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Inönü Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey: Beşiktaş JK-Maccabi Tel Aviv UEFA Europa League (5-1) Matchday

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This is the Beşiktaş Inönü Stadium (capacity 32,145), a stadium Pele reportedly called “the best place in the world to watch a game”. One cant fault him for his praise–where else can one watch a European football game while enjoying a view of the Bosphorus and Asia at the same time? The Inönü Stadium is truly a unique spot, both in footballing and historical terms. Currently it is closed, part of an ambitious project to build a new stadium in the same location–a ten minute walk from Taksim Square and the heart of modern Istanbul.

These pictures were taken from a tense Europa League encounter between Beşiktaş and Maccabi Tel Aviv back in 2011. The match was played in the shadows of a diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey following the Mavi Marmara incident, when Israeli soldiers shot and killed Turkish activists aiming to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip. As with many political crises, the tension spread to the football pitch. There were a large amount of police and private security guards on hand, ensuring that no violence took place. In the end they were successful in preventing extra-curriculars, and the fact that only ten Israeli fans made the trip to see their side go down 5-1 also helped in keeping tensions low in my opinion. Part of me felt like Maccabi didn’t really go all out on the field so as not to stoke the fires, as Maccabi were not as poor as the scoreline suggested. As for Besiktas, the (in)famous Çarşı fan group did their team proud, chanting nationalist slogans of “Türkiye! Türkiye! Türkiye!” and “Şehitler Ölmez Vatan Bölünmez” (The Martyrs will never die, the country will never be divided). All in all, it was a good european win for Beşiktaş at the time. As for now, we can all hope that the new Inönü will do the old one justice, and that Çarşı carry on the activism born in Gezi park by continuing to stand up for what they believe in.

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The views from the cheap seats (!)

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Some fans decided to write some unconventional messages on their shirtsDSCN4450

Luckily, Private Security didn’t have much to do

Istanbul Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey: Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor-Galatasaray SK (2-0) Matchday

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The enormous Istanbul Ataturk Olympic Stadium (Capacity 76,092), home to Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor, during a match with giants Galatasaray in 2011. This stadium is perhaps best remembered for hosting the UEFA Champions League Final in 2005, which saw Liverpool come back from a 3-0 halftime deficit to defeat AC Milan on penalties. It is still remembered as one of the best nights of European football in history. Aside from that match, however, the atmosphere is rarely special at Turkey’s biggest stadium and getting there is more than a little stressful. For the 2013-14 season Besiktas will be playing some of their home games here, and their fans have been able to give it a better atmosphere so far. Lets hope it continues.

 

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Ümraniye Belediye Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey: Ümraniyespor-Menemen Belediyespor (1-2) Matchday

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The Ümraniye Belediye stadium during a Turkish Third Division (fourth tier) match between Ümraniyespor and Menemen Belediyespor, which I attended two years ago on a warm early September day. The visitors from Menemen district of Izmir province won the match 2-1 with a last minute goal, breaking the hearts of the home fans. Ümraniye is one of Istanbul’s more conservative districts, located on the Asian side of the city. Despite that, my friends and I were able to find an alcohol shop after a comical search, and where able to down a few Efes Extras pre-match. The stadium itself is located on the side of a road in a fairly inaccessible and deserted area–there are no shops or restaurants in its vicinity. The stadium is comprised of one covered stand with advertisements lined up opposite the stand in typical minor-league fashion. It has the pre-fab feel of having been put up yesterday . . . come to think of it, it very well may have been!

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