By Vegard Lilleas
Galatasaray won 2-1 in today’s clash with arch rival Fenerbaçhe, thus claiming their 119th victory against the team from the Asian side of the Bosphorus strait. But the Kıtalar Arası Derbi is more than just a game of football. It’s known to be one of the most intense derbies in the world today and the history is both glorious and violent.
It all started in 1934 when the two teams met in a “friendly”. Both teams were eager to win the game, hence many hard fouls caused the game to get out of hand, creating high tension both on the pitch and in the stands. Players started to fight on the pitch and in a matter of minutes the Taksim Stadium was overcrowded with spectators wanting a piece of the action. Scenes unfolding is said to have been warlike.
Galatasaray hails from the European side of the Bosphorus Strait and was started by students in 1905; one of them also gave their former stadium its name: Ali Sami Yen. “The Lions” is the most successful club of the two, winning over 80 domestic and European honors. Their most sensational achievement was winning the quadruple in the 1999-2000 season which included the UEFA cup victory over Arsenal.
Fenerbaçhe on the other hand hails from the Asian side of the strait and is the most successful team with 141 wins in the derby. “The yellow canaries” was founded in 1907 by a group of local men and is considered to be the common man’s team, while Galatasaray is considered to be the team of the highly educated and people from higher social strata.
The two teams are the most popular clubs in Turkey and together with Beşiktaş they attract about 95 per cent of Turkey’s football fans. They’re the ones creating the incredible atmosphere during the derby games. At least until the Turkish Football Federation introduced a ban against visiting supporters in the stadium during the derby.
This extreme measure had to be taken due to the extreme violence that occurred before, under and after the games.
Fans organized fights with knives, stones and pretty much whatever weapon they could get their hands on. As a result of these fights several fans have died, street riots became normal after games and there even was violent incidents other places in Turkey. This phenomenon was more common in the 1990s than in recent years.
But Galatasaray and Fenerbaçhe is more than football. They also excel in basketball, volleyball, water polo, swimming and apparently wheelchair basketball. The latter was actually the scene of quite an incredible incident recently.
In a wheelchair basketball game between the two rivals, large hordes of the teams fans started to fight and the police had to use tear gas to separate the brawling supporters. Some of the players on the court were attacked by the opposition’s fans before getting to safety.
The Turkish government introduced a law last year to prevent these kinds of altercations between fans to occur. Now, every fan is kept track of through their national ID numbers, thus giving the clubs the opportunity to ban those who are responsible for the fights. This law has received a lukewarm welcome from Turkish fans who’s claiming the law to be more controlling than preventive.
Either way, it looks like there’s going to be a while before visiting supporters can watch the Kıtalar Arası Derbi from the stands. The atmosphere is obviously affected by this, but the rivalry has reached an unacceptable level and needed to be dealt with.