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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Semester Abroad in Istanbul: Galatasary vs Fernerbache - Page 2

Written by John David Charlton
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As those around me noticed my foreign nature, people became curious as to where I was from, what I was doing in Istanbul and, most importantly, what team I followed back home. To those fans at the front of the queue (who were chanting throughout the night) I seemingly became one of them as I managed to learn two of the more simple Galatasaray chants. And in what I can only assume as an act of goodwill, the faithful began to sing in praise of my team – West Bromwich Albion. Despite it being rather short-lived, it became even more remarkable as they then denounced my teams rival, the Wolverhampton Wanderers, in the same fashion as they did towards their own. It was as much bizarre as it was amusing.  

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As the sun came up the real Ultras appeared and jumped straight to the front of the queue. Nobody was happy with it but the well-sharpened knives the group held meant there was little anyone could do. As it grew closer to the kiosks opening time additional Ultras arrived. It suddenly became plausible that we may not acquire the tickets we had waited so patiently for. As it approached close to midday it became increasingly hot, and adding to the frustration from those who realized they were not going to get a ticket, scuffles broke out. Three police officers turned up, who subsequently straightened out the queue by picking out and hitting one of the younger-looking supporters. 


The morning had brought my 21st birthday, and as I was closer to the back of the queue than the front, my primary concern became not getting hit by an officer rather than picking up tickets. No sooner had Gökhun appeared from nowhere to state he “has tickets” did one of the more vicious-looking Ultra fans demand them in exchange for a questionable amount of Turkish Lira. There was nothing we could do, Gökhun had purchased some of the last available tickets and the kiosk was beginning to close. We left the place ticketless.


Gökhun insisted that he could get tickets on the black market. He stated that we could probably purchase tickets during the week for around 150 Lira (£60 at the time), but if we waited until the day of the game—which he was insisting on—we could pay around 100 Lira (£40). As Sunday arrived I anxiously checked my phone waiting for the call from Gökhun and eventually it came, he had tickets and I was going to the derby. I had three exams scheduled for the following day, but that wasn’t going to stop me. I felt I had gone through too much to not bother, and besides, I fancied my chances in the three modules. 


The ambience around the neighboring bars was impressive, with a sea of fanatical followers championing the clubs colors with flares and other football paraphernalia. Although it was clear the stadium was crumbling it had character and with that came an intimidating atmosphere. The game was cagey and bad-natured from the start, with neither side having much potency in the final third. The first half was poor with limited chances, though plenty of tough tackling reminded me it was a derby. Thankfully the noise from both sets of fans was a spectacle in itself. 


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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012
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