kendinden olana çevirir; kendi oğullarını bir hanedan gibi görmenin dışına adım atamazlar. Futbolun insanlara yaydığı kolektif ruh, kolektif hâfıza kendimize dışarıdan bakma şansı verir bize. Bu bakış, insanî değerleri diri tutar. İnsanlığa yapılan yanlışları, kurulan kumpasları görünür kılar. Bizi, birbirimizden haberdar kılar. Haber niteliği olan durum ve olguları korkmadan, cesaretle halkın önüne taşıma sorumluluğu verir.

Bir araya geldiğimiz statlarda, salonlarda aleyhimize çalınan haksız penaltılara isyan edelim, çıkan haksız kırmızı kartlara isyan edelim, ama bu “milletin .mına koyacaz’ diyenlere yol veren düzene isyan etmeyelim! Öyle mi? Yoksul halk çocuklarının bayrağa sarılı tabutlarını unutalım? 12 yaşında vücudundan 13 kurşun çıkarılan çocukları unutalım? Kaşları Kartal kanadı olan Berkin’imizi, güzel yüzlü Ali İsmail’imizi unutalım? Öyle mi? İnsan, biraz da unutmadığı için, daha güzel bir dünyanın mümkün olduğunu hatırladığı için insan değil mi? İnsan, hayatın kanayan yerine baktığı için, sırtını dönmediği için çocuklarının yüzüne utanmadan bakabilir.”

“The system wants our lives to be just the ninety minutes that we come together, and during that time for us to only be happy for the goals scored and be sad for the goals conceded. Our lives should ebb and flow within the space of ninety minutes, our lives should start and end there. They want us to ‘see nothing, hear nothing, and speak nothing’ of the things happening off the field, as if the moments before the kickoff of those ninety minutes count for nothing. ‘Ok, you can go now! Nothing to see here, forget about it’. Is that how it is? But if we have a life, that life is made possible due to other people’s lives. Those who turn their backs on the lives of others, those who look only at those like them, they can’t take a step without looking at their own sons only as their personal dynasty. The collective spirit and collective memory spread by football gives us the chance to look at ourselves from outside. This perspective keeps humane values alive. This makes us look at the wrongs being done to humanity and plots being hatched. It makes us informed of one another. It gives us the responsibility to present news and facts to the people with courage and without fear.

In the stadiums that we come together in we should revolt against the unfair penalties called against us and revolt against the unfair red cards called against us; but we shouldn’t revolt against a system created by those that say “We’re going to F*ck this nation”! Is that how it is? We should forget the flag-wrapped coffins of the children of the impoverished? We should forget the twelve-year old children who have thirteen bullets taken out of their bodies? We should forget our Berkin and his eagle eyebrows, we should forget our Ali Ismail and his handsome face? Is that how it is? Isn’t what makes a person a person the fact that they don’t forget, that they remember that a better world is possible? Because a person can look at where the lifeblood flows without turning their backs, then a person can look at the faces of their children without shame.”

 

“. . . istiyorlar ki doksan dakikanın sonunda doksan gün ofsayt tartışalım, başka da hiç bir şeyi dert edinmeyelim.Statlar bir beşik gibi uykuya doğru sallayıp dursun bizi istiyorlar. Oysa maçlara ara verildiğinde hayat devam ediyordu ve yazın 45 derece sıcakta parke taşı döşeyen işçinin alın terinde kaldı aklımız… “Taşeronlaşmaya, Sendikasızlığa, Kuralsız Çalışmaya Hayır” dedik.

Sen demedin mi?

“ Mayıs: 1 Sermaye: 0 “

“… at the end of ninety minutes they want us to argue about offside for ninety days and not care about anything else. They want the stadiums to rock us to sleep like a cradle. But when there is a break in the matches [during the summer] life goes on and our mind stays with the workers sweating in the 45 degree summer heat laying cobblestones… we said ‘no to subcontracting, no to working without unions and rules’. Didn’t you say it? “May: 1 Capital: 0”.

[NOTE: The coffins wrapped in flags refers to martyred soldiers, Berkin and Ali Ismail refer to young men killed in clashes with police during protests, May:1 Capital: 0 refers to the May 1 Labor Day (Worker’s Holiday)].

 

Whatever the outcome of the çArşı case it is clear that we are witnessing a change in the way that football may come to be viewed by the government in Turkey. What that means, along with the plummeting attendances due to Passolig and poor performances by the national team, remains to be seen. But the fact that the government’s attack on çArşı and Beşiktaş brought such diverse groups back to the streets is still a victory.

 

The next hearing will be April 2, 2015.

 

Video of Turkish MPs supporting çArşı in parliament by wearing Besiktas colors:

CHP Kocaeli MP Mehmet Hilal Kaplan: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/video/video/163758/cArsi_atkisiyla_kursuye_cikti.html

CHP MP Melda Onur: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/foto/foto_galeri/163759/1/CHP_li_Melda_Onur_dan_cArsi_ya_destek.html

Fans Yelling Besiktas Slogans in the Courthouse Halls: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/video/video/163405/Taraftarlar_adliye_koridorunda_bu_sloganlari_atti.html

 

The Full Text (In Turkish) of the cArsi Note is Below, courtesy of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/turkiye/163209/cArsi_dan_aciklama__La_biz_size_n_ettik_.html.

ÖNSÖZ: Kerem ile Aslı, Ferhat ile Şirin, Leylâ ile Mecnûn neyse bizim için BEŞİKTAŞ ile Çarşı da odur…

SONSÖZ: BEŞİKTAŞ

Bize: “Size ne?” diyorlar.

Yıllar önce Fok balıklarının katliamına isyan ettiğimizde güldüler bize. “Size ne?” dediler. Yerdiler bizi, ama bugün sıfatsızın biri çıktı ve size “Fok You !” dedi. O gün yanımızda olsaydın bugün “Fuck You !” diyor olacaktın, bunu unutma!

