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Crowd Trouble Mars UEFA Europa League Clash Between Besiktas and Olympique Lyon: What the Media Won’t Say About the Events

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European football’s second tier competition, the Europa League, is often derided for being less exciting than its more illustrious big brother, the UEFA Champions League. This week, the Europa League defied the preconceptions by providing a lot of unexpected excitement, albeit for the wrong reasons. The April 13 2017 quarterfinal match between Turkish side Besiktas JK and French side Olympique Lyon started 45 minutes late because of crowd violence, pitting fans of the two teams against one another and prompting a pitch invasion before the match.

While the unprecedented level of violence is alarming—and not to mention extremely disappointing—it also raises many questions. Why did this kind of violence happen at this particular match, and at this particular time? Who is to blame for it; Turkish supporters or French supporters? I hope to answer these questions by putting forth two theories. Likely, the truth is somewhere in between, but it is a lot more of an interpretation than much of what I have seen provided in main-stream media outlets.

As would be expected after an event like this, both sides blamed one another. The Turkish news media (especially the pro-government daily Sabah) blames the French police and supporters. Their articles carry headlines like “French Hooligans Attack Besiktas Fans!” and “French Police Attack Besiktas Fans”. In the mean time, Lyon’s president Jean-Michel Aulas claims that it is Besiktas fans who are to blame. Mr. Aulas hyperbolically said “We can always say that the match organiser has to face these issues but either we make stadiums that make it possible to do family football or we build blockhouses with barbed wire. It is not football that you love”. In the end, UEFA found that no one was innocent in this ugly situation and charged both teams.

Unfortunately, much of the foreign media took the blame game to the next level by strongly accusing the Turkish fans. In this regard British daily/tabloid The Sun was the most egregious, and their piece of photo-journalism, written by Gary Stonehouse, is a poor and misguided attempt at journalism; the pictures don’t even match the captions!

 

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The Young Girl in the Turkish Flag Hat Is Portrayed as “Launching a Terrifying Attack” By the Sun. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/3328924/europa-league-clash-between-lyon-and-besiktas-delayed-as-thousands-of-fans-pile-onto-pitch-following-violence-in-stands/

 

The caption here reads “The travelling Besiktas supporters launched a terrifying attack on the home end”, yet in the picture we clearly see a group of masked men clad in black—with one wielding a metal rod—attacking a group of Besiktas supporters including a young girl with a Turkish flag hat! Unless this terrified young girl is a hardened football hooligan, I am unsure how Mr. Stonehouse could characterize this scene as one of Turkish supporters attacking innocent French supporters. The Sun’s piece is also keen on pointing out how scared “the children” were (one caption reads “A small child snapped along with thousands of Lyon fans fleeing onto the pitch in terror”) yet conspicuously ignores the plight of the terrified young Turkish girl.

 

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The Sun Is Cleary Concerned About The Well-Being of “The Children”…As Long As They Aren’t Turkish, Apparently. Images Courtesy Of: https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/3328924/europa-league-clash-between-lyon-and-besiktas-delayed-as-thousands-of-fans-pile-onto-pitch-following-violence-in-stands/

 

Unfortunately, this is a prime example of a biased—and perhaps xenophobic—press. Even the image with the caption “Besiktas fans launched fireworks and missiles into the home end” is misleading, one can figure it out just by looking at the image. Clearly it is the masked hooligans, again clad in black, from the French side that are attacking the Besiktas fans (on the left) who are seen running in the opposite direction. Unfortunately The Sun seem to have lost their ethical sense and chose to run a biased story rather than do their job—provide unbiased journalism.

