By The.Crazy.Gang (Instagram @the.crazy.gang)
Istanbul. What a place. It’s a real melting pot of a city. Vibrant. Buzzing. Where Europe meets Asia. Home to a multitude of religions, cuisines, sights, super friendly people and a host of football teams that bring out the not so friendly side of the locals. When it comes to football in Istanbul ,and Turkey for that matter, Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray are the big boys on campus. They share the city, the history, the majority of success in the Superliga and the most intense derbies. In the latest away from home edition myself and my old man were lucky to experience Besiktas and Galatasaray go at it. Whilst not the spectacle of the Eternal Rivalry between Fenerbahce and Galatasaray, jeeze this was really something – particularly for a couple of blokes from the land down under.
Now if you’re considering getting tickets to a game whilst in Istanbul buckle yourself in for the first part of your football experience here. In an effort to clamp down on hooliganism the Turkish football authorities require all potential attendees to head to their nearest stadium and present a form of photo ID that gets turned into a Passolig, which is like a pre-paid credit/debit card which is linked to your ID. Once you’ve got your Passolig the ticketing worlds your oyster and you can hop online to sort yourself out with a ticket. Happy days. Sounds pretty easy yeah? If only it was aye. We’ll chalk it up to the derby but this process took us 3 bloody hours! There was jostling, tempers flaring and blokes sweating even before a ball had been kicked as the wait took its toll on the line.
After waiting 3 hours to get tickets you’d wanna hope the game lives up to the hype. Fortunately for us it did, and some. Before we get to the action we still had the small feat of getting through security and to our seats. I’ve never seen so many police at a ground. We are talking normal cops, riot police, batons and even mounted bloody guns to deter anyone who had watched Green Street too many times! On top of this you went through 3 pat downs and were asked to dispose of all coins and phone chargers before finally getting the go ahead to get to your seat. But the main thing was after some effort, we had made it in.
To really soak up the atmosphere we’d got ourselves there a few hours early to which we were greeted by the blaring Besiktas anthems being pumped out by the speakers, and the persistent, admirable attempts from the Galatasaray fans to drown it out. They were having a real go early on but every time it seemed like they might just overpower the recorded tunes the sound was turned up even louder. This process went on over the next two hours with a steady stream of Besiktas fans adding real life noise to the pregame artificial songs.
With the atmosphere building, the stadium full, and the Gala fans still going the game finally kicked off. The quality was lacking but the tempo was frenzied as both teams weren’t here to muck around and went for the win in what became an end-to-end match. Despite this it took until the 68th minute for Besiktas to break the deadlock with a very decent near post finish from their striker. Galatasaray pushes for an equaliser but much to the delight of the home fans they weren’t able to find one as Besiktas held on to take home the biscuits and bragging rights.
The atmosphere throughout the game was much like the city of Istanbul itself; vibrant and buzzing. Drums, chants, songs, whistles, banners and unashamed punching of darts. This crowd brought it all and some for what was an unreal experience. Istanbul should be on every travellers to do list we reckon, but top of things to do whilst there, football fan or not, should be to get yourself down to a game to see one of the local teams as it really was something else.