Monday, September 1, 2008

Ataturk and Turkish Football

I was reading about the Turkish Derby between Fenerbahce and Galatasary last night and, although I tend to have more sympathies for the Cim Bom than the yellow cananriesI was again interested to read that Ataturk was a Fenerbahce fan and it reminded me of a Fenerbahce badge I bought in Istanbul a few years ago with a portrait of Ataturk on it.

on the 10th August 1928 after Fenerbahce's 3-3 draw with Galatasary, Ataturk is supposed to have said to 3 Galatasary fans and 2 Fenerbahce fans 'We are 3 and 3 here because I am too a supporter of Fenerbahce'. He also wrote in the guest book at Fenerbahce previously in 1918 that ' I was informed of the admirable activities of the club Fenerbahce and I was doing my duty to visit and congratulate the club. The visit has been made on this day and I can save my honour and congratulations' It has also been noted that when Fenerbahce's club building burnt down on 5th June 1932 Ataturk was the first to donate towards its rebuilding. Fenerbahce would also seem to have some of the attributes of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, despite being the only major Istanbul club from the Asian side of the bosphorous they have in many ways been the only team to truly modernise at the rate of Western clubs and they certainly haven't alienated any of their fans in the way in which Galatasary's archaic board have done in the past; but was Ataturk really a supporter of Fernabahce?

In Vala Somali's book ' 100 years of Besiktas in Turkish Sport' Ataturk gave a similar address to the officials of Besiktas in 1915 to that he would write in the book of Fenerbahce 3 years later. It might also be noted that in 1932 Ataturk was the president of Turkey and as one of his major ideologies was the importance of sport, then he would have been expected to contribute to the rebuilding of the club house. However, the evidence supporting him as a Besiktas fan is also flimsy. Vala Somali states that he lived near the Besiktas stadium (geography doesn't play an important part in choosing a club for Turkish fans) and that 8 footballers and 1 hockey player were killed from the Besiktas club during the Turkish War of Independence; although this is a large number it shows that they agreed with Ataturk's policies rather than him being an ardant fan.

It is no surprise that both clubs want to claim him as a fan. He was afterall the founder of the country after the decline of the Ottoman Empire and as President after fighting in the War of Independence set Turkey on a democratic and modern course for the future. In fact modernising policies in Turkey are still sometimes called Kemalism Policies after him.

His influence can still be seen in Turkish football nowadays. For example there is the Ataturk Olympic Stadium, which is where the 2005 Champions League Final was held and will be the scene of the UEFA Cup Final next year. The stadium cost $135 million to build and originally had a capacity of 80597, but later was reduced to 75,486 when all of the seats with limited views were removed. In 2003-2004 it was used by Galatasary for their league games, however after a backlash from Fener and Besiktas fans Galatasary moved back to the crumbling Ali Sami Yen the following season. Nevertheless, they were allowed to use the stadium for their Champions League games in 2006-07. It is also used as the home stadium by Istanbulspor at the moment.

Several other stadiums have been named after him including the home stadiums of Antalyaspor, Denzilspor and Kayserispor. There was also an Ataturk Cup, which was first contested in 1955 when Adalet beat Fenerbahce. It was then played again in 1964 and Fener beat Besiktas. In 1998 the cobwebs were dusted off it for the 60th Anniverssary of Mustafa Kemil's death and Fenerbahce again beat Besiktas. It was then played for the last time in 2000 and Besiktas finally won it by beating Galatasary.

As for who he supported, I had always assumed it was Fenerbahce, but mainly because of the badge I had, but i guess we will never know

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