Galatasaray v Mersin Idmanyurdu, Saturday 20th December 2014, 7pm

1 - galatasaray

I’d never been to Turkey before and so decided to have a few days in Istanbul on the way back to Teesside for Christmas. It’s an interesting city and I reckon that the cooler December temperatures and the lack of holidaymakers made it just the right time to visit.

Jen and I did most of the touristy things. We took a trip down the Bosphorus, wandered around the Blue Mosque (it’s rubbish) and visited the Grand Bazaar to buy some Turkish Delight. The real stuff with pistachios in, not the chocolate covered nonsense they flog in England. We saw Bob Geldof in the Grand Bazaar having a cup of tea, but politely pretended not to recognise him.

I also had a wet shave and a haircut, which was a lot cheaper than I’d expected. He cleaned my ears with cotton wool and once they start doing that I always anticipate a big bill. To complete the authentic tourist experience we were scammed by taxi drivers and pestered by every carpet salesman in town.

That's not us.

That’s not us.

As you might have expected, I’d checked out the football fixtures even before booking the flights, and the first opportunity for a game was at Galatasaray. What I hadn’t discovered was that a membership style scheme has been introduced this season in Turkey and that thwarted my efforts to buy a ticket online in advance.

To gain entrance into a top division Super Lig ground you need a Passolig card, complete with photo and passport details. I‘d read a few scare stories on the internet but in reality it was all quite easy. Jen and I took a trip out to Galatasaray’s Turk Telekom Arena a couple of days before the game and a bloke in the ticket office knocked me up the necessary card and sold me a ticket in around fifteen minutes. The card, which is valid for five years, cost me thirty five lira (a tenner) whilst my seat in the upper tier was fifty lira (fourteen quid). The most expensive seats were going for three hundred lira.

The Turk Telkom Arena.

The Turk Telekom Arena.

On the evening of the match I caught the subway from Taksim Square. There were plenty of fans on the train wearing Galatasaray colours, in fact most of their fans were kitted out in some form of maroon and orange, even the old blokes. That made it easy for me just to tag along, get off at the right stop and then get on to a free shuttle bus that went to the stadium.

The bus ride only took around five minutes, quicker than the time it took to close the doors whilst as many people as possible tried to squeeze aboard.

Kebabs and meat balls.

Kebabs and meat balls.

The bus dropped me close to the stadium and I walked past the scarf, water and various types of food sellers. The ticket office was a lot busier than it had been a couple of days earlier. I doubt I’d have been too popular had I left it until matchday to obtain my Passolig card.

One hour before kick-off.

One hour before kick-off.

I was searched three times on the way in and had to hand over all of my coins at the final frisking. This restriction had the subsequent disadvantage of meaning that when I paid for a seven lira coffee with a ten lira note I couldn’t be given any change. I was handed a chocolate bar instead. Maybe there is some system whereby the Passolig card can be also used for payment inside the ground. If there is though, nobody told me about it.

My top tier seat was one of those ‘safe standing’ ones where you can ignore your seat and lean instead against a railing in front of you. The whole top tier was like that. The lower tier, including the section behind the goal where the hardcore supporters stood, were all conventional seats.

Above me, there were heaters built into the stadium roof. Heaters! They made it warm enough not to need a coat on a December evening.

Safe Standing

Safe Standing

As kick-off approached I realised that the attendance wasn’t going to be that high, with the stadium no more than half full. I suppose it wasn’t too unexpected  in the run up to Christmas and with the visitors being less of an attraction than some of Galatasaray’s more traditional rivals.

The fans that had turned up were impressive though and it seemed that almost all of those in the stadium joined in, rather than just those grouped together behind the goal. As we awaited the arrival of the teams the stadium announcer played that ‘war-chant’ song and everyone held their scarfs aloft and waved them back and forward. Next we got a scarf-twirling song and then something to the tune of Karma Chameleon.

The singing continued throughout the match, pausing around me only when Mersin took an early lead against the run of play. Nobody from Galatasaray seemed too bothered at that stage but the hundred or so away fans in the top corner of the ground  celebrated as if they had been playing next goal the winner.

The natural order was temporarily restored when the bloke who had just scored for the visitors sliced a speculative cross into his own net to make it one each.

Galatasaray on the attack.

Galatasaray on the attack.

Mersin hadn’t read the script and were soon back in front via a penalty. The people around me were less happy with this development and a few squabbles started breaking out. I’ve no idea what the two factions were arguing about but having seen the Boro being booed off at half time when winning and a season card being thrown in anger at the manager in our UEFA Cup Final season, it could have been anything.

Two fellas were especially angry and were it not for the dozen or so people between them, were intent on murdering each other. The best thing was that they looked like brothers. Not just any old brothers either, but those two brothers out of The Proclaimers. I was hoping that the people holding each of them back would decide just to let them scrap. That’s something I definitely would walk five hundred miles to see.

Meanwhile, down on the pitch, Wesley Sneijder seemed equally pissed off with events and after picking up a booking for complaining about the penalty he spent the rest of the game looking for a second yellow and an extended Christmas break.

At half time I got myself some meatballs and another chocolate bar in lieu of change before moving to the other end of the stand to take a seat in the front row. This safe standing malarky is all right in theory but I’m getting on a bit and like a sit down now and again.

View from the corner

View from the corner

Galatasaray won a penalty of their own early in the second half. I thought the striker was quite clever about it, poking the ball past the keeper and inviting the contact. The successful spot kick probably prevented the Proclaimer boys from resuming hostilities.

For the remainder of the half almost all the crowd was cheering Galatasaray on. I’ve rarely seen this before. Do Galatasaray fans who have grown tired of singing just stop going? I remember going to Villa in the season that they won the league and being amazed at people in the main stand joining in with all the singing, although in hindsight if the Boro were about to win the league we might just get a peep out of the West Stand.

Mersin Idmanyurdu held out until the last ten minutes. It’s just occurred to me that maybe I shouldn’t have been abbreviating their name to Mersin. It might be like referring to Port Vale as Port. Anyway, whatever I call them, they were on the receiving end of a well worked late winner that was tapped in at the back post.

The win took Galatasaray back to the top of the Super Lig. So, not that much to fight about really.

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