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Turkey fans: Making Noise - And Friends - In The North

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


4,500 Turkey fans had travelled from far and wide to the north of England to support their national team, make plenty of noise - and, as learnt, quite a few friends along the way.
"Turkiye! Turkiye!" boomed the crowd at Sunderland's Stadium of Light earlier this week. The Turkish fans had arrived, very early, to support their national team as they took on England in a crucial qualifying game for Euro 2004.
The Stadium's South Stand had become awash with red over an hour and a half before the kick-off. "This is a big day for all the fans and they will want it to last for as long as possible, particularly if we win," said Osman Kiciman, a Galatasaray fan who had travelled from Istanbul.
"We have many songs and chants, many of which are similar to the English fans, but many that would be difficult to translate" said Cem Abinazar, a Besiktas fan who had also travelled over 1,500 miles for the game.
There is a strong connection between Turkey and England fans. Osman explained that "football was originally played in Istanbul by English soldiers a century ago. Like in England, it is our national sport and its popularity has continued to grow following Galatasaray's success in Europe and Turkey finishing third in last year's World Cup Finals."
We sat with Osman, Cem and other fans in the Turkish end of the ground and gradually watched the stadium fill with the white shirts and colours of England fans, expecting their slowly increasing number to drown out the sound. But even by kick-off time England fans could not be heard over the sound of the Turkish singing, blowing trumpets and banging drums.
With the ground near it's capacity 48,000 the teams came out and lined up for the two country's national anthems to be played.
Osman told us of a friendly fan initiative in which he has been involved with a number of England fans; "We want to build a friendly rivalry between the two countries. Of course I want to Turkey to win, and England fans want us to lose, but aside from that there is more that unites us than divides us."
The initiative, 'Raise the Flag', is organised by Mark Perryman and other England fans. A number of Turkish fans had been with Mark earlier that day putting welcome cards on all the seats at both ends of the stadium.
'When the cards are held up, during the country's national anthem, they form huge flags' explained Osman.
Mark Perryman, a self-styled 'football philosopher', explained the reasoning behind this initiative, "we see this as part of fan ambassadorship, our version of public diplomacy - we want to shift fan culture from the adversarial to the ambassadorial." In other words, from the negative to the positive.
"We have done 'Raise the Flag' and other things such as when a group of us England fans dined with a group of Turkey fans in a local restaurant before the game," continued Mark.
The two sets of fans had also exchanged club memorabilia earlier that day. This is good for the future of the relationship between both sets of fans, particularly before they meet again at the next crucial fixture in Istanbul in October.
When the game began, the passion in the crowd was matched by both sets of players. There was nothing between the two teams at half time. England were slightly stronger in the second half and Darius Vassell finally broke the deadlock on 75 minutes. David Beckham made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in the final minute of the game.
"The final 2-0 score-line does not really reflect the balance of the game," commented Cag Caliskur, a female fan from Ankara, "but it was a great game."
The security at the ground kept the Turkey fans in the stadium whilst the England fans were cleared from the area. Having just seen their team lose, and the stadium now empty, the Turkish fans still sang and cheered, and enjoyed the rest of the night.


Jon Wilkinson, April 2003


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