 

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Clearly It Is the Masked Men In Black (From the Lyon Side) Who Are Attacking The Turkish Fans (In White and Red, Mainly); It Is As If the Captions Describe a Different Event. Images Courtesy Of: https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/3328924/europa-league-clash-between-lyon-and-besiktas-delayed-as-thousands-of-fans-pile-onto-pitch-following-violence-in-stands/

 

Given this example of poor journalism, it is clear that a better explanation for what happened is necessary. While there was violence both inside and outside the stadium, it appears that there is no way to establish blame at this point. This is why I will put forth two theories; it is likely that the truth lies somewhere in between:

  • The violence pregame was planned as a way to stoke the fires of Turkish nationalism before the critical referendum on Sunday 16 April 2017 in Turkey.
  • The violence during the game was a planned attack by ultra-nationalist and far-right French hooligans as a response to the pre-game fighting and is indicative of rising Islamophobia in Europe.

In terms of the first theory, we must first understand that the fighting before the match makes little sense. Besiktas—in this Europea League Campaign alone—faced teams from two countries with which Turkey has (geo)political tensions. Two rounds ago Besiktas faced Israeli side Hapoel Beer-Sheba, and the most interesting thing to happen was that some of Besiktas’ board members laid a wreath at a bust commemorating Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. One round ago Besiktas faced Greek side Olympiakos Piraeus (who got into a Twitter spate with Osmanlispor, the Turkish side they faced earlier in the competition) and the matches were played without visiting fans. Given that both of these matches carried political tension but went off without a hitch, the situation in Lyon raises questions.

Lyon President Jean-Michel Aulas said that shops were damaged before the match, and The Sun (in a different piece) reported that “Fans were snapped angrily clashing with armoured police, most wearing black signalling the club’s Ultras – and some waving the Turkish flag and letting off smoke bombs”. Here it should be noted that Besiktas’ “Ultras”—known as Carsi—do not look like the gentleman below who is pictured attacking stewards.

 

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The Above Image–of Men In Black Tracksuits Attacking Stewards–Does Not Fit Carsi At All; They Look More Like Hired Thugs. Images Courtesy Of: https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/3328782/besiktas-fans-clash-with-french-police-in-violent-scenes-in-lyon/

 

In fact, Carsi gained notoriety for protesting against the government in 2013 and have a reputation for their liberal stance on social issues; they are not a group known for wanton violence. The key issue seems to be that, as the Lyon president noted, many fans entered the Turkish section without tickets. Sports Illustrated reported that “Lyon’s director of security, Annie Saladin, said about 50 Turkish fans forced their way inside the stadium and were responsible for the trouble”. Again, this is not something that Carsi are known for doing; having attended a Besiktas away match in London I can attest to the fact that the Carsi fans I met were largely rule-abiding decent human beings. So what happened in Lyon?

Given the history of framing Carsi (the pitch invasion at a 2013 Besiktas-Galatasaray derby comes to mind) by blaming them for crowd violence in order to discredit the group after they participated in anti-government protests, it is possible that this event is a similar framing. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lofty goals for Turkey—reiterated in an editorial for the daily Sabah on 15 April 2017 where he speaks of plans for as far off dates as 2053 and 2071–and he cannot afford to lose in Sunday 16 April’s nation-wide referendum which would give him executive power. Given this obsession, it is not unlikely to believe that he took a page out of Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s playbook: stoke the fires of nationalism through soccer hooliganism. In this past summer’s European championships, Russian fans clashed with British fans while Putin mocked the violence. Later, it became clear that the Russian “hooligans” had ties to the Kremlin.

Regarding the case in Lyon, it is possible that either Erdogan sent fans from the Turkish community living in Europe to cause trouble or members of the European Turkish community went of their own accord to cause trouble. In either case, the troublemakers knew that the response from police would solidify the “Us vs. Them” narrative that Mr. Erdogan feeds on: the narrative that Turkey is a Muslim nation bullied by Europe and that—in order to stand up to this injustice—Turkey must be strong and, therefore, allow Mr. Erdogan to have complete power to “strengthen” the country. Even Mr. Erdogan’s response to the Lyon events carries an unprovoked denial: “The match is happening in France, there is no Erdogan there. If the French [fans] went onto the field that is dangerous. I suppose there have been some changes there too lately […]”. Why would Mr. Erdogan voluntarily tie himself to this event, as he does in the first sentence, if he wasn’t involved?

