Without the fans, there can be no industrial football. Playing with friends, no one needs spectators, the joy of playing the game itself would be enough. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the football that is being played week in, week out, regardless of the players’ desire to play. Without the fans, it is not even remotely enjoyable watching 22 extremely anxious players trying not to do any mistake.
However, I am getting more and more convinced about the idea that most fans watch football, not for the sake of it, but the feel-good hormones released after a win. Especially in Turkey, where football teams are by far one of the strongest identities for millions, football acts as a stress-ball for angry men looking for some sort of relief. Even though topics like good governance, social responsibility and sustainability are trending among the people who think and write about sports and get paid for it, the ordinary fan just wants to see his team win when he arrives home after a stressful day at work.
This idea first dawned on me during my discussion with a professor at German Sport University. I was complaining about the lack of trust, regulation and investment in youth in Turkish football, being completely sure that these issues disturb most of the fans. My professor simply asked how I knew that the majority of the fans shared these worries. Honestly, at that moment I thought he must be joking, as these ideals seemed self-evident to me.
Nevertheless, over time, and especially after being more exposed to Turkish fans on social media, I am now entirely sure that a sustainable, reliable and competitive future for Turkish football does not interest fans. It is not that they would not want it, they simply do not entertain the thought. What matters the most is winning the next game this weekend, against all the conspiracy from all sides.
This tendency of the fans is what allows club executives to behave more and more aggressively – toward referees and each other – constantly blaming others for their own failures. Their mistrust in a future where all stakeholders benefit from a stable football structure, allows them to approve and even encourage the hostile environment. At the same time, however, the clubs keep getting more and more bankrupt, borrowing from their own future with each debt-structuring program.
At this point, I cannot help myself but ask, for whom exactly am I idealizing the future of Turkish football? For whom exactly I argue that values like good governance, social responsibility and sustainability are of utmost importance? Maybe the fans simply want to watch the chaos in Turkish football? Maybe this is the entertainment they actually want but cannot say it outright.
In the end, regardless of all the tactics and strategies, all of us in the football sector are essentially working in the entertainment business. The parameters that define success are not clear but completely subjective. Understanding this not only relieves the pressure on oneself but also allows them to make peace with the ongoing situation. Sometimes your ideals are simply not shared or appreciated by the masses. Creating a football for the fans, despite the fans, is not possible.
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