19 February, 2010


...is of course pretty big here. Just how big, you ask? Well tonight there were two closely watched games. Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray, both based in Istanbul, were playing European teams as part of the UEFA Europa League: Fener at Lille, and Galatasaray at Atletico Madrid.

Now, Fenerbahçe and GS are like the Sox and Yankees of Turkish futbol. One of my roommates, Oğuz, is a staunch GS fan, and has a wardrobe full of maroon-and-gold. Atakan, on the other hand, is a quiet but faithful fan of Fener, and puts up with Oğuz's singsong taunts (which i don't dare translate here). Tonight though, we were all fans of Fener: all except the French students. Root for the home team, you know?

The game everyone was waiting for began at ten. Hundreds of students gathered in Speed Cafeteria, a short walk from our dorm. At the end of the first half, GS was down 1-0, and the students poured from the building to talk and smoke outside. Except it was pouring rain, and lightning flashed over the city - and soon pea-sized hail began to fall. Everyone huddled under the narrow overhang outside the cafeteria, but a few hardcores stood across the cobblestones chanting and singing. Suddenly, a flare was lit, then two, more. It was quite the scene: the whole crowd singing, most of them stuffed like sardines under the overhang and a few jumping up and down while flare-smoke rose to meet the hail, and every so often thunder crashed, faint against a hundred voices.

Back inside, we watched Galatasaray fail at one drive after another. Finally, as the game clock struck 80 minutes, they scored a goal to tie the game. Four minutes of overtime to no avail, it ended as a tie - but GS fans were still thrilled. I couldn't help wishing i'd brought my soccer cleats from home, itching to get on the field and play a little. Let's just say it is refreshing to be in a place where people are obsessed with the one sport i actually enjoy - and i mean obsessed. Perhaps Oğuz and i will make it to Istanbul March 28 for the ultimate rivalry match - GS vs. Fener.

L to R; Roomie Oğuz, friend Ozan, roomie Atakan