The second theory is that the French fans came looking for a fight. The rush with which Lyon’s president—and much of the European media—moved to blame Turkish fans for the violence suggests a tacit acknowledgement that the French fans held some culpability. The images provided above also tell an important part of the story. Scenes of French fans clad in black and attacking children with metal rods—or screaming, shirtless, on the pitch—do not give the impression of an innocent group. Quite the contrary, they look like members of a paramilitary group.

 

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The Section of Lyon Fans “Reacting To their Turkish Attackers” Don’t Look So Innocent To Me. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/3328924/europa-league-clash-between-lyon-and-besiktas-delayed-as-thousands-of-fans-pile-onto-pitch-following-violence-in-stands/

 

Given the recent incident involving the bombing of German side Borussia Dortmund’s team bus (initially blamed on Islamic terrorists) and the rising tide of terrorism in Western Europe, it is quite possible that some of the French fans came ready to fight the Besiktas fans because they represented Turkey, a Muslim country. In short, Lyon’s fans may have been expressing the kind of Islamophobia that has been on the rise in Europe recently; they are not innocent.

Unfortunately, much of the Western media has ignored the guilt of Lyon’s fans. Besiktas’ main fan group, Carsi, has sent out a series of tweets detailing the atrocities committed by Lyon’s fans. It is also important to note that on 11 April 2017 Carsi Tweeted a warning to visiting fans, telling them to not travel in small groups, wear team colors, or respond to any agitations; Carsi was aware of the possibility that there could be trouble in Lyon which leads me to believe that they would not go out looking for trouble.

 

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Carsi Sends a Message To Traveling Fans Urging Them To Not Respond to Provocation From Home Fans In Lyon. Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/forzabesiktas?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

 

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Carsi’s Twitter Feed Points Out the Errors In the Western Media Narrative. Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/forzabesiktas?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

 

Once again, I do not believe that Besiktas’ “Ultras” themselves–the “real” ones–had anything to do with the horrible scenes we saw unfold in Lyon. Rather, it seems as if the match was used in order to further different narratives concerning Turkey and its relationship with Europe. I don’t know which is sadder: that football is being tarnished to further political goals, or that Western media cannot separate fact from fiction? On the other hand, what is important to recognize is that this was certainly not the work of real football fans; it is instead a classic example of what happens when politics gets mixed up with football.  Given that matches in the Turkish league have been postponed this weekend due to Sunday’s referendum, we are likely to see politics mix further with Turkish football in the coming weeks.

 

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As The Banner Shows, Many Of the Besiktas “Fans” Came From Europe, In this Case Berlin. It is Likely that the Majority Were Not Part of Carsi’s Core Support From Istanbul. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/sportsnews/article-4410138/Lyon-Besiktas-fans-fight-pitch.html

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For Those Who Think The French Fans Are All Innocent, This Is A Picture That Speaks A Thousand Words. Thanks To The Daily Mail For Correcting The Sun‘s Egregious Error In Reporting. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/sportsnews/article-4410138/Lyon-Besiktas-fans-fight-pitch.html

As the Geopolitical Rivalry Between Turkey and Greece Reveals Itself in Football (again), How Does It Reflect Current Views Towards Nationalism and the Nation?

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After Osmanlispor’s European season came crashing to an end following a 0-3 loss at home to Greece’s Olympiakos, the story of the match has slowly revealed itself to be more than just football itself: It is a story that involves an age old geopolitical rivalry that is being re-interpreted in the context of a world-system that is in flux. Globalism or localism? Is the response to globalism chauvinist nationalism that pits countries against one another in a zero-sum game, or is it a more civilized form of nationalism that views countries as equal actors on a world stage? While this struggle has played out most prominently in Great Britain’s decision to leave the European Union during “Brexit” and the election of Donald Trump in the United States, it is a struggle that is far from over. Interestingly, the struggle even played itself out in a relatively insignificant Europa League tie between Turkish side Osmanlispor and Greek side Olympiakos FC.

