16 May, 2010

Futbol, part 1

I might have mentioned before how passionate young Turkish men are about futbol; if they're not watching it, they're out on the grass pitch. Children kick futbols in the street - Istanbul, Ankara, Demre, wherever i go i see them - and my roommates spend countless hours with their thumbs glued to game controllers, playing Pro Evolution Soccer 2010.  Well, though i don't tend to be a sports fan, i enjoy playing  futbol - and soon i was sucked in. At first, roommate Oğuz convinced me to cheer for Galatasaray: "Cim Bom Bom", the maroon and gold, he pointed out, was the only Turkish team to take titles in the Europa League. Classmate Efe chided me that the world looks better in Beşiktaş' black and white. But when i saw Galatasaray play their arch-rivals Fenerbahçe, i knew i had found my team. Though it had little impact on the outcome of the season, that GS-Fener match was perhaps the biggest of the season, a rivalry as legendary as the Red Sox and Yankees. And that rivalry is everywhere. At midpoint waystations where the overnight buses stop at three AM, there are pillows for sale, two lira each, - sporting Fener's blue-and-yellow, or Galatasaray's red-and-gold. At the beach in Yeşilköy, Istanbul, i saw the colors in pinwheels. Not to mention black-and-white for Beşiktaş, and the Turkish flag for good measure.

So how do the Turkish teams stack up to each other? I began wondering. The rivalry between Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray was all the more heated, i discovered, because both teams held sixteen Turkish Cup titles each. As a committed Sox fan, the idea of the team that actually won more games but didn't already have it all (when pressed to say what's so much better about their team, GS fans like to bring up those two elusive UEFA Europa League titles) was appealing.   Beşiktaş, also hailing from Istanbul held twelve, and my friend Bayram's team Trabzonspor with five. Which leaves this year's surprise - Bursaspor - with only one, positioned to strike again. I'm not quite sure how this all works, because according to the standings Fenerbahçe had a strong lead in the league. But with just two losses (both matches against Trabzon), the Turkish Cup would go to Trabzonspor, and the championship to Bursa. (On 5 May, Trabzon won the first of those matches 3-1 to claim this year's Turkish Cup title.) 

Bilkent's Fener fans getting psyched