I left Charles in Izmir for a three day galabant through two Greek islands called Chios and Samos. These islands were filled with extremely dangerous moped driving, investigative journalism sneaking around the coast guard finding wet back packs with Somalian photographs in it, drinking really cheap wine and eating pork which does not exist in Turkey, and generally good times. I landed back on Turkish soil and boarded an eleven hour night bus that would drop me off in Istanbul at 7am. The over night was not so bad minus the guy next to me who had no problem leaning his head on the crook of my shoulder. My first day in Istanbul was not as bad as it could have been thanks to Charles’ amazing friend Gizem who saved me from carrying my heavy backpack and also got us tickets to the final Galatasaray game that night.
Charles was flying in from Izmir to meet us in the evening but he thought the game was the next day. In a perfect display of how life sometimes ‘just works’ and some rather expensive taxi rides, he arrived at Gizem’s house just in time for us to swig a shot of imported tequila and walk to the stadium. We arrived at the stadium and jogged to our seats. As we approached you could hear the thunder from the crowd and it reminded me of a moment in a braveheart movie or some epic battle movie with the protagonist approaching the unseen battlefield. We climbed the steps to our seats but I don’t think I ever saw seats and we stood in the isle way. Gizem had informed us that we would not sit down the whole game bar halftime. Gizem had a jersey to wear, I mysteriously wore the correct orange on my collared t-short, and Charles had nothing but was given a scarf to wear for the game by a friendly bystander who recognized Charles’ ill planning.
Gizem, by the way, is probably the most avid female football I have ever known and demonstrated intense passion and team-ism at almost all times.
Our timing could not have been better and we listened to the Turkish national anthem which sounded very cold war-ish and then the game kicked off. I cannot remember who they were playing but the team was supposed to represent the small towns outside of Istanbul. We sat behind one of the goals and had a lovely view of the whole pitch. Everyone around us was eating unflavored sunflower seeds which Gizem gave me a few. Every Turkish person has an innate ability to dismantle these tiny seeds and eat the contents and spit the seeds all over the ground. I on the other hand, had to use my hands, which got slimy, and spat all over the back of people and in their hair. Our area of the crowd was one of the two main cheering sections who were led by a few guys down below who opted to not watch the game, stand on the railing (much like a boca game) and command chants. To our right was a caged in area of the crowd which is where the away team was housed. Apparently they needed to cage in this part because the Galatasaray fans at one point had pulled their chairs out of the ground and started throwing them into the away team.
The quality of the football I found to be not bad and was entertaining. Galatasaray ended up winning 2-1 in a nail biting game. What I was more impressed about was the crowd and their chants. They were very potent and coordinated. Our section would all start whistling and waving at another section until they started doing the same and then one side would say something and they would respond with the next “verse.” They would do this across the stadium if need be. The quantity of chants was impressive as well. The boca game repeated the same things over and over. At this game, they were even creating new chants that some people had no idea about. They would quiet every one down so they could listen and then they would then do it themselves as if they had known it for years. Stunning I thought, and it brought tickles to my stomach to be around these people. I never felt endangered minus when goals were scored and everyone jumped a few stairs down.
There are three main teams in Istanbul and one of them, Bashiktas (not spelled correctly but I don’t have that letter on my keyboard) was about to win the league title that night which we found out that they did at the end of our game. As we were walking back we saw what would be the beginning of three days or more of mayhem and celebrations. Charles was forced to miss the festivities but Gizem and I decided to infiltrate the sworn enemies celebrations and see how it went down. The neighborhood of
Bashiktas is known for being very secular and also filled with many mentally handicapped people. Their colors are black and white and as we walked around, I stood out slightly with my orange shirt. We found them basically destroying their neighborhood covering the ground in trash, drinking all the booze in the shops, climbing the statues, taking great pride in waving ludicrously large flags, screaming into these noise makers, taking over the streets and demanding any car not honking to start honking. Gizem had to hide at one point to make sure that she was not seen in the celebrations, baby.
We went to Gizem’s friends DVD store and joined a more intimate party. They all
knew her and were aware of her allegiance to the other team but it was a night of celebration and it was obvious in the shine of their eyes after who knows how much alcohol. We danced the
funny Turkish dance where you go side by side and hold pinkys, I tried to teach salsa with my newly discovered knowledge thanks to Chile, and drank and drank. I eventually learned that I had to start drinking slower or just leave booze in my cups because if it was empty, they would not allow me to turn down a drink. It was a fantastic night and all of Gizem’s friends were splendid and I was sure to give a hug to everyone of them as I left, maybe to never see them again although I hope not.
For the rest of my time in Istanbul, the city was filled with parades and celebrations and fans screaming chants and songs. If you were not cheering, you would be engulfed by the crowd and force fed a song and spanked until you smiled and were screaming as loud as they were. I have yet to be a part of a celebration like this and I look forward to the next time. I know our Lakers recently won the championship but i cannot help but think that it would not compare. Get a grip American sports.