Düzen zaten istiyor ki, bir araya geldiğimiz sadece doksan dakikalık bir hayatımız olsun; bu süre zarfında sadece atılan gole sevinip yenilen gole üzülelim. Hayatımız doksan dakika içinde genleşip daralsın, orda başlayıp orda bitsin. Sahanın içinde olanlar dışında ‘görme, duyma, konuşma’ demek istiyorlar. O doksan dakikanın başlama vuruşuna kadar geçen zaman sanki hiç yaşanmamış gibi yok sayılsın. “Hadi şimdi dağılabilirsiniz! Unutun gitsin.” Öyle mi? Oysa bizim bir hayatımız varsa, bu hayat başkalarının hayatıyla mümkündür. Başkalarının hayatına sırt çevirenler, gözlerini kendinden olana çevirir; kendi oğullarını bir hanedan gibi görmenin dışına adım atamazlar. Futbolun insanlara yaydığı kolektif ruh, kolektif hâfıza kendimize dışarıdan bakma şansı verir bize. Bu bakış, insanî değerleri diri tutar. İnsanlığa yapılan yanlışları, kurulan kumpasları görünür kılar. Bizi, birbirimizden haberdar kılar. Haber niteliği olan durum ve olguları korkmadan, cesaretle halkın önüne taşıma sorumluluğu verir.

Bir araya geldiğimiz statlarda, salonlarda aleyhimize çalınan haksız penaltılara isyan edelim, çıkan haksız kırmızı kartlara isyan edelim, ama bu “milletin .mına koyacaz’ diyenlere yol veren düzene isyan etmeyelim! Öyle mi? Yoksul halk çocuklarının bayrağa sarılı tabutlarını unutalım? 12 yaşında vücudundan 13 kurşun çıkarılan çocukları unutalım? Kaşları Kartal kanadı olan Berkin’imizi, güzel yüzlü Ali İsmail’imizi unutalım? Öyle mi? İnsan, biraz da unutmadığı için, daha güzel bir dünyanın mümkün olduğunu hatırladığı için insan değil mi? İnsan, hayatın kanayan yerine baktığı için, sırtını dönmediği için çocuklarının yüzüne utanmadan bakabilir.

Rakibin haksız yere oyundan atılmasına olan isyanımız takdire şayan görülür, ama Trabzon’da doğa katliamı rönesansı HES’lere karşı isyanımız tu-kaka öyle mi?

Sporda Şike ve Teşvik söylentileri ayyuka ulaştığında “İtalya’dan futbolcu değil, savcı istiyoruz” dedik. Fena mi ettik? Kötü mü söyledik? İnsan neye ihtiyacı varsa onu istemez mi?

Plüton’a yapılan haksızlığa bile “oha” demişken hâlâ bize “Siz böyle şeylere kafa yormayın” diyorlar, ama bilmezler ki Plüton’u evlatlıktan atanlar bile bugün bin pişman.

İstiyoruz ki, içinde ülkemizin de yer aldığı dünya aynı akıbete uğramasın. Turizm Bakanlığı bütün dünyaya ülkemizin tam bir cennet olduğunu duyurmak isteyen tanıtımlar yapacak, ama biz “Kaz Dağı’nın üstü altından daha değerlidir” dediğimiz zaman hâkim kırmızı kartını bize gösterecek! Öyle mi?

“Yağmurdan korksak sokağa çıkmazdık.” O yüzden dile geldik;

“Siyanür Öldürür!”, “Ferhat da Dağları Deldi Ama Şirin İçin” dedik.

Bizleri doksan dakikanın içine hapsetmek isteyen o düzene Ali Sami Yen’den seslendik; Yıl 2011, “çArşı betona karşı”; “Ali Sami Yen Park Olsun, Şişli Hayat Bulsun”, “Rant Yapma Park Yap”

Gidemediğimiz maçta kulağımız radyoda, gözümüz televizyonda, aklımız Hasankeyf’te kaldı…

Hadi de bakalım şimdi ey zâlim; “Şirin bilseydi Munzur Çayı’nın gizemini Ferhat’ın hali nic’olurdu ?”

Ama yok, istiyorlar ki doksan dakikanın sonunda doksan gün ofsayt tartışalım, başka da hiç bir şeyi dert edinmeyelim.Statlar bir beşik gibi uykuya doğru sallayıp dursun bizi istiyorlar. Oysa maçlara ara verildiğinde hayat devam ediyordu ve yazın 45 derece sıcakta parke taşı döşeyen işçinin alın terinde kaldı aklımız… “Taşeronlaşmaya, Sendikasızlığa, Kuralsız Çalışmaya Hayır” dedik.

Sen demedin mi?

“ Mayıs: 1 Sermaye: 0 “

“çArşı Nükleer Santrallere Karşı”

“Sizin Nükleeriniz Varsa Bizim Metan Gazımız Var”

“Nükleersiz Türkiye”

“Karadeniz Kanserden ölmesin Ulan!”

Sanırsın ki atomu parçaladık da tanrı parçacığının peşine düştük… Oysa değil.

“Ses verin yakarışıma, bu işin sonu fukuşima” dedik o kadar…

“Terörün her türlüsüne hayır” dedik aklımız körpe kuzularda kaldı…

Çocuklarda kaldı aklımız;

“Alayınıza Sobe Ulan” “çArşı çocuk pornosuna karşı”

“çArşı Aile İçi Şiddete de Karşı”

Kışın evsizlerde kaldı aklımız “Donduk ulan!” dedik. Üst katta oturanları, alt kattakinden haberdar kılmaya çalıştık.

“Padişah değilim çeksem otursam

Saraylar kursam da asker yetirsem

Hediyem yoktur ki dosta götürsem

İki damla yaştan gayrı nem kaldı”

Aklımız vicdanımızda kaldı;

Kimsesizlerin kimsesi olmaya gayret ettik. Huzur evlerinde kaldı aklımız; evlat olduk, torun olduk, çiçek olduk, kucak bulduk. Aklımız Çocuk Esirgeme Kurumları’nda kaldı… Oyuncak olduk, palto olduk, bot olduk, kalem olduk, kederi silen silgi olduk, mutluluğa açacak olduk…Kıyıda, tenhada bırakılmış olanları hayatımızın ortasına davet ettik.

Aklımız sokak hayvanlarında kaldı…

“çArşı sokak hayvanlarına koşuyor”; 5 ton kuru/yaş mama, 5 bölgeye mamalık ve su depoları, yaklaşık 500 kulübe ve tıbbi müdahale için birçok ilaç … Ukrayna’daki köpek katliamına karşı da üç maymunu oynamadık.

Ah o çocuklar, yine o çocuklar… LÖSEV’e koştuk, kucaklaştık, umut götürdük onlara, “Bir tuğla da sen koyar mısın? ” dedik ve aklımız lösemili kardeşlerimizde kaldı…

Şimdi bizi yerin dibine gömmek istiyorlar.

Yahu, madenlere indik ki biz! Yeryüzü doksan dakika yukarıda değil ki bizim için. Yeryüzü her yerde:

“540 metrede röveşata! Bu da mı penaltı değil ?”

