Europe's fiercest derbies Episode 1: The Intercontinental Derby (Fenerbahce Vs Galatasaray)
Here at Sportco we start with a series of articles looking at some of Europe's most exciting and fiercest derbies that sometimes define life and death for the respective club supporters.
Our beautiful game would be incomplete without the passion, color, and fanaticism of these derby games. We begin in the Turkish city of Istanbul where passion for football flows like the rich waters of the Bosphorus Strait.
Fenerbahce Vs Galatasaray- The Intercontinental Derby
Formerly Constantinople, Istanbul is unique in the sense that it sits on two different continents. The city is like a bridge between the West and the East and football is always at the forefront of the city's unique identity.
Just as the Bosphorus Strait divides Istanbul into two parts- the European one and the Asian, the waterway has divided two of Turkey's biggest clubs- Fenerbahce and Galatasaray in the same way.
For many people in Turkey, Galatasaray represents Europe while Fenerbahce SK represents Asia, not because of the registered geographical locations of the sides but for years the identity of the lions(nicknames of Galatasaray) was synonymous with the high class Turkish elite society fluent in western education while the yellow canaries, as Fenerbahce, are nicknamed, represented the working-class people of a thriving and hard-working Asian part of Istanbul.
As the years passed by the social differences that were attached to the two clubs since the early part of the last century slowly faded out and people from all sections of the Turkish society now support both the clubs as per their own terms.
Fenerbahce fans pride themselves from the fact that the late Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the secular Turkish Republic immediately after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, was a well-known Fenerbahce supporter until his death in 1938.
One of the most traditionally violent fixtures in the Turkish Super Lig calendar
Since the formation of the two clubs, violence has always been part of this fixture with tragic consequences. The stakes are always high whenever these two great rivals meet on the football pitch.
"There is always an undercurrent of violence," according to a Fenerbahce SK fan Patrick Cox. "Crowd troubles, sometimes people get stabbed and killed even."
Incident of killing and stabbing made worldwide headlines in May 2013 when a young 19-year-old Fenerbahce fan Burak Yildirim was stabbed to death by a 20-year-old Galatasaray supporter following a 2-1 victory for Fenerbahce.
Both these teams have invested heavily on foreign players, academies and most importantly on home stadiums to be successful both domestically and in Europe but little has been done to curb the violence.
Cetim Cem Yilaz, sports editor at The Hurriyet Daily News, wonders why there is so much violence in this particular fixture. "There is always trouble. Windows smashed, objects thrown on the pitch. It's really difficult to [understand] why there is this much hatred."
One of the most controversial and talked about moments in Turkish and European derby football history came in the 1995-96 season when Galatasaray's Scottish manager Graeme Souness ran the whole length of the Fenerbahce stadium's pitch and planted a huge red and gold club flag in the middle following his team's surprising Turkish Cup win over the then league leaders.
This provoked the home fans who invaded the stadium to catch hold of the running Souness and the Turkish police intervened at the right moment to separate the desperate weapon-wielding fans and the Galatasaray manager, Graeme Souness.
Galatasaray were handed the Turkish Cup amidst a huge police presence while the whole country and particularly Istanbul witnessed riots that were brought under control by the Turkish military eventually.
Current Sky Sports, UK TV pundit Graeme Souness has since become a cult figure in the Galatasaray folklore while a lifelong villain in the Fenerbahce fans' hearts since that incident.
Head to Head
While Fenerbahce have tasted success in the intercontinental derbies more than Galatasaray, the latter is the only Turkish side to have won the UEFA Cup Final in 2000 and the UEFA Super Cup in the same year.
Galatasaray have won the Turkish Cup 18 times compared to 6 times by Fenerbahce while the latter have won the league title more times than the former. Fenerbahce SK have won the league title 28 times while Galatasaray have tasted success on 23 occasions(including 22 Super Lig titles)
Both sides have invested heavily in infrastructure including own football stadiums as Turkey strive to become a football giant in Europe.
Galatasaray play their home games in the state of the art 52,650-seater Turk Telecom Stadyumu while Fenerbahce are based on the other side of the Bosphorus Strait at the 52,000-seater Sukru Saracoglu Stadium.
Fans pack the stadiums on match days and create an exceptionally intimidating atmosphere both in the domestic league and in European competitions.
Turkish clubs have always attracted some of the best talents from around the world and looking at the current Galatasaray squad there is a cosmopolitan nature to the side with players from South America, Europe and Africa combining well with local Turkish talents.
Experienced Fatih Terim is the current head coach of Galatasaray. The club once boasted talents like Gheorghe Hagi, Hakan Sukur, and Didier Drogba in its ranks.
Fenerbahce has pulled off a coup by signing former German World Cup winner Mesut Ozil few days back in a major statement to other Turkish rivals and especially Galatasaray.
Just like their great rivals, Fenerbahce have attracted talents from all across the world in addition to the club investing heavily on local academy.
Both Galatasaray and Fenerbahce are in 6th and 7th positions in the current Turkish Superlig season respectively.
Whenever these two giants of Turkish football meet on the pitch it is always known as the Battle of the Bosphorus.
Next meeting: February 7, 2021(Turkish Super Lig)
Last meeting: Galatasaray 0-0 Fenerbahce, September 27, 2020(Turkish Super Lig)
Featured Image Credits - scorum.com