Turkish football is in the most painful part of its transformation

ARDA ALAN IŞIK
ISTANBUL
Published 05.11.2018 19:59

Koray Şener, a 23-year-old Fenerbahçe fan, died of a heart attack at the Fenerbahçe-Galatasaray derby last week. This is the point where all other things lose their importance when a life is lost. What can be more valuable than life itself? Apparently, the derby is more important for some players, coaches and executives, who, although knowing a life was lost, signed off on one of the ugliest scenes in Turkish football. My readers would know that I am used to these scenes and criticize them often. But if these things still happen even after a 23-year-old person has lost his life, it is time to stop and understand what is going on.

Turkish football is in a state of transformation, the age-old practices of administration, coaching and playing are not valid anymore. Financial fair play and new strategies for collective action are forcing Turkish football to change, but it seems that neither the actors nor the fans of Turkish football are ready for this change.

Big teams in Turkey are the biggest losers of this transformation since they can no longer make big transfers and their "weak" opponents can now utilize simple but effective collective strategies. The recent downfall of all big teams – Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Beşiktaş – are essentially related to this issue. It is a fair game for everyone now. The direct consequence of this is an identity crisis which the fans of big teams are experiencing right now.

The problem is that the majority of Turkish fans are the fans of the Big Three. A 2016 survey, with participants from all over the country, showed that 78 percent of football fans had allegiance to the Big Three. Thus, it is normal that the transformation of Turkish football, which favored the weak, is not going easy and is even perceived as a decline in the performance of Turkish football by most fans.

It was actually the guilt and shame caused by this transformation period that led Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray players to completely lose control. Those who know that flamboyant masculinity is a soft spot for the Turkish public used it to compensate for their deficiencies on the pitch. One can always hear the theme of "giving one's life for the club" in the chants of Turkish fans, it is the glorification of the violent football culture that players want to take advantage of.

But the tide against this toxic macho football culture, and regardless of how much they keep brawling, the Big Three will never recover until they accept that everything is square now. Their hegemony is over and they need to put an end to their identity crisis. It is best to acknowledge that. Otherwise, a long period of chaos and contingency awaits them. But to keep this transformation period healthy for everyone, I think it is best to encourage the localization of fans. To increase the competition and thus, quality, it is vital to keep this transformation to operate properly. If the tendency of the future fans would be to support their local team, Turkish football can become more diverse and successful.

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