WHENEVER the Turkish Superlig is mentioned, three clubs will always crop up as the most familiar of them all – Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray. But initially, football began outside of Istanbul.
Turkey’s top flight as we know it today was formed in 1959 but football in the country itself dates as far back as the 19th century, when Englishmen brought the game over with them while living in Salonica, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. These same men brought football from Izmir to Istanbul in 1895 and the first competitive matches between clubs from those two areas took place in 1897, 1898, 1899, and 1904, with the İzmir team won every match.
But, over the several decades that followed, it has been the Istanbul-based side’s who have become the most successful, with the dominant trio of Besiktas Fenerbahce and Galatasaray winning a combined 71 titles between them, with Fener leading the race on 28. In fact, such is the dominance of these three, that only another three other clubs have managed to win the Turkish Superlig since 1959, with Trabzonspor, Bursaspor and current champions Istanbul Basaksehir being the other title-winners.
Rivalries between the ‘Big Three’ are, unsurprisingly, intense, entertaining and the talk of the country whenever they take place. They are three of the most well-supported clubs in the country and, due to the rivalry, football hooliganism is often commonplace; with fans breaking seats, cursing, fighting, setting off fireworks and street rioting on a regular basis. This sort of behaviour has earned them a reputation throughout Europe as some of the most fearsome but dedicated supporters around.
It may be passion, it may even be madness, But you simply can’t deny that Turkey has a deep-rooted love for the beautiful game that is still displayed by its die-hard and passionate supporters to this day.
And, even the country’s national football team has had its own glory days to remember – particularly since the turn of the century. Most notably, Turkey reached the semi-finals at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in South Korea and Japan. Led by head coach Senol Gunes, that famous side drew with Costa Rica and beat China to progress behind Brazil (who they lost 2-1 to) from Group C, before beating hosts Japan and Senegal and bowing out to eventual champions Brazil as they met again in the final four with Ronaldo scoring the only goal of the game.
Later on in the 2000’s, the side created further great memories when it reached another semi final – at UEFA Euro 2008. That time around, Fatih Terim’s squad progressed through a tough group A which also included Portugal (L 2-0), Switzerland (W 2-1) and the Czech Republic (W 3-2) with an Arda Turan goal and a Nihat Kahveci double seeing them come from 3-2 in the latter to finish second in the group. They then overcame Croatia in a classic quarter final match which saw them beat their opponents 3-1 on penalties after Semih Senturk’s late, late equalising goal (above) to make it 1-1 in the 120+2′ minute of Extra Time had taken them there. Turkey were eventually knocked out in another thriller – a 3-2 defeat to Germany in the semi-finals. Ugurl Boral had put Turkey ahead before Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose turned the tie on its head. Semih Senturk was then at the heroics again in the 86th min before Philipp Lahm’s stoppage time goal knocked them out.
For a country so rarely talked about when it comes to football, Turkey is steeped in footballing traditions and the people’s passion for the game is often unrivalled.
They’re loved by some, hated by many, but Turkish football fans are one of a kind and show and incredible amount of support for their respective clubs.
I had been asked to put this piece together on behalf of ‘Football Kit Box’. Football Kit Box is a Monthly football subscription service. When you sign up, you get three pieces of quality branded genuine kit from the world of football delivered to your door every month!
This month’s special is kitbox featuring Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Yilport Samsunspor shirts.
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