The Turkish passion for spor transcends religious, cultural, and social barriers. Although Turks do follow other sports, particularly American basketball, they are futbol (soccer) fanatics. Of Turkey’s numerous soccer teams, only four have risen to national significance: Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş, Galatasaray, and Trabzonspor. Fans living outside Istanbul or Trabzon generally root for one of these four in addition to their smaller home clubs. All four play very fast, scrappy, world class soccer. Fenerbahçe, hailing from an Asian Istanbul suburb, is immediately recognizable by its blue and yellow team shirts. Nobody, not even die-hard fans of the European Bosphorus counterpart Beşiktaş, really dislikes Fenerbahçe, the first non English team ever to beat Manchester United in Manchester, in 1997. Commanding the most respect abroad, yellow and red Galatasaray is an old, venerated outfit and the reigning Turkish champ. In May of 2000, they made headlines worldwide with their defeat, of Britain’s Arsenal in the UEFA Cup finals, bringing the trophy and pride to the people of Turkey. Beşiktaş, the “Black Eagles” in black and white, play very tight soccer, and purple and blue Trabzonspor is the upstart of the bunch, with a zealous fan base consolidated in eastern Turkey.
As in most places where futbol reigns supreme, emotions nan high at Turkish matches, with fans cheering wildly, chanting, and beating on drums. Police confiscate lighters and coins at the entrance to stadiums but still must use riot shields to protect players coming on and off the field from flying objects thrown by zealous fans. Because of poor maintenance, inadequate facilities and ineffective security, Turkish stadiums were recently deemed unsafe by international soccer officials, aIthough there have been no reported incidents. Disabled travelers should be advised that there is limited handicapped accessibility at stadiums.
Traditional spectator sports such as cirit oyunu (tossing javelins at competitors on horseback) and deve güreşi (camel wrestling) enjoy a very local following and are generally practiced during festivals. One exception is the Kirkpinar Grease Wrestling Festival, held in Edirne in July; it draws a huge crowd and enjoys TV broadcasts throughout Turkey.