N’oldu ? Aklımız fikrimiz madenlerde kaldı…

“Ölümün taşeronları hiç mi doymayacak bu siyah kâra”

“Siyah Bile Kaybetmiş Asaletini Yokluğumuzun Karanlığında”

“Soma’nın en orta yerinde büyük bir yangın var alevler içinde”

Bizim de ayakkabımızın altı delikti, “Hrant” olduk. Acının üzerine hep birlikte kapaklandık.

Irkçılığa karşı olduk,”Hepimiz Zenciyiz” dedik.

Bize kapak takmak istediler, cevabımız “Kapakları Toplayalım Engelleri Aşalım” oldu. Sıradanlaşmış, kurumsallaşmış kutlama haftalarının dışında ihtiyacı olan yurttaşlarımıza 60’ı manüel, 4’ü akülü olmak üzere toplam 64 arabayı semtte sergiledik teslim ettik. “Bu da Çarşı’nın Koreografisi” dedik.

Aklımız ihtiyaç sahiplerinde kaldı.

Aklımız 8 Konteynır ve 1 tır malzeme ile “Sokağın TaVanı Kadar”

Akıl Van’da kaldı…Karada, karakışta kaldı.

Şirince’de ”Kıyamet Seninle Kopmaya Geldik”

La biz size n’ettik?

Bütün Türkiye’de Kızılay’a oluk olduk kan olduk aktık, ama bizim aklımız acil kan aranıyor çığlıklarında kaldı…

Aklımız hâlâ Filistinli Hanzala’da…

“Çocuklar Okusun” diye 10 günde 25 okula 25 kütüphane projesine destek verdik… Aklımız Kütüphanelerde kaldı…Kâğıtlara hürmet etmekten bir an geri durmadık.

“çArşı Köy Okullarına Koşuyor”

İki yılda isim isim 550 okul 20 binin üzerinde çocuğumuza bot, mont, atkı, bere, çanta, kıyafet, oyuncak, kırtasiye olduk olmasına da aklımız hâlâ köy okullarında…

Biz siporu seviyoruz sevmesine de, daha dün ses olduğumuz tiyatro yıkımlarına karşı bugün eski güreş hakeminin, zabıta müdürünün şehir tiyatrolarına sufle vereceğini tahmin etmemiştik. Bunca yağdanlığın, dalkavuğun gölgesinde ata sporuna işmar çakmayı nasıl unuturduk: “çArşı, yağsız güreşe de karşı” dedik.

Ulu Kartal, kimseleri darbecilere, terör örgütlerine methiyeler düzmek, yardım ve yataklık yapmak zorunda bırakmasın.

Vicdanınızla kalın!

The Globalism of Politics and Sports From Istanbul to Germany

Comments Off on The Globalism of Politics and Sports From Istanbul to Germany

Germany and Turkey are two countries that have an oddly intimate relationship despite their very different backgrounds. During World War One the ailing Ottoman Empire chose to side with the Central powers and the German Reich. In the 1960s the history of these two countries again merged when Gastarbeiter—foreign “guest workers”—migrated en masse to Germany in order to work low skilled jobs in the industrial sector and make up for the lack of labor following the division of Germany. Although these workers came from a variety of countries including Italy, Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yugoslavia the majority came from Turkey. To this day there are more than four million people of Turkish descent living in Germany, a topic so multi-faceted that it has to be left for another article.

This article is about another link between these two countries—that of football and ideology. Every country in the world, no matter how big or small, how rich or poor, undoubtedly shares various qualities: They all have political squabbles—some bigger than others, they all play football—some more successfully than others, and their citizens also follow the news and—as human beings—have their own views on right and wrong and the perceived injustices going on in the world around them. At a time that blood is being shed in the name of varying views of right and wrong from Missouri to Ukraine and on to the Levant it is refreshing to see humans come together; this weekend Bayern Munich’s fans showed that sentiment in the stands during a match against Bayer Leverkusen at the Allianz Arena.

fft104mm3325101

Image Courtesy of: http://www.fanatik.com.tr/2014/12/06/bayern-munih-taraftarindan-carsiya-turkce-destek-402402

The banner unfurled by Bayern Munich fans reads “Adaletsizlik yaparsan Çarşına, tüm Ultralar geçer karşına”—“If you do injustice to your Çarşı, all the Ultras will stand against you”. This refers to the upcoming December 16 trial against the members of Beşiktaş’s fan group Çarşı who are accused of attempting to bring down the government due to their role in the Gezi protests of June 2013. But this is not the first time that German football teams have supported Çarşı, it has become a recurring theme in recent months. Immediately after the announcement of the aforementioned legal case during a match between Borussia Dortmund and Freiburg on September 13, Dortmund fans unleashed a three level banner reading:

“Çarşı ultras, yolunuz için savaşın”

“Asla pes etmeyin!”

“Ultras için özgürlük, Türkiye de dahil!”

 

“Çarşı Ultras, fight for your path”

“Never give up!”

“Freedom for Ultras, including in Turkey!”

dortmund-tribunlerinden-carsi-ya-destek--4771805

 

Image Courtesy Of: http://www.posta.com.tr/spor/HaberDetay/Carsi-ya-Almanya-dan-dev-destek-.htm?ArticleID=244857

 

On May 18 2014, during the German Cup Final, Bayern Munich fans unfurled two banners reading:

“Çarşı için adalet, Ultralar omuz omuza!”

“Her yer Taksim, her yer direniş”

 

“Justice for Çarşı, Ultras shoulder to shoulder!”

“Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance”

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Image Courtesy Of: http://spor.internethaber.com/spor/dunyadan-futbol/bayern-munih-taraftarindan-carsiya-destek-192570.html#

Despite all the discussions surrounding Turkey and its identity (is it European or Asian, Western or Eastern) in football terms it seems that Turkey has its place squarely in Europe. These recent displays of support from Germany show that as the world globalizes local political and ideological struggles—those stemming from football fans defending a park, for instance—can be elevated into international events. Perhaps that is one reason that the Turkish government has pushed so fiercely for the Passolig Card system, keeping fans from the stadium and thereby silencing voices that clearly resonate far beyond the stands of Turkey’s stadiums.

Bulgarian Derby Daze Part 2: The Battle for Plovdiv: Lokomotiv Plovdiv-Botev Plovdiv 10.28.2014

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Before the excitement of the Eternal Derby can wear off I take the two and a half hour train journey from Sofia to Plovdiv for the first leg of a Bulgarian Cup quarterfinal tie and Bulgaria’s second biggest derby, The Battle for Plovdiv. As I watch the snow-covered countryside roll by me from the dirty window of the train’s last wagon, I know this is just the calm before the storm and that keeps me from being lulled to sleep by the beauty.

