One of the things that I like about going to the match is getting there. I’d been wondering which of the fixtures in the Istanbul area to pick for a Sunday early afternoon game when I spotted one at Pendik. It was only around thirty kilometres from where we were staying but would involve a bus ride down to the ferry port, a boat trip from the European side to the Asian side of the Bosphorus and then a train to within a few minutes of the ground. Sounds like an adventure. I’m sure Michael Palin has made simpler journeys stretch to a whole television series.
It started well enough, in that we got on a bus that was heading in the right direction. We didn’t get off it as quickly as we should have done though and we ended up further away from the Eminonu ferry terminal than where we’d started from. No problem, just head for the sea. As we walked through some of the quieter streets we spotted a kebab place that appeared to serve sheep skulls alongside the more traditional dishes.
After twenty minutes of walking we still hadn’t reached the sea, but were able to hop onto a second bus that dropped us right outside the place where the ferries depart to Karakoy. The fare across the Bosphorus was only forty pence and you can use the same transport card that you use on the buses.
I spent the twenty minute crossing outside. I like feeling the wind on boat journeys, similar I suspect, to those dogs that stick their heads out of car windows. I don’t usually slaver as much as most of them though. It gave me the opportunity to see the Istanbul skyline too, on both the European and Asian sides.
At Karakoy we disembarked in search of the train. It turned out that there wasn’t one. A fire at the station a few years ago meant that the trains now don’t start until Pendik and in order to get there we’d have to catch another bus.
The 16b was the one for us and Pendik was the fifty-fifth destination of the sixty-four stop route. We had an hour of following the coast and winding along high streets before arriving in Pendik. By now it was raining and so rather than wander around for a while trying to find the ground we hopped into a taxi for the last half mile.
It was fortunate that we hadn’t tried to make our own way to the ground as it was hidden among some high rise apartment blocks. The taxi driver had done well to get us there considering that up until then he’d had no idea that there even was a third division football ground in Pendik.
We were dropped in the wrong place though and initially a group of policemen wanted us to do a half circuit of the ground to the street that had the access to the turnstiles. One of them then took pity on us and persuaded his boss that it might be quicker for him just to escort us through the barriers than attempt to give us the correct directions.
The helpful copper may very well have been regretting his actions a few moments later when he discovered that we didn’t have tickets. Well why would we? I’d expected a crowd of around two hundred in what apparently was a ground with a four thousand capacity.
He was too involved to just abandon us by this time though and approached another one of his superiors to get permission to let us in without tickets. That fella paused his game of Candy Crush just long enough to give a grudging nod and we were ushered past the queues at the turnstiles to a small door guarded by yet another policeman. Once he’d had the situation explained to him, he knocked on the door and we were allowed in. Brilliant. Don’t ever criticise the Turkish Police to me.
We were in an open terraced area to the right of a covered stand. The three other sides of the pitch didn’t have any access for spectators, just a wall with a fence above it. I couldn’t see into the covered section but it didn’t seem as noisy as the area we were in.
There was a decent view of proceedings for anyone who lived in the surrounding blocks of flats, but nobody seemed particularly interested. With the rain getting heavier the only activity from the flats seemed to be women removing the washing from their lines and taking it back inside.
I went up to the back of the stand for a better view and got chatting with a fella up there. Chatting is probably a little overstated considering the language difficulties. He said something to me in Turkish and I pointed out that I only spoke English. He asked me my team, but didn’t seem to have heard of the Boro.
I had a rabbit to pull out of the hat though and mentioned that Tuncay Sanli had played for us. That did the trick. He was a good player according to my new-found Turkish friend. Good, I thought, if good means getting simple minded fans on your side by running around like a headless chicken before letting your team down by showboating with eye-catching but futile fancy flicks and backheels.
And the game? Well, the away team took the lead on the half hour when a free-kick into the box was headed home only for Pendikspor to equalise a few minutes later with a close-range tap-in. The rain was getting heavier though and so we cleared off at half-time, missing the second half winner for the visitors.