In a Different Country, No 3 - Turkey. Part 1 - Galatasaray

Discussion in 'The Beautiful Game' started by RichardL, Mar 21, 2007.

  1. RichardL

    RichardL BigSoccer Supporter

    May 2, 2001
    Reading FC
    Nat'l Team:
    It was with deep regret that I didn’t make more of an effort to learn a bit of Turkish before coming to Istanbul. For starters it would have been more polite to be able to exchange the odd social pleasantry with the locals in their own language, but mainly so I could have had a t-shirt printed bearing the Turkish for “No I don’t want to buy a ***ing carpet.” Rather like the mafia are supposed to, the touts and sellers of Istanbul attack as your friend, and like the former, they all do their best to make you offers you can’t refuse. In some respects you have to admire their persistence. One shoe-shiner was literally on his hands and knees begging for my custom. Even the fact that I was wearing trainers didn’t deter him, with him seemingly convinced giving them a quick buffing with his tin of Kiwi black would enhance their appearance.

    Of course it didn’t matter how you deterred one, be it polite insistence or an expression of a desire to shove his brushes into an alternate storage space if he won’t let go of your foot, no further than 20 yards up the road you’ll be approached by someone else saying “ah, he’s a very bad man. Gives Turkish people a bad name. Turkish people are very hospitable. Come back to my carpet shop and have a mint tea, and I’ll show you real Turkish hospitality….”

    Not that I want to tar all Turks with the same brush. Some, such as the reception staff at the 4-star Marble Hotel who decided that for some reason I should be allowed to stay in the penthouse suite rather than the single room I’m paid for, I couldn’t praise enough. And taxis drivers, for driving me through the streets of Istanbul with killing or injuring me even once (although one did hit and old man crossing the road, but as he bounced off it was apparently OK) which is quite remarkable given Istanbul’s traffic. Many cities have very heavy traffic. Many have maniac drivers. Istanbul offered a possibly unique distillation of both – the only place I’ve been to that has high speed traffic jams. Stockbrokers must live in envy of people in Istanbul who own panel-beating franchises, as cars filter in at packed junctions at high speed as if the owners smeared their cars in butter before setting off.

    Seatbelts were also regarded as a frivolous waste of energy, but a worrying number of taxis had cracked windscreens on the passenger side, as if an unbelted passenger had been caught unawares by the driver using his brakes for the first time that month. Once such taxi took me to Galatasaray, speeding through Taksim Square, usually avoiding the pavement, as if taking part in qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix. The spectacle of the decorations of Turkish Republic Day whizzed by, with the city decked out in enough red flags to have Chairman Mao regarding it a bit excessive and cultish.

    I was deposited underneath the flyover which runs right next to the south end of Galatasaray’s Ali Sami Yen Stadium. It’s not the most picturesque setting in world sports, but if the area really is a “Welcome to Hell”, then it makes sense that the neighbourhoods of Hell wouldn’t be leafy suburbia. The area was a homage to the god of pre-stressed concrete from the “I don’t give a shit how it looks” school of architecture. At least the stadium did its bit, being slapped in red and yellow paint, even if the flakiness of the paint was like the ineffective make-up of an ageing woman who ceased to be attractive long ago, and similarly looking very much like it hadn’t been touched up in 20 years.

    I fought through the crowds to get to the new and fair-sized club shop to try and buy a scarf. The Galatasaray club shop in the city offered a very poor selection of them, and this shop was disappointingly no different, with a small range of insipid designs looking more like they were designed with an 80s new romantic band in mind, rather than a distinctly blue collar football team. It’s fair to say they were flying off the shelves at the same rate as pork chops at a Tel Aviv supermarket.

    I set off instead hoping to find a seller or two outside the ground, and also to try and find where to get in – my ticketmaster style ticket decreed inviting me to try a well-known brand of poor instant coffee as more important than marking my entry point to the stadium. I only found one seller outside, offering a better-than-nothing selection of merchandise which I bought on that basis. The dubious nature of the design matched the seller’s clearly dubious nature of his business, with one guy selling, and one guy keeping a sharp lookout for the police.