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In Plovdiv I head to the Old Plovdiv Hostel, a nice building in the old city with a friendly staff (one of whom has a keychain in the shape of a Botev shirt) that give me the run down on how to get a match ticket. Apparently the tickets could be sold out but, as the receptionist says, “If I use charm and looks I can find a ticket. My friend—very good looking—charmed the girl in the ticket office and she liked him so she found him a ticket.”

“Do you think . . . my face will work?” I ask smiling.

“Just comb your hair I think,” she says, returning the smile. I make a mental note of it and hope for the best as I head out, down St. Petersburg street to the Lauta Stadion, but not before catching the Botev faans drinking en masse on a side street under the watchful eyes of riot police.

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Lokomotiv Plovdiv (The Smurfs) were formed in 1926 as Sportclub Plovdiv after the merger of two Plovdiv teams Karadzha and Atletik (For more detailed history please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PFC_Lokomotiv_Plovdiv). Sportclub soon fell victim to Sovietization policies and consumed smaller ethnic clubs like Erevan and Shant (Armenian teams) and Parchevich (a Catholic club). This forced assimilation in sport changed Sportclub’s name to Slavia Plovdiv in 1945 when it became bigger as a result of the mergers, and eventually made it a founding member of the Bulgarian top flight in 1948.

Meanwhile, in a parallel history to Sportclub, the union of railway workers got a team in 1935—ZSK Plovdiv—and gradually became a force in Plovdiv’s footballing scene. ZSK soon became Lokomotiv Plovdiv after Sovietization, joining the ranks of other Eastern bloc teams such as Lokomotiv Sofia, Lokomotiv Moscow, and Lokomotiv Leipzig. But they were still mired in the third division.

That changed in 1949, when the Bulgarian Communist Party decreed that sports clubs would serve as fitness departments of important state enterprises such as the police, army, and railways. This was the same time that Levski Sofia became Dinamo Sofia in line with Stalinization. With politics now intertwined with sports, the smallest club in the city—Lokomotiv—were merged with the largest club—Slavia—by virtue of Lokomotiv being a team supporting a state enterprise, in this case the national railways, to become Torpedo Plovdiv. The chaos of the mergers took its toll, and Torpedo was relegated in 1955. It would take until 1961 for the club to return to Bulgaria’s top flight, but when it returned it would be finally known as Lokomotiv; the end of Stalinaztion meant that clubs no longer had to be related to specific state enterprises.

1964-65 saw the team make its best run in Europe, a run to the quarter-finals of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (the former UEFA cup), which was the beginning of a rise in the club’s fortunes domestically before a second relegation in 1980 While the team has been decidedly average on the field since then (despite a rare championship in 2012), it is notable that their fans were the first to organize in Bulgaria, founding an official fan club in 1988. The political regime at the time was not favorable to independent civil society organizations then, but it is still a good example of a football club being able to challenge a totalitarian state system.

On the other side of the derby is Botev Plovdiv (The Canaries), the oldest continuously functioning football club in Bulgaria, founded by students in 1912. The club takes its name from another Bulgarian national hero, Hristo Botev. Like Vasil Levski, Botev was also a nationalist revolutionary leader in addition to being a famous poet. After Levski’s death he led the 1876 April Uprising against Ottoman forces, returning from exile in Romania before being killed in battle.

Like other teams in Bulgarian football, Botev’s name was changed in 1947 due to Sovietization and endured a nine year period of being known by various acronyms (DNV, DNA, and SKNA) before a return to their original name at the end of Stalinization in 1957. The team again lost their name, which evoked the pre-communist period, from 1968 until the fall of communism when the team was known as Trakia Plovdiv.

The first of their two titles was won in 1929, four years after their first international match against Fenerbahce of Istanbul. They were part of the brand new Bulgarian A PFG in 1951 before suffering relegation in 1953. They returned the next season, and five years later their current Hristo Botev Stadium was completed. This paved the way to their first Bulgarian Cup title (1962), a second championship (1967), a second place finish (1963), and a run to the quarterfinals of the 1962-63 Cup Winners Cup, eliminating Shamrock Rovers and Steaua Bucharest before bowing out to Atletico Madrid.

The 1980s saw the team endure its best decade when they secured six top three finishes—despite not winning any championships—before again falling into mediocrity and ultimately collapsing four years ago. After 47 seasons in the top flight Botev were relegated at the end of the 2000-01 season. Although returning to the top flight the team was never a force, and in February 2010 the team was relegated due to financial problems. Luckliy for this derby, however, the team bounced back. Despite having started the 2010-11 season in the third division, an experienced squad managed 37 wins and one draw out of 38 matches which took them to the second tier before a return to the top flight in 2012-2013 when they finished fourth.

 

Outside the Lauta Stadium I am met with riot police, as is to be expected. This means that beer will not be an option tonight. I buy my ticket from the first ticket booth I see, to the left of the entrance gate. I later learn that tickets sold there are only for the uncovered stand, where the Lokomotiv fan groups such as Lauta Army and Lauta Hooligans congregate. For a more relaxed viewing experience get your tickets in the booth on the right side of the fan shop, along the foot path that leads to the covered stand—that is where tickets for the covered stand are sold.

The sky is a beautiful light grey as the sun sets in Plovdiv above the players preparing to take the field. I’m staring at some comical pictures of Botev coach Velislav Vutsov that are being given out to the fans and I’m left wondering what on earth they mean. Beyond me Lokomotiv’s fans make a choreography that, apparently, is for the club’s 88th anniversary. After the show, its time for football.

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The game is a back and forth affair with not a lot of quality. It is clear that Botev are the stronger side, but Lokomotiv are holding their own with their fans behind them. Every five minutes or so the fans in front of me heckle their rival’s coach, hurling insults at him that I wish I could understand—after all, the goat picture is still making me laugh. On the stroke of half time Lokomotiv’s veteran captain and four-time A PFG scoring champion Martin Kamburov takes a free kick beautifully, putting his side up 1-0.

 

The second half starts just as the first half started: beautiful girls in the stands and me eating sunflower seeds, huddling for warmth in the falling temperatures.

“WHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOSHHHHHHH……POT POT POT POT POT POT!!!!!!!!”

