On July 1, 2015 a strange new team appeared on the Turkish Football scene. The team is Turanspor, taking their name from “Turan”—a geographic area of central Asia—that also gives the name to Turanism, the pan-Turkish ideology that drives nationalist Turks from the Nationalist Action Party (MHP). Originally it was seen as a political union between all Ural-Altaic language speaking peoples, later it became specifically Turkic as the other Ural-Altaic speakers in Finland, Hungary, Korea, and Japan were seen as too different by the first major Turanian intellectual Ziya Gokalp who wrote in the context of the late Ottoman period. Turanism is a very interesting ideology that deserves more than a just a passing mention and I encourage all readers to further investigate it, as this is an article mainly about football.
The president of Turanspor Orhan Kapelman made an announcement via the club’s Facebook page outlining the team’s purpose:
“Sevgili ülküdaşlarım, futbolun siyasallaştığı şu dönemde hangi takımı tutarsanız tutun , ülkücü teknik adamlar ve futbolcularla yeşil sahalarda yüreğini ortaya koyacak bu takım sizlerin takımı olacaktır”
“Dear fellow idealists [ülkucü means idealist, the widespread term for members of the MHP in Turkey], regardless of which team you support during this period where football has become political, this team with idealist coaches and players who will lay their hearts on the green fields will be your team.”
Image Courtesy Of: https://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turanspor
The formation of this new team has also been seen as a potential rival to the recently formed Osmanlispor (Ottomanspor) who were promoted to the Turkish Super League at the end of last season. Taking over the team formerly run by the Ankara Municipality, Ankara Büyüksehir Belediyespor, Osmanlispor have been seen as a thinly veiled representation of the AKP’s neo-Ottoman visions of regional hegemony on the football field. But what’s even more interesting about the formation of this explicitly political and right wing team is its history.
The team have replaced the old Sekerspor, one of Turkish football’s most historic teams, currently having collected the 41st most points in the history of the Turkish top flight. For a more complete Turkish-language history of the team please see Tribun Dergi, who were kind enough to use some of my photos in their article. Kafcamus has written many articles on Sekerspor since, in many ways, the team’s history is a microcosm of both the history of football and the Turkish political and economic landscape through the years. Sekerspor were originally founded in 1947 as part of the Turkish Sugar Factory; as the game of European football was at its beginnings, the team was originally a source of amusement and recreation for working class factory workers. In 2004 Kafcamus wrote about the day he came to the stadium with friends after a long walk only to hear from police on duty that there was no game and that the club had closed. The sugar plant had been privatized—as has been the case with many formerly state-owned businesses during the AKP rule in its rush to wholeheartedly embrace capitalism—and as such the club was gone, pulling out of the 2004-05 Turkish Second Division B Category. It wasn’t the end, but certainly the beginning of the end.
From that day forward Sekerspor was consumed by the world of industrial football. In 2005-06 a construction firm, K&C Group, bought the club and renamed it Etimesgut Sekerspor with the help from the Etimesgut municipality. At this point many fading Turkish football stars such as Ahmet Dursun and Sergen Yalcin were brought in to bring more attention to the club (and, consequently, the construction firm that had bought the club). In one writer’s words they were becoming “Turkey’s Chelsea”, which was definitely not a good thing in many fan’s eyes. In 2010-11 the club moved to another of Ankara’s districts and became Beypazari Sekerspor, in 2011-12 the club became Akyurt Sekerspor, and in 2012-13 it became Camlidere Sekerspor. Only in 2013-14, when the club could no longer attract sponsorship from an Ankara district’s municipality, did the club revert to its original name. Then, in February of 2014, the club was kicked off of the sugar factory’s grounds since they were unable to pay the rent, even though the sugar factory allegedly had a fund of 60 million Turkish Liras that was supposed to go to the club. The club’s various moves and name changes from 2005 to 2014 were symptomatic of the club’s gradually becoming an advertisement—a business entity—rather than being a sports club. And now, it seems, the club has moved onto being a political advertisement; perhaps it is part of “post-industrial football”?
Sekerspor Logos Through The Years: Images Courtesy Of: https://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turanspor
Maybe—but it is also part of a larger trend, the extreme politicization of daily life in Turkey. The ultra-nationalists of the MHP have been emboldened by their election success and are looking to make their presence felt everywhere, including on the football field, as a bulwark against any Kurdish success in the wake of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) electoral gains. Ultra-nationalist sentiment in Turkey has risen at an alarming rate following the elections of early June, with MHP members ransacking Thailand’s consulate in Istanbul and assaulting Korean tourists in Istanbul’s main tourist district following alleged mistreatment of ethnically Turkish Uyghurs in Western China. Even the government has gotten involved in this “rally around the flag”; regarding a possible Turkish war with Syria some of the rhetoric has focused on a Turkmen minority and the dangers they are facing. After the elections the AKP-led Turkish government is facing a crisis and, sadly, they see the solution in nationalism. Apparently such sentiments have also stretched to the footballing world, at the expense of one of Turkish football’s oldest teams.
They Don’t Make Shirts–Or Clubs–Like they Used To. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.tribundergi.com/haber/dunya-tersine-donse-sekerspor