Association Football -- Our Least Favorite Sport

Jim Masters

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Association Football - Not!

Association Football (soccer) is not among our favorite sports. It pits enormously talented, superbly trained, embarrassingly rich super-athletes against one another for a full 90-minutes, in an acrobatic struggle of titans - which routinely ends in a tie/draw. (That makes us weak in the knees just to think about it. ) And when you throw in the extra added detraction of football hooliganism, well, we can get downright negative about the game of Association Football at the drop of a hat.

But if you come to Turkey you'll find that we're in a distinct minority - especially in a World Cup Football year. Because all of the male population (and an unusually large portion of the female population) is wildly enthusiastic about the game.

While every town of more than 10,000 fans has its own team of local football (futbol in Turkish) heroes, it doesn't stop there. Not by a long chip shot.

Because no matter which team a Turk supports locally, he/she must also pick and be fanatically loyal to one of three Istanbul Teams.

The one with the largest following is probably Fenerbahçe (also known as Sarı Kenarya, Yellow Canary) - and not surprisingly it's among the top 15 richest football clubs in the world.

Next comes Galatasaray (aka Cim Bom Bom. . . don't ask, we have no idea) - which is usually the country's sentimental favorite team. If we had to choose, we'd root for Galatasaray. The reason has something to do with their fans. . . who seem a kinder, gentler group of football crazies than the other ones.

Bringing up the rear among the Istanbul teams is Beşiktaş (aka Kara Kartal, Black Eagles). Their fans are some of the most loyal you'll find anywhere. Our friend Taşkın is in his 40's but he regularly drives to İstanbul from the mid-Aegean region (an 8-10 hour drive) just to see his team play.

Trabzonspor, a perennial Black Sea football powerhouse, is also very popular - though not to the same degree as the aforementioned three teams. Trabzonspor is also known as Bordo Mavi because that's what their team-uniform colors are - Claret-Red and Blue. . .

So be prepared to hear and see a lot about Association Football (soccer) in Turkey when you come. And once you've got the lay of the Turkish football land, you'll want to choose your own Istanbul (or Black Sea) football-team favorite - and (at least) watch football games on TV with your new Turkish friends. Or risk being treated to a sort of kindly neglect - whenever it's Game On on Game Day!

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Jim and (co-author) Perihan Masters are a husband and wife team, living on the Aegean Coast of Turkey just 50 miles south of Izmir. Jim was born in Shanghai, China - of American military parentage. Peri was born on the Black Sea coast of Turkey near Trabzon, of Turkish military parentage. . . Enticed by a Financial Times advertisement, Jim joined a NATO sponsored enterprise in Ankara in 1974 where he met the beautiful and brainy Perihan, a rising young Turkish banking executive. Settled now in the heart of what was once the ancient Ionian Empire - the couple live an idyllic life by the sea. . writing, drawing and painting, teaching English, and providing computing service support to local businesses. They also sponsor the MSNBC award-winning Learning Practical Turkish Website which has built an enthusiastic international following of devoted Turkophiles and inquisitive language students of all ages.


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