I’m immediately taken out of my daze as missiles are fired from behind the goal to my left, sending bright red fireworks into the night sky over the stadium. The Lokomotiv stand opposite me is ablaze, and I can see now why the ultras waited for night to fall to put on their show. Gradually the red dots in the sky begin to fall slowly, almost suspended in the air, like snow drops. Small parachutes open up and the red flares slowly drop onto the field. Even the players are no longer concentrating on the match—they’re all staring into the sky!

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After a short delay while the players pick the parachutes out of the sky play resumes—lucky for me, this derby will not be stopped like others in the past. Now it is Botev’s turn to light their flares. Their end, bathed in black and gold (the colors chosen to symbolize unity between orthadox and catholic students, respectively) now turns to orange.

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It is their final attempt to push their team on, and as the final whistle nears I decide to stay—I won’t leave early like in Sofia. I feel something—call it intuition—but I just get an odd feeling that something will happen. The minutes are ticking down, and the fourth official raises his sign—five minutes are added on.

 

Attacks go closer and closer for Botev and I think I know what will happen. A corner is sent in, the ball is knocked out for another corner. A great save by the Lokomotiv keeper keeps the narrow lead. Then another corner—and 1-1. Young striker and Bulgarian U21 international Alexander Kolev (http://www.transfermarkt.com/alexander-kolev/profil/spieler/239527) has equalized in 90+3. I knew it had to happen. Silence. Just the Botev players running to their fans—it is almost surreal. I follow the disappointed fans out into the night, the team to advance to the semi-finals of the Bulgarian Cup will be decided in December’s return leg. They are in a daze from the shock goal, I’m in a daze from two derbies in four days.

 

For those who are curious (like me) I have also included a poem by the aforementioned Hristo Botev:

To My First Love

Hristo Botev

Leave behind this song of love,

Don’t fill my heart with poison –

I am young but never knew what youth is.

And even if I knew, I don’t want to remember,

That, which I have hated

And which I have trampled before you.

 

Forget the time I cried

For your gentle glance and sigh:

I was a slave back then – dragging chains,

And for just one smile of yours,

Frenzied, I despised the world

And trampled my feelings in the mud!

 

Forget about the madness,

The warmth of love is now extinguished

And you can’t rekindle it in my chest,

Which is overcome by deep sorrow,

Where everything is covered with wounds,

And my heart of evil is shrouded with loathing.

 

You have a beautiful voice – you’re young,

But do you hear the forest singing?

Do you hear the destitute crying?

That’s the voice my soul craves for,

And there is the place that is calling for my wounded heart,

Where it is always drenched in blood.

 

O, don’t speak those words of poison.

Hear the moan of the forest and foliage,

Hear the wailing of centuries old storms,

How they tell word by word –

Tales of old times,

And songs of tribulations to come!

 

Start singing this song,

Start singing, young love, with sorrow,

Sing about the brother who sold his brother,

And how strength and youth wither,

How a lonesome widow cries,

And how homeless children suffer.

 

Sing, or hush and leave!

My heart is trembling – it will fly away,

It will fly away, my love – wake up!

There, where the land is rumbling and thundering

From shrieks that are chilling and evil,

And songs of epiphany over graves…

 

There… there the storm cracks branches,

And the sword enfolds them in a wreath;

The ghastly valleys are agape

Where grains of lead are screeching,

There death wears a gentle smile,

And the chilled grave offers sweet rest!

 

Ah, these songs and this smile,

whose voice will start singing?

While I am lifting a bloody glass,

Before which even love is silent,

And then, I will start singing myself

About what I love, what I long for and what I hold dear.

 

Translated by:

© Yana Raycheva

 

ДО МОЕТО ПЪРВО ЛИБЕ

Остави таз песен любовна,

не вливай ми в сърце отрова –

млад съм аз, но младост не помня,

пък и да помня, не ровя

туй, що съм ази намразил

и пред тебе с крака погазил.

 

Забрави туй време, га плачех

за поглед мил и за въздишка:

роб бях тогаз – вериги влачех,

та за една твоя усмивка,

безумен аз светът презирах

и чувства си в калта увирах!

 

Забрави ти онез полуди,

в тез гърди веч любов не грее

и не можеш я ти събуди

там, де скръб дълбока владее,

де сичко е с рани покрито

и сърце зло в злоба обвито!

 

Ти имаш глас чуден – млада си,

но чуйш ли как пее гората?

Чуйш ли как плачат сиромаси?

За тоз глас ми копней душата,

и там тегли сърце ранено,

там, де е се с кърви облено!

 

О, махни тез думи отровни!

Чуй как стене гора и шума,

чуй как ечат бури вековни,

как нареждат дума по дума –

приказки за стари времена

и песни за нови теглила!

 

Запей и ти песен такава,

запей ми, девойко, на жалост,

запей как брат брата продава,

как гинат сили и младост,

как плаче сиротна вдовица

и как теглят без дом дечица!

 

Запей, или млъкни, махни се!

Сърце ми веч трепти – ще хвръкне,

ще хвръкне, изгоро, – свести се!

Там, де земя гърми и тътне

от викове страшни и злобни

и предсмъртни песни надгробни…

 

Там… там буря кърши клонове,

а сабля ги свива на венец;

зинали са страшни долове

и пищи в тях зърно от свинец,

и смъртта й там мила усмивка,

а хладен гроб сладка почивка!

 

Ах, тез песни и таз усмивка

кой глас ще ми викне, запее?

Кървава да вдигна напивка,

от коя и любов немее,

пък тогаз и сам ще запея

що любя и за що милея!…

Bulgarian Derby Daze Part 1: The Eternal Derby: Levski Sofia-CSKA Sofia 10.25.2014

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I am freezing. I can feel my feet swimming in the water that has collected in my shoes, I can feel them wrinkling with each passing minute in the dampness. The snow is falling harder now and the grounds crew seem to be losing the fight against mother nature. A group of Levski ultras stream onto the field directing obscene gestures at their rivals, the CSKA Sofia fans gathered together behind the opposite goal. I grip my plastic glass of tea—the color of urine—a little tighter and take a sip, curious as to what will unfold. It’s like a raindrop in the ocean, a small bit of warmth in the freezing air—it is two degrees Celsius.

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On the overnight bus to Sofia I had read an article by a British journalist for the Guardian entitled “Never been in a riot? Get yourself out to a Sofia derby”. I’ve been in a few riots, but my curiosity was piqued nonetheless. Piqued enough, indeed, to be sopping wet in the middle of a snowstorm on the terraces of the Vasil Levski National Stadium on grey day in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. So, as I wait for the fans to slowly file in and take their places behind the goals, how about a little history?