Scholars of history will be familiar with the Greco-Turkish rivalry, a contentious relationship rooted in geopolitics since the time of the Ottoman Empire. Given the history, any matchup in European football between Greek and Turkish sides is bound to be a contentious affair. This year’s match was no exception since Osmanlispor itself is a team that represents the neo-Ottoman identity that the current Turkish government is building itself around.

“Osmanli” is Turkish for Ottoman; Osmanlispor FK can be loosely translated as “Ottomansport Football Club”. The team was originally Ankara Buyuksehir Belediyespor, the team of the Ankara municipality, and run by controversial Ankara Mayor Ibrahim Melih Gokcek before being re-named to “Osmanlispor”. While the history is complicated, the team is, clearly, the team of the government. Their “Ottoman” name is not just a coincidence; it is meant to re-enforce the neo-Ottoman visions of the ruling government in the field of sports. The team’s main fan group Akincilar even have a Twitter handle that is written in Arabic characters while the picture they Tweeted ahead of the Olympiakos match features players charging out of a sepia-toned mist; it is an image evocative of historic art depicting the Ottoman cavalry charging into battle.

 

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The picture Osmanlispor’s Fan Group Tweeted Ahead of the Olympiakos Match Features Players Charging Out of a Sepia-Toned Mist. Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/OSMANLISPOR_FK

 

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The Image Tweeted By Osmanlispor’s Fans Is Thematically Similar to Artwork Depicting the Ottoman Cavalry (Sepahis) Charging into Battle Out of a Cloud Of Dust. Image Courtesy Of: https://postimg.cc/image/5pa34tsij/

 

This kind of neo-Ottomanism is loosely connected to increasing religiosity and Turkish nationalism as well. Ahmet Gokcek’s (the son of Ibrahim Melih Gokcek) tweets show this synthesis well. Using football as a base, he sends messages that combine notions of Turkish nationalism with Islamic rhetoric. The first Tweet came after the first leg draw with Olympiakos—“Elhamdulillah” means “Praise be to Allah” in Arabic. His other Tweets, centered around the matches of Turkish teams in European competition, combine similar religious messages with images of the Turkish flag and the badges of Turkish football clubs: One says “May the Lord not embarrass our teams in Europe”, with Mr. Gokcek’s signature beneath the words. The team’s coach, Mustafa Resit Akcay, himself said (before the second leg) that “we [Osmanlispor] will feel pressure because of our name and because of representing our country”. Here we clearly see a connection between the nation and the Ottoman past.

 

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Ahmet Gokcek Thanks Allah For Osmanlispor’s Draw. Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/OSMANLISPOR_FK

 

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Ahmet Gokcek’s Tweets Show the Relationship Between Turkish Nationalism, Islamism, Neo-Ottomanism, and Football. The First Carries an Image of the Turkish Flag Resembling a Blood Stain (Connecting the Ideas of War and Nationalism); The Latter Tweet Carries the Caption “Our Prayers Are With You…” While the Quote in the Image Reads “May the Lord Not Embarrass Our Teams in Europe” in the Context of the Turkish Star and Crescent. Images Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/ahmetgokcek?lang=en.

 

Perhaps the most interesting pre-game Tweet came before the first leg when Istanbul Basaksehirspor (another team essentially created by the ruling AKP government) wished Osmanlispor luck by saying “Good luck on your trip to Byzantine”. Clearly Basaksehirspor’s Tweeters are not very familiar with history since “Byzantium” was the Byzantine Empire’s name for…Istanbul, and the Byzantine Empire encompassed both Anatolia and Piraeus (where Olympiakos is from). In short, the Tweet can be seen as framing the match in terms of a historical rivalry between the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires that has carried over to the modern nation-states of Turkey and Greece.

 

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Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/ibfk2014?lang=en

 

After Olympiakos’ victory some segments of the Turkish press were upset at an Olympiakos tweet which returned the favor. Olympiakos Tweeted—in English and Greek—a message that reads “A triumph for all Greeks! Greece who knows how to win!”. The image accompanying the tweet consists of Olympiakos’ badge and the Greek flag; it is a fusion of football and Greek nationalism—perhaps a deliberate fusion in direct response to Basaksehirspor’s Tweets (and Ahmet Gokcek’s Osmanlispor Tweets) which fuse Turkish nationalism and neo-Ottomanism.

