Thursday, 22 April 2010

Beşiktaş JK (Turkey)

Beşiktaş JK are considered outside of Turkey to be their nation's third club, in terms of both results and support. But you try telling their fans that. Followers of the Black Eagles are among the most passionate anywhere, holding as they do the world record for the loudest supporters on the planet - weighing in at a whopping 132 decibels.

But here also is a club steeped with as much myth and confused history as the city of Istanbul itself. Formed as a general sports club in the late Ottoman era in 1903, it's not clear when the playing of football actually began - although it is known to have been frowned upon by the secret police at the time. The first official sports club in Turkey, the Bereket Jimnastik Kulübü as it was then known (hence the JK in the club's name), often supplied many national squads in a range of sports in those early days, making it the only club in the country allowed to have the national flag as part of its badge.

In the early days they played in red and white stripes, but their change to the glorious black and white is a cause of much debate. Some say they changed to commiserate of the loss of territory in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13. Others state that the switch commemorates the loss of the whole team in WWI, while another school of thought suggests it has more to do with the school colours of the French-educated first preseident of the club, Mehmet Şamil Bey. But whatever the origin, they've not been afraid to be creative with the strip, on occasions playing in a near white strip with only the faintest of black pin stripes, and this season offering up a bizarre black and white harlequin affair for their European away trips.

Their stadium, the BJK İnönü is a cauldron of sound and beauty, and ranked as the fourth best in the world by The Sunday Times. Nestled in a slope on a leafy bank on the banks of the Bosphoros with the beautiful Dolmabahçe Palace, at its foot, it is the only ground in the world from which you can see two continents - Asia peaking out across the water as it does. To this end it Beşiktaş are a club with supporters from both side of the bridge. While Galatasaray's fans are predominantly from the more afluent Gala neighbourhood on the European side, and Fenerbahçe play on the Asiatic quarter of the city, BJK's punters are a more citywide crew, with many of the Asian fans crossing the water on a flotilla of ferries on match days.

As is the case in many of the clubs in the South Eastern corner of Europe, the fans are divided into many different factions, but the over-arching element among them all over the last 30 years have been the Çarşı - a socially and politically sussed aggregation that ignores many of the cultural barriers that divide much of Turkish football, and the Istanbul game in particular. In fact many fans don't even consider the Çarşı as a fan club - more an ethos in the way the club is followed. So it was a surprise then when a high profile fan declared them disbanded in 2008, when it was decided that they were becoming bigger than the club itself. Despite this, many loyal fans still wear the anarchistic Çarşı loco to games.

So if you ever find yourself in Istanbul and feel brave enough to go to a game, don't go to the apparently more Rolls Royce grounds of Fener or Gala - although you'll undoubtedly have a lot of fun. Instead drag yourself down to the water's edge and immerse yourselves in what is probably one of the five most passionate bunch of fans on the globe.

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  1. Turkey is the biggest club Besiktas.

  2. I believe that - it's just not what most British people think!

    Thank you for visiting Syhvbyz!

  3. Thank you for writing 'Roy D Hacksaw '.
    I and other supporters being very happy your writing.Again,thanks