 

The eternal derby is Bulgaria’s biggest football match without a doubt, pitting the two most successful Bulgarian clubs and local rivals Levski Sofia and CSKA Sofia against one another in a battle for territorial and political bragging rights. The two clubs have won 26 and 31 Bulgarian titles and 25 and 19 Bulgarian cup titles, respectively. The start of it all goes back to 1948, when CSKA were founded and won the title in their first season. The rivalry was cemented when both teams met in successive seasons—1949 and 1950—in the finals of the Soviet Army Cup, the Bulgarian Cup during the years of communist rule from 1945 to 1990.

Levski Sofia (The Blues or The Team of the People) were founded 100 years ago on May 24 1914 (For a more detailed history please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PFC_Levski_Sofia), named after Bulgarian national hero and freedom fighter Vasil Levski. During the years after their foundation Levski became Bulgaria’s most popular team, winning many national titles as well as becoming the first semi-professional team in Bulgaria in 1929. After winning 5 national titles between 1946 and 1953 the team went into decline and were re-named “Dinamo” in line with Stalinization in 1949 (they reverted to Levski in 1957 which coincided with a return to success). In 1969 politics again intervened, when the team was put under the control of the Interior Ministry and re-named “Levski-Spartak”. During these years the team made three quarterfinal appearances in European cup competitions, and still stands as the only team to have scored five goals against Barcelona in European competition (A UEFA Cup Quarterfinal match in 1976 that ended 5-4 to Nevski).

The roots of CSKA Sofia (The Reds or The Armymen) date back to 1923 and an Army Officer’s Club, when the club was named AS-23 (Officer’s Sports Club Athletic Slava 1923) (For a more detailed history please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PFC_CSKA_Sofia). After undergoing many mergers the team was officially formed on May 5 1948 when (then named Chavdar) it became the departmental club of the Central House of the Troops. CSKA were officially an “Army team”, like CSKA Moscow and Steaua Bucharest among others. This patronage from the Army paid off and the team won 9 successive titles between 1954 and 1962, before taking the present name of “CSKA” in 1962. Like Levski, the 1970s saw much success for CSKA in Europe—including eliminating three time champions Ajax Amsterdam from the European Cup in the 1973-74 competition. CSKA also saw success in the 1980s, making it to the semi finals of the European cup in 1981-82 after eliminating Liverpool before losing out to Bayern Munich. It is still the deepest run by a Bulgarian side in Europe.

But the sunny days in Europe that both sides saw in the 1970s and early 1980s would end abruptly in 1985, when the histories of both clubs changed after an infamous installation of the Eternal Derby. On June 18 1985 the two teams met in the Bulgarian Cup Final in the same Vasil Levski Stadium that am currently freezing in. CSKA won that match 2-1, but several fights—on and off the pitch—marred the match including a full on brawl. Afterwards the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party disbanded both teams and reformed them with new names and new management. Levski’s 1985 title was suspended and the team renamed Vitosha; CSKA became Sredets. Many players—including the famous Hristo Stoitchkov—were banned for life. But, like so much in Bulgaria and in life, nothing lasts forever. The suspensions were rescinded and both teams eventually returned in 1989/90; Levski regained their name and CSKA became independent of the Army following the fall of communism in 1992.

 

As I freeze, I can’t help but wonder if it would have been better if both teams had disappeared into history and spared me the need to see them play. But then the choreographies by both sets of fans as the opening whistle nears reminds me why I watch football. It’s the pageantry, the politics, and the history that brings me out to odd grounds in odder places, and the sight of the ultras who huddle together in the snow for warmth seems to warm me by osmosis. The CSKA end turns red as they lift red flags above themselves, unfolding a banner of a football made into a heart. The Levski ultras, not to be out done, lift blue, white, and yellow flags above themselves and reveal a banner with the chilling image of the grim reaper, eyes blazing orange by way of two well-placed flares.

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With the snow cleared the teams finally take the field under a barrage of snowballs thrown by the fans below me (they had perfected their aim by taking pot-shots at the police as the field was being cleared). In fact, their aim was so good that one snowball apparently knocked out CSKA coach Stoycho Mladenov a few minutes into the match. It’s so ridiculous that I understand if you don’t believe me, just check out the Reuters story and NBC Sports’ piece–the aftermath is below.

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Levski have the upper hand in the first fifteen minutes bolstered by their fans and CSKA’s distraction following their coach’s “injury”, and even go close with a few chances on the icy pitch but it soon becomes clear that CSKA is just weathering the initial storm. CSKA begin to string some attacks together that test the Levski backs and on the 22nd minute they finally find their goal, courtesy of Guinea-Bissau born winger (and former Chelsea and Liverpool youth team member) Toni Brito Silva. His celebration, running directly to the Levski fans below me, does exactly what it was intended to do—goad the home fans into embarrassing themselves and their club. Immediately monkey howls come down from all around me in an unfortunate racist response. But I’m not surprised, given the latest antics of Levski’s fans.

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In their last match they mocked UEFA’s famous “Say No to Racism” campaign by unfurling a banner that said . . . “Say Yes to Racism”. The punishment was, predictably, a mere slap on the wrist as the Bulgarian FA fined the club 19,000 Levs—about 13,000 dollars. For me, beyond the conventional outrage, it is the pure hypocrisy of some Levski ultras in partaking in the overtly racist displays that offends me.

As discussed earlier, Levski Sofia take their name from national hero Vasil Levski. While he was fighting against Ottoman Turkish rule, he took his theories from the ideas of the French Revolution. Even a cursory look at his Wikipedia page (I don’t have my Bulgarian history literature handy at the moment) will show you his thoughts on Balkan ethnicities living together:

“We will be free in complete liberty where the Bulgarian lives: in Bulgaria, Thrace, Macedonia; people of whatever ethnicity live in this heaven of ours, they will be equal in rights to the Bulgarian in everything. We will have a flag that says, ‘Pure and sacred republic’… It is time, by a single deed, to achieve what our French brothers have been seeking…”

“We’re not driving away the Turkish people nor their faith, but the emperor and his laws (in a word, the Turkish government), which has been ruling not only us, but the Turk himself in a barbarian way.”

When a team takes the name from a thinker like this it only makes their fan’s racist behavior—in a stadium bearing that same thinker’s name—more disappointing . . .