It is clear that the pre-match and post-match Tweets from both sides reflect forms of chauvinistic nationalism. Yet, the Greek press (according to Turkish media) actually praised the Osmanlispor fans for a banner during  the match which read—in Greek, Turkish, and English—“Dear Neighbor Friendship Will Win” [Author’s Note: The Turkish, “Dostluk Kazansin Komsu” translates more accurately as “Dear Neighbor May Friendship Win”. For it to be “Friendship Will Win” it would have to have been phrased as “Dostluk Kazanir”].

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.milliyet.com.tr/komsu-bu-pankarti-begendi-osmanlispor-2402475-skorerhaber/

 

The banner itself reflects the disconnect between traditional nationalist representations of the nation and the present pressure for “globalism” in the face of globalization. While Osmanlispor’s fans tried to put out a public message of “fair play”, the team’s fans—after Olympiakos’ first goal—ended up throwing objects onto the field (a fact only reported in a few media outlets, such as this play-by-play account of the match).

 

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Please See Minute 54. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.karar.com/spor-haberleri/canli-anlatim-osmanlispor-olympiakos-kac-kac-baskentte-kritik-uefa-mucadelesi-anlik-anlatim-397490#

 

The message on the banner was just words; not only was it poorly translated but it was—given the fans’ later actions—also not heartfelt. On the other side, while the Greek press may have praised Osmanlispor’s message of friendship, ahead of the match they were busy claiming that the grass in Osmanlispor’s stadium was painted green to cover up the fact that it was dead. Again, the spirit of “fair play” is only alive in the discourse surrounding the banner in the stadium; everywhere else the discussion (from both sides) is quite antagonistic.

This tension between what nationalism should be—and how it should be expressed—in the current international climate is a fascinating one. Personally, I do not believe that the divide need be one between chauvinistic nationalism driven by the perceived superiority of one nation over others on the one hand and over-hyped messages of (often faked) “friendship” and “tolerance” on the other. Rather, it should be an acceptance that countries—like football teams—all exist in one inter-connected environment. This does not mean that one country (or football team) is intrinsically better than another (this is the kind of sentiment that encourages violent forms of nationalism and fandom—in some cases hooliganism) but it does recognize that each country has a right to put itself first. The answer to what nationalism “should” be in the context of a rapidly changing international environment is still open to debate, and it will be interesting to see how this process is reflected in the football world going forward.

Live by the Sword, Die By the Sword: Globalization, Sports, and Media in Turkey

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Given the recent geopolitical events in Turkey and the wider Middle East, it is no wonder that Turkey is swiftly being seen as a “dangerous” destination. After the United States ordered the families of Consulate staff to leave Istanbul, UEFA made a statement to reassure Manchester United fans ahead of the team’s visit to Istanbul. The Express reported that UEFA told Sky Sports: “Whilst there is no information that the threat to US citizens in Turkey also extends to UK citizens, UEFA has today sought the necessary security guarantees from the Turkish Football Federation and the local public authorities regarding the visit of Manchester United and their supporters to Istanbul.” The Manchester Evening News also reported that United fans visiting Istanbul for the match would be given an armed police escort to and from the stadium. The letter sent to fans read “Manchester United advise all fans to remain in the Taksim Square area of Istanbul ahead of kick-off, where a security bus service available to catch outside the Dolmabahce Mosque will run to Fenerbahce’s Sukru Saracoglu stadium. The hour-long journey will be under armed police guard”. Never mind that Taksim square would be the last place I would want to be in Istanbul in terms of safety, but then again I’m not sure that Manchester United’s staff has any real knowledge of Istanbul—other than, of course, that it is “dangerous”. After all, another UK sports figure, golfer Rory Mcllroy, pulled out of the Turkish Airlines Open golf tournament on 31 October 2016 citing security figures. Once again, I am not sure that Mr. Mcllroy has a deep knowledge of Turkey—or really any other place, for that matter—either; he also pulled out of the Olympics due to fear over the Zika virus.