    Although I wasn’t genuinely concerned, given the less than cordial relations between Turkish and English supporters in the past, I had felt a degree of prudence in buying this scarf that I hadn’t felt at other grounds. Wearing it did allay a slight pang of unease, but at least now I was showing “my” colours as I walked round to where my ticket seemed to be indicating that I enter. I was therefore somewhat surprised to hear the sound of breaking glass as I turned the corner of a street on the north east side towards the entrance, as shards of glass from a broken bottle scattered across the road in my general direction. A few shouts came from the bar across the street from where the bottle had clearly resided previously, but the bottle, despite being in my direction, fell a long way short, so I put it down to bad timing. Why, after all, would Galatasaray fans throw a bottle at someone in a Galatasaray scarf?

    That I’d misread my ticket, as I found out 100 yards down the road at the barrier, and had been going to the away entrance, explained it a bit. As did the way I wore the scarf under my coat which possibly only left the black and red stripes showing, coupled with the fact that today’s visitor’s, Genclerbirligi, play in red & black. My efforts at blending in had left me looking like an Englishman going to the Ali Sami Yen to support the away team. Perhaps only a “Greece – Champions 2004” t-shirt could have topped it off.

    It took another half-tour of the surrounding streets to find the correct entrance, and even then, getting down to the entrance seemed problematic, unless I fancied jumping down a 6 foot drop to get to the correct level. Luckily several fans outside spotted a possibly common dilemma, and pointed the way through the gathered fans. Clearly not all the natives listed “throwing bottles at tourists” as a hobby.

    My 11 Turkish Lira ticket got me a seat on a large, very weathered open end (which has since been demolished to make way for the first stage of the ground’s rebuild) with a large cigarette kiosk being the first concession stand inside the stadium, being a stark contrast to the UK, where smoking is banned in many grounds. This is Turkey though, and like much of the far east of Europe an admission of not smoking elicits the surprised response of “why not?” as if the health warnings on Turkish cigarettes read “Warning – there are rumours that smoking may not be all that good for you.”

    I got the impression that seat and row numbers seemed to be taken on board with the same degree of enthusiasm that the warnings on cigarette packets clearly are, and so I found myself a decent seat, and settled down wondering how Reading were doing at Portsmouth that very moment, where it’d be the second half.

    I can only imagine that Genclerbirligi don’t exactly stir the passions among Galatasary fans, as the place was hardly the seething cauldron of hate that made the place famous. It certainly didn’t seem any more heated than what I’m used to at Reading, and Reading’s fans are not exactly known for being the wild bunch. Indeed, when a few spoke to me, mainly to say excuse me as they walked past me seat, they always did so in English and were very polite. Very hospitable, and without once asking me back to their carpet shops.

    Things perked up nearer kick-off. The gradual build up of atmosphere, once normal at English grounds, but now almost gone, is still alive in Turkey. Each section of the stadium would take it in turns to chant at those opposite, to be returned with appreciative applause. The songs were sung with much enthusiasm, but remarkably little tune, but got the message across in a very energetic way, and with a quarter of an hour to go any hint of prawn sandwiches in the crowd had been swept away.

    Pretty much every single person was standing, despite the seats, but having been walking around the city all day I decided to take a break and try to find out about events at Fratton Park. As I texted a mate in the seemingly different world of Portsmouth, I noticed the fans were singing along with a fair degree of gusto to some awful dirge which I took to be the club song or similar. As I clearly wasn’t Turkish I’m they’d have understood my reluctance to join in, but at the rousing finale it occurred to me I’d probably just sat down and sent a long text during the Turkish national anthem. I got the text reply, which in its entirety read “Lost 3-1”. Its brevity telling me exactly everything I needed to know about the kind of performance it was. I just hoped this game would be better.

    It was an eventful game, but mainly a frustrating one. Galatasaray were clearly a far better side, with Genclerbirligi offering little beyond the occasional breakaway, but the final ball was constantly one to bring about premature baldness, with tearing your hair out in annoyance the most likely outcome. They couldn’t even blame the ref for their troubles as he couldn’t have been more of a homer if he’d been yellow and starring in the Simpsons. Naturally, on the rare occasions that he decided to give Genclerbirligi a free kick, perhaps for the sheer novelty of doing do, howls of outrage spilled down from every stand, and very nearly more too – dozens of fans in one stands upper tier took such opportunities to walk right out to the edge of a flimsy looking roof extension over the lower tier. It’s only going to take a bit of light rain to have some fan being able to berate a linesman from rather closer than he imagined.

    The breakthrough eventually came with 20 minutes left, Sukur for once proving that it is possible for a Galatasaray player to shoot without looking like he has ankles made of rubber, and provoking the kind of cheer that only a goal in a frustrating game can produce. The 200 or so away fans, in contrast, looked very quiet and lonely in their little corner. It’s not as if they could slip out to a welcoming bar in the vicinity either.

    At least I knew with a game like this, that I was unlikely to miss another goal if I slipped away early to try and get a head start on the crowds, as the ground was well off the metro line and I was bargaining on finding a taxi. Or having a very long walk. It seemed that everyone else had the same idea though and I was fighting through a flood of human traffic rather than the trickle I’d presumed, but luckily there were cabs lining the street. I chose one, yet another with a cracked passenger side windscreen, and we shot off as fast as the traffic would allow towards Taksim, where crowds were surprisingly milling about. Given that on the square itself, the most interesting features are a bus station and some pedestrian crossings (where a countdown to how long before the “walk” sign turns red again produces “beat the clock” feats of road-crossing recklessness and derring-do that Evel Knievel in his prime would have dismissed as too dangerous) it’s hardly an obvious place for anyone to gather, but at least it made avoiding the clip-joint touts a bit easier. I might have been in need of a beer and a bit of a chat, but not in a place that’d probably charge me 1000 Turkish Lira for the privilege.


  2. seahawkdad

    seahawkdad Spoon!!!

    Jun 2, 2000
    Lincoln, VA
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Ah, Turkish cabs. I remember them well.

    I'm pretty sure that all drivers in Turkey, very soon after getting their first car, figured out that brakes are a lot more expensive and more likely to need replacing than horns, so from that point on the horn became their way of dealing with traffic.

    I once even had the pleasure of being in a bus on the then dirt road (it certainly must be paved by now) between Ankara and Istanbul whose driver delighted us all with four wheel drifts on mountain curves.

    I did come to love the country and its people. Even played basketball for a Turkish sports club in Ankara.

    But I did fear getting into a car there.
  3. roxbury

    roxbury Member+

    Apr 27, 2004
    Hi Richard ,

    I gues that was,
    Adventure/fun style of Footy trip:)

    It seems like, you were at Yeni Acik ''new open'' (?) section in the stadium..

    Galatasaray since couple of years ago ,start to plan to build new stadium near the Ali Sali Yen area.. its a place call; Seyrantepe.
    The new stadium will be ready at 2009
    it will be like Ajax Amsterdam Arena / Schalke 04 Arena style..
    maybe by this way, it will be entertaine in the stadium, before kick off etc.

    Genclerbirligi always make problem to the big giants..
    They always stil points from big clubs.. they were very strong at last 10 year.. likes the players they scout Geremi,Lima,Kone etc..
    Geremi went to the Real Madrid from the Genclerbirligi..Lima went As Rome same way..Genclerbirligi youth and scouth is very strong and famous in the Turkiye.. they scout many talented Africans..
    Theyr best shot is; Find talent and introduce them to the big giants for other European clubs and Galatasaray,FB,BJK,Trabzon etc.
    The chairman is very very smart guy. he is very populer at his own country. they call him ''media and football fans'' ->scout master .

    Back to the Galatasaray;
    Last season they were fun to watch ,the way they play 4-3-3 and 4-4-2
    under the Eric Gerets coach.. they becme champion. infront the archrival Fenerbahce..

    This season,Galatasaray had many time unluck games.. that hurts a lot.
    But, Stadium always fun to be.. Fans chants are very amazing to hear and see.

    A specialy,they do this decently last season and this season;
    ooooo Sasa Ilic oleyyyy
    Sasa Ilic oley Sasa Ilic oleyyyy
    Sasa Ilic oleeey

    They do this chant to the all players before the game and during the game.
    and they call each plyer name,before the kick off at warm up time..
    when they chant player name; Hakan Sukur or Hasan Sas etc,
    then player live the warm up area,and go to the infront the fans, and then moving hand with same time supporters chant ''oley oley oley''. andthan he go back his warm up area.. and next player come to the stage to do same things.
    its realy fun to watch:) :D


    I hope you enjoyed your time, in Istanbul/Turkiye.

    Dont say, you didint eat yet Turkish Sweets and Kebabs while you were there!

    ooh, and Bosphorus Tour. wonderful place to pass.

    Did you went any Turkish music club..
    Tarkan,Musti,Candan ercetin ,Sezen Aksu etc,very populer singer at the Country.
    Reina place to be at Bosphorus area.
    or some live music bars at new town area in Istanbul.


    I Always enjoy to read your Views.

    Thanks a lot.

  4. roxbury

    roxbury Member+

    Apr 27, 2004

    Hi seahawkdad,

    It seems like,
    You were at Turkiye aswell:) .

    The district you were pointed about;
    Bolu mountain ''its very famous place for Traffics,world famous Foot master,and huge mountain. its calls -> Bolu Dagi Gecidi
    its very fun to past.but sometime not good.. car crash at winter time..

    AM I right ,the place that you mentioned about it?.


    You played Basketball in Ankara ''the capital city of Turkiye''.
    What team:) ?
    Actualy,I dont follow basketball at all.
    anyway, I hope you enjoyed your time while you were there.

    Did you try any special food..
    And, any sweets like rice pudding aka sutlac
    or baklava,
    or Turkish ice cream..

    The foods are amazing out there..
    Sish Kebab
    Adana spice Kebab
    Yogurth Kebab aka iskendar kebab
    and vegetable food , shpard(spell?) salad
    Lahmacun aka turkish pizza
    Turkish Raki or efes Beer..
    imo many amazing yummy out there.
    I hope you guys try it already.:)

  5. mschofield

    mschofield Member+

    May 16, 2000
    Union Berlin
    Nat'l Team:
    Istanbul, like New York, can make even a geezer like myself feel energetic. and remember, they're not carpet sellers, they're your friend.
  6. Krutch

    Krutch Member

    Apr 6, 2004
    Arlington, Virginia
    SSC Napoli
    Nat'l Team:
    That was a great read. That must have been a great experience.
  7. mschofield

    mschofield Member+

    May 16, 2000
    Union Berlin
    Nat'l Team:
    BTW, if you're shopping for actual rugs, Istanbul is a bit pricey. ankara is a bit cheaper, and Mardin cheaper still. but Batman (which is almost too cool for words), diyarbakir and the villages around there are where you really want to be.

    On the cabbies, some of my favs anywhere. Bats out of hell. But I will never again fall for the, "it's right down that alley, behind this building" rag, which really means "no idea where the hell you're heading, but didn't we get HERE fast..."
  8. ToMhIlL

    ToMhIlL Member+

    Feb 18, 1999
    Boxborough, MA
    New England Revolution
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Great story, Richard! Rep coming your way

    I had a similar experience in Turkey in 1996 when my wife (God bless her!) I went to 3 European games in 3 nights: Galatasaray vs. some club from Moldova called Lokamotiv, Traktor or Dynamo on Tuesday in the old Cup Winners' Cup, Fenerbahce vs. Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday and Besitkas vs. Belgian giants RWDM. Each ground was absolutely fantastic in it's own way. We also found it to be an inexpensive insurance policy to buy knock-off replica jerseys of each home team for about the equivalent of $10 US each.

    I absolutely loved Turkey and its people. Beautiful scenery, lots of history and ancient sites, delicious food, friendly people, beautiful weather (this was in September), and very inexpensive. I hope to make it back some day!
  9. seahawkdad

    seahawkdad Spoon!!!

    Jun 2, 2000
    Lincoln, VA
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Hello, Iwa

    Yes, when I was much younger, in 1960. I lived in Ankara for a year with my parents.

    Well, this is the puzzle. I remember it to be Maltepespor, but when I look in Google, that is an Istanbul club. So maybe the memory has faded. I've searched for Ankara sports clubs in Google, but don't find anything that sounds right.

    All of my friends but two in Ankara were Turks, most attending American University there. A good friend, Edil, was on the team and asked me and another American to join. That was a lot of fun, and the only team we lost to went on to provide a number of Turkey's players for the next Olympics. One reason that our team was so good was that when the other American or I would go up for a rebound, at least one of our guards would turn and streak down court. We would get the ball, turn in the air and fire a pass the length of the court to our guard, who was all alone. The reason that worked is that few of our opponents expected that, since none had ever played the kinds of sports that Americans play, such as baseball and American football, that develop that kind of accurate and long-distance throwing ability.

    I loved the food. I never tried lahmacun, and only drank Raki once. I loved Turkish beer and the bread was just fantastic...those oval loaves with their hearty taste, fresh out of the ovens.

    Turkey was special to me. I had my first serious job there, teaching English as a second language for Georgetown University. That was a great experience, since I was interacting with Turks two and three times my age, very experienced and talented business people, scholars and military who were preparing to spend time in the United States. The exchange of ideas with the advanced students was a great learning experience for me.

    I took university courses through a U. of Maryland extension program, and the most interesting was a class on Russian history taught by a professor from Ankara University. I got a unique view of Russia by learning about it from a Turk. Not exactly the friendliest of histories between those two countries.

    My first true love was a Turkish girl, Lale. Her father was quite upset that we were dating, since they were very wealthy and saw me as someone of a lower social class. When I paid my respects on shekir bayrum, she made sure it was at an hour that her father wasn't home.

    I'll always hold Turkey close. It is a fine country with marvelous people.
  10. Fb-killah

    Fb-killah New Member

    Nov 15, 2004
    Fun article, especially after we (TURKEY) just beat Greece in Athens 4-1!! Nice to see others enjoy Turkey too, and that not everyone is a Turkey hater!!
    Wonderful tourists and open minded people always enjoy Turkey, and you are always welcome back.

    I MISS TURKEY, THANK YOU for the memories

    4-1 TURKIYE!!!
  11. roxbury

    roxbury Member+

    Apr 27, 2004
    Hi mschofield,

    Its like been in Istanbul ;

    You feel like
    Nisantasi,Etiler,Levent town : like New York
    Beyoglu,Taksim,Galata,Golden Horn town : like Paris,Rome

    Eminonu,Blue Mosque,Beyazit Grand Bazaar: like historical Istanbul.

    You Always Wellcome to the Turkiye.

    There is many citys that you can find an amazing beauty builds and place.
    Newsehir city: Cappadocia anchient area
    Konya city: Mevlana holly dervish place
    Denizli city :pamukkale tretuare(spell?)
    Trabzon city: Sumela Manastry,and Hagia Sophia church. ''this is in Trabzon''
    Adiyaman city:Nemrut Mountain ''aka best places for the sun rise''
    Antalya: Cleopatra bath,Roman Empire monuments,Aspendos antic theather,Duden Waterwall,Alanya cleopatra beach,Demre village;Santa Clause church / house and sematry etc.
    Izmir city; Virgin Maria church etc, Efes antic town,selcuk antic town
    Canakkale city: Troy
    Bursa city: Hot Spring ,Green Mosque
    Ankara city: Botanic Park,Anitkabir
    there are los of city and amazing culturel places that i can write down more..
    but for now, thats it, all i can add.:)

    Next time, be sure, visit those kind of places aswell;)


    First USA player in Turkey ; Brad Friedel (Galatasaray club)
    He played an amazing season for Galatasaray. nick was Lion out there.

  12. roxbury

    roxbury Member+

    Apr 27, 2004

    Hi again seahawkdad

    Thanks for your kind replay.

    - Wow,thats aquate long time ago.
    They say; Old Istanbul were more charm and beauiful. actualy you were at Ankara.I wonder how was at that era buildings.

    -Well, Maltepe is common name for ; town,cigarette,sport club,etc.
    I think in Istanbul there is two town that call; Maltepe,and football clubs aswell.and famous Turkish cigarette aka Maltepe.
    And, I think there must be Maltepe in Ankara aswell. ''i will check for you''.

    -We all know American knows this game very well. everyones agree in Turkey.
    but, as a meditarrenians, we love firstly football. but second sport almost basketball i gues.
    And, mix combo Meditarrenians&Americans must be fun and great to watch.
    I wish I saw you guys plays ones agains.:)
    maybe i can be good assist body.

    -Beer Turkish : Efes Beer
    The bread you talkin is: PIDE

    -There are great professor in Turkey and Turk in America. ''in universitys''

    -Seker Bayrami: aka Sugar Festival , its very fun a specialy for kids.
    ''i can write you about it, if you like''.

    -Turkish girls yes amazing,charm.

    -Thank You for your wonderful finale.

    You always wellcome to the Turkiye


Share This Page