 

I’m back among the monkey chants and anti-Israel flags (along with Lazio Roma flags, interestingly), freezing still, realizing that Levski have an uphill battle in front of them. On the stroke of half time CSKA add their second courtesy of young Romanian striker Sergiu Bus to make it 0-2, sending Levski to the locker room reeling and me into the cover of the stadium “café” for another cup of urine colored tea (this time a double portion in a beer cup).

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The second half starts with a Pyro show from the visitors, along with message to their team to not let up: EAT SLEEP CSKA REPEAT. Even I can understand that one, and play pauses for a few minutes and I wait in the cold, waiting for the smoke to settle.

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As play resumes, it is the Levski Ultras’ turn—they send out an array of flares, in their team’s colors, which the wind blows back in their faces. But it is a beautiful show nonetheless, complete with a Confederate flag.

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With the fans distracted and the match heading south the police take the chance to line up in front of the stands, sensing that things could get rough. I have the same feeling and resign myself to leaving with ten minutes to play. I want to see the end, but the result—on and off the field—seems certain and I don’t want to be caught up in post match excitement like in Stockholm.

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My prescience pays off—a pitch invasion was prevented following CSKA’s third goal in the 85th minute when I was safely walking back to my hotel, far from the police, stadium crowds, 55 arrests, and confiscated weapons. In the end, CSKA take the three points with a 0-3 victory and go seven points clear at the top of the Bulgarian A PFG after thirteen rounds. Levski are left in sixth place, eleven points off the pace—karma, no doubt.

 

For a look at my Levski and CSKA shirts please see the Bulgaria section under Football Shirts.

For video of the match and some interesting interviews from Ultras from both sides please see Ultras World on Youtube:

 

Turkish Football Fans Accused of Attempting to Bring Down the Government

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Yesterday the Istanbul public prosecutor’s office for terrorism and organized crime investigations announced the results of a year long investigation of the Beşiktaş Ultra group Çarşı for their role in last summer’s Gezi Park protests. Previously, I had written extensively about the Çarşı group following the events one year ago during the Galatasaray-Beşiktaş derby. The results of the investigation would be humorous if they were not all too real. After all The Onion didn’t announce it, CNN Turk did. The thirty eight-page indictment calls for life sentences for thirty five members of the Çarşı group, including one of the founders, “Sari” Cem Yakışkan and “Deve” Erol Özdil, who makes the groups famous banners. The charge? Attempt to bring down the Government.

The indictment says that “at first the Gezi Park protests started in a democratic fashion before the motives of the protests changed when ‘marginal’ groups joined. These marginal groups then encouraged the protestors in Taksim against the government, aiming to bring it down through non-democratic means.” It continues, saying that Çarşı brought foreign press officers to the protests “in order to show the world media scenes that would create an image similar to that of the ‘Arab Spring’, calling for leadership change and bringing down the Turkish Republic’s legally founded government by illegal means”.

Apparently proof of this attempt to bring down the government comes from telephone conversations and Tweets. Allegedly, some such telephone conversations contained statements such as “I don’t care about the park”, “We will bring down this government” and “This could turn into a civil war,” among other things. To me, such words seem to hardly be the makings of a plan to bring down the Turkish Republic but apparently the prosecutor’s office sees things differently.

 

Today an MP from the opposition CHP, Umut Oran (himself an ex-footballer, according to the story) brought the issue before the Turkish Parliament in order to get a response from the new Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu. Mr. Oran asked many questions that I myself would like to hear the answers to:

–“If Çarşı encouraged a coup during the Gezi events, then why did you [your party, the AKP] allow Çarşı signs to be opened at the [pro-government] rallies in Kazlıçeşme at that time? Are there no AKP members within the ‘pro-coup’ Çarşı Group, and will anything be done to them if there are found to be any?”

–“Does the Istanbul Police department not have pictures and audio of the Çarşı group when they yelled ‘Çarşı Darbeye Karşı’ (Carsi against coups) and carried signs to the same effect?”

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(Image courtesy of: http://www.sonkulis.com/gundem/carsi-bildiri-yayinladi-carsi-12-eylule-karsi-h2992.html. Author’s Note: Indeed, the proof Mr. Oran asked for does exist–this refers to Carsi’s stance against the military coup of September 12, 1980).

–Is it not our [the Turkish] government that does not designate ISIS as a terrorist group, the same group that the United Nations and the United States have designated as a terrorist group for their savage actions? Is it not contradictory that our government, that calls ISIS ‘Angry Youths’, should take such a harsh stance when it comes to the Çarşı Group?”

–Members of the AKP cabinet of ministers and party leaders said the Gezi events were ‘just the work of a few ‘çapulcus’ (looters) and that it is nothing to be blown out of proportion’. Then how is it possible that today it has come to the point of ‘attempted coup?’

–“When Mr. Davutoğlu was Minister of Foreign affairs he stated to foreign leaders that ‘we are proud that these protests in Turkey are taking place in a similar fashion to those in Europe’. How is it then possible to indict these protests as an attempted coup?’

 

Later Çarşı’s lawyer, Mehmet Derviş Yıldız, made a press announcement in the middle of Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district:

“We have always existed in the name of this country’s conscience. We were created in 1982 in the period following the [1980] military coup amidst martial law, and continued in periods of coalition governments and with our conscience stood in society alongside everyone who saw no preferential treatment from any group. There were times that we donated our blood to blood drives, there were times that we gave the clothes off our backs to those living in tents amidst the rubble of their destroyed homes. In the Gezi protests—that our whole society reacted to with a mix of sadness and surprise—we drew attention to the disproportional use of force and uncontrollable violence being used. We called for this violence not to escalate. And in return for this, immediately after the first arrests, some people—with hate and jealousy—had the face to label us as mercenary protestors. And now we see this label on the pages of the investigation.” He went on to explain that it was Civil servants who first called on Çarşı to de-escalate the tension, to use their influence on the neighborhood as football fans—in a way, a civil society group—in order to stop people from entering Taksim Square during the protests. But, in the end, they are the ones who are blamed in a blatant attempt to further make every segment of Turkish society political.

But such attempts to make everything political can also have the side effect of waking people up, and banding them together. This became evident when fans of Besiktas’s rivals—Fenerbahce—also voiced their support. Sol Acik wrote:

 “Faşizme karşı kardeşimsin çArşı”

“You’re my brother against fascism çArşı”

 

Sadly, these events have not seen much coverage in English language press but they are a very real sign of regression in the Turkish justice system. That life sentences should be sought for a group of football fans is, quite truly, unbelievable. As one of those named in the indictment, founding member of Çarşı Cem Yakışkan said today:

 “Dünyada herhalde bir ilktir. Darbe ile suçlanan taraftar grubu. Gülelim mi, ağlayalım mı bilmiyorum.”