I do not, of course, blame either the Manchester United club or Mr. Mcllroy for their fears. The fact that Turkey has become so unstable in recent years is directly tied to globalization; the conflict in Syria has spread across the Middle East, fomented by backers in Russia, Europe, the United States, Turkey, Iran, and the Gulf. While Turkish society (and by extension, sports) embrace globalization for its economic benefits, the country itself—in the context of geopolitical reality—falls victim to the globalization of conflict. The state can live by the sword of globalization but must also be prepared to die by the sword of globalization.

The third axis of this kind of globalization—that one that exacerbates the fear portion—is, of course, the media. The stories written tend to increase, rather than decrease, misconceptions about the country and disseminate them to the global media. For starters, none of the three British papers cited even know what the capital of Turkey is:

30 October 2016-Manchester Evening News: “Istanbul has a history of football violence. The capital was recently the centre of an attempted military coup in Turkey.”

31 October 2016-The Express: “But UEFA are concerned that recent terrorist attacks in the Turkish capital and a failed military coup could affect safety of travelling fans.”

1 November 2016-The Mirror: “English football has a troubled relationship with the Turkish capital – two Leeds fans were stabbed to death before the Uefa Cup semi-final in 2000.”

The capital, of course, is Ankara, so to expect neutral or objective reporting from outlets with such amateurish editing standards may be asking too much. And that is without even getting into the content. The Manchester Daily news, in back to back sentences, links “football violence” to an attempted military coup. This, of course, is misleading to the reader. (Never mind, also, that they believe a city can be the “centre” of an attempted military coup; a city could be the “focus” of an attempted military coup, but probably not a “centre” of one). The Mirror, taking a different approach, links Istanbul to hooligan violence in 2000 with no context at all. The Express provided the content that is nearest to anything remotely objective.

As a humorous anecdote, The Mirror added a story about Manchester United’s 1993 visit to Istanbul for their tie with Fenerbahce’s arch-rivals, Galatasaray. United famously crashed out after the tie, but it remains in football-fan folklore as the “Midnight Express” of football. Thankfully, the Mirror added Sir Alex Ferguson’s humor to their piece, writing “Even hardman boss Sir Alex Ferguson suggested ‘the police were even more frightening than the fans’, though he did add he’d seen worse at a Glasgow wedding”. Sir Alex Ferguson’s humor aside, the point here is twofold. The first point is that Turkey’s rise (driven by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)), has been characterized by an unquestioning desire to support and join the global capitalist system and neo-liberal economics. The country lived by the sword when foreign capital came streaming in, they began dying by the sword when the Syrian civil war (which the government, along with a number of other external actors, exacerbated) began to spill over the border. The second point is that global media is rarely neutral; the supposedly benevolent journalist is rarely interested in telling the full truth. Rather, they tell the “truth” that pays the bills—and that money tends to come from those who (again) benefit from the global capitalist system.

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Cantona Escorted Off the Pitch (Top); United Are Welcomed To “Hell” at the Old Ali Sami Yen Stadium in 1993 (Bottom). Images Courtesy Of: http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/manchester-uniteds-bryan-robson-istanbul-9173277

 

Author’s Note: As I publish this, Turkey is experiencing the latest repercussions of the globalization of conflict I mentioned above. A blast has hit police headquarters in Diyarbakir, the main city of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, after 11 pro-Kurdish MPs of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were detained. At the time of writing internet services–which represent the globalized world–such as WhatsApp Messenger and Twitter have been shut down in Turkey.

Turkey Decides Against Turning Back the Clocks, But What About the UEFA Champions League? The Relationship Between Politics and Culture

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On 7 September 2016 the Turkish cabinet decided to observe Daylight Savings Time (DST) year round, and the clocks will not be turning back on 30 October. I will let the Hurriyet Daily News explