Last night Galatasaray defeated Fenerbahce 1-0 after extra time in the final of the Turkish Super Cup, which pitted League Champions Galatasaray against city rivals Fenerbahce, holders of the Turkish Cup. The match itself was a fairly boring affair that produced no goals in the 90 minutes until Didier Drogba’s bullet header in the 99th minute found the back of the net, and the cup, for Galatasaray.
Like so much in Turkey, however, once the score had been settled the focus was on off the field events. For the first time at a sporting event, Turkish traffic police brought breathalyzers to the stadium and subjected those fans they suspected of consuming alcohol to breathalyzer tests. Those over the 50 Promil limit, the equivalent of one beer, were not admitted into the match. My mind immediately went to the match I attended in Kiev, where I consumed two beers in the stadium alone. And those two beers did not incite me to start throwing anything inside the stadium–bottles, coins, lighters, or punches. But, apparently, in Turkey consuming one beer before a sporting event could incite one to do just that. Having been to many football matches in Turkey I can safely say that fan violence does not need alcohol as an instigator. So why has the government decided to go to such draconian measures at this point in time?
Just last week Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler announced that political slogans would be banned in soccer stadiums during the upcoming season, fallout from the Gezi Park protests, in which the Carsi group–the hard core fans of Besiktas–played a prominent role. Before the Super Cup final–which was played in President Abdullah Gul’s hometown and AKP stronghold Kayseri–the warning regarding political slogans was reiterated. Of course, what constitutes a “political slogan” remains open to debate, but that hasn’t seemed to bother the government as of yet, and they have decided to not only curtail freedom of speech, but also the freedom to consume alcohol outside of a sporting event.
After the match, while photographs proliferated on the internet of police administering alcohol tests at the gates, another interesting story broke. Apparently, the Turkish Football Federation mixed up the medals, with Fenerbahce’s players receiving the winner’s medals while Galatasaray’s players were left with runner’s up medals…despite winning the match 1-0. It begs the question, who exactly are the drunk ones? Those at the Football Federation, or the fans? Whatever happens it is clear that this season will be a difficult one for the authorities to deal with, and the nervous tension was evident from the number of black clad riot police ringing the stands during the game. Such tension may prove to be well-founded; after the game there were pictures of Galatasaray fans celebrating their cup success on Istanbul’s Taksim square alongside Fenerbahce fans.