“This is probably a first in the entire world. A fan group charged with a coup attempt. I don’t know if we should laugh or cry”.

Indeed, it probably is a first. That it comes in a country that knows all too well about coups—three to be exact—only makes it more shocking.

 

To pull this topic out of football, I will close with a some words that come from a few members of Çarşı who sat down with journalist Erk Acarer for the Turkish paper Cumhuriyet since they are worth hearing. For me, they truly show the gravity of the situation:

“Türkiye isyan etti ihale bize kaldı. Bu kitlesel bir hareketti. çArşı vicdan sahibi bir gruptur. Biz büyük iş yapmadık aslında. Toplum ‘mute’ tuşunda olduğu zamanlarda da biz ‘titreşimdeydik’. Üşüyen çocuklara atkı gönderdiğimiz, haksıza karşı haklının yanında olduğumuz ağaçlara dokunma dediğimiz için zaten yıllarca çıban başı olarak görüldük. Söylemlerimiz sistemi rahatsız etti. Hiçbir demokratik ülkede protestocular darbe girişimiye yargılanmazlar. Kasti yapıyorlar. Esma’ya ağlayıp Berkin’e ağlamayanlardan değiliz. Çifte standarta karşıyız.”

“Turkey protested and we got stuck with the bill. This was a mass action. Çarşı is a group with a conscious. Really, we didn’t do much. When society was on “mute” we were on “vibrate”. Because we sent scarves to freezing children, because we were on the side of right in the face of wrong, because we said don’t touch the trees we have for years been seen as a delicate problem. What we said made the system uncomfortable. In no democratic country can protesters be tried for attempting a coup. They’re doing it on purpose. We are not among those who cried for Esma and not for Berkin. We’re against double standards.”

The gravity of the situation lies in a strange confluence of football fans, morality, and a very delicate time in world politics. These football fans—Ultras—are talking about standing up for the righteous, the voiceless, the oppressed, in the face of persecution and oppression. Think of anyone you’d like. Martin Luther King comes to my mind due to recent events in the United States but that is a topic for a different time.

Here the name “Esma” is invoked. It is the Turkish name for Asmaa el Beltagi, who became a symbol of the Egyptian revolution when she was shot and killed in Rabia Square by snipers. Out of her death the “Rabia” symbol was born, one that Turkey’s newly-elected president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (and more than a few footballers) has not shied away from flashing. The other name, “Berkin”, refers to Berkin Elvan, a fifteen year old boy shot by police in Istanbul while on his way to buy bread who I wrote about previously.

In this globalized world protests are occurring in more and more spots all over the world, tying us all together—wherever we live—in a web characterized by a battle between right and wrong, the oppressed against the oppressors, the strong against the weak. Yet depending on one’s politics—as Çarşı’s members imply in the above quote—some people choose who to cry for.

We can only hope that cooler heads prevail and that these life sentences are not upheld, since life in prison—not to mention death—as a result of one’s beliefs is truly a sad fate. Football fan or not that is something I hope we can all sympathize with, whether we are Turkish, Egyptian, American or anything else.

 

 

 

 

Author’s Note: All translations are my own. Some of the lengthier ones have been paraphrased, while others are more literal. I apologize in advance for any issues in comprehension arising from my translations, and I have attached links to the original Turkish news stories in all cases. Thank you for your understanding.

Ukraine’s Protests From a Football Perspective

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I visited Kiev in July but I didn’t see Kiev’s Valeriy Lobanovskyi Dynamo Stadium quite like this. Where i bought tickets to the Dinamo-Sevastopol match is in flames in one of the pictures below, courtesy of Ultra Style’s Facebook page. Here are a few mentions of the role of Ukrainian ultras in the recent protests in Ukraine gleamed from news stories. Sources have been provided:

Shakhtar die-hards support Euromaidan

Here is the Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OACJC3K-erY&feature=player_embedded

9:27 p.m. Hardcore fans of the Shakhtar football club in Donetsk, the
hometown of President Viktor Yanukovych, expressed their support for
the Euromaidan movement in a video posted to YouTube and embedded
below.

“Glory to Ukraine!” the group of fans chant.

“Glory to Heroes!” others respond.

The slogans were first used by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and its
leader, Stepan Bandera, a controversial figure revered in western
Ukraine who is often called a Nazi-collaborator by those in the east.
From: https://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/euromaidan-rallies-in-ukraine-jan-23-live-updates-335389.html
Spearheading the clashes with police was Right Sector, a group with
ties to far-right parties including the Patriots of Ukraine and
Trident, which BBC Ukraine reported is largely comprised of
nationalist football fans. In a statement the next day, the group
claimed credit for Sunday’s unrest and promised to continue fighting
until President Viktor Yanukovich stepped down.
From: http://www.thenation.com/article/178013/ukrainian-nationalism-heart-euromaidan#

Elsewhere in Kiev’s Independence Square, protesters reported seeing
“groups of men in sports uniforms carrying baseball bats and chains
surrounding the area,” Yaroshevsky reported.

As the scuffles continued on Monday night, police warned that they may authorize the use of live ammunition, if violence starts spreading out of control.

The warning came amid speculation in the social media, which claimed that the radical protesters will soon be joined by thousands of like-minded activists. The rumors said the reinforcements may come from other countries, where radical football fans are rallying to go to Ukraine and join the confrontation. So far no evidence of those groups has been reported.

On Monday, protesters from radical nationalist groups climbed on to the main gate of the Dynamo football stadium at Hrushevsky Street, using it as a vantage point to bombard riot police with Molotov cocktails
From: http://rt.com/news/police-protesters-violence-ukraine-924/

Right Sector — which includes groups of hard core football fans —
organises its actions on the Internet through Facebook and other
social networks.
From: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gfoGA6m8GzKAGu3hE5jXRws8ruVA?docId=15f3ab57-5e5f-4b4f-85e9-ae4f91e0f1f8

A few pictures from the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/01/22/pictures-central-kiev-protests_n_4645476.html:

slide_334279_3346477_free

slide_334279_3346488_free

Kiev’s Valeriy Lobanovskyi Dynamo Stadium, from Ultra Style’s Facebook page:

1551778_595705830499962_225683882_n 1653733_595693437167868_1968267903_n

Kiev’s Valeriy Lobanovskyi Dynamo Stadium in calmer times, from my visit in July:

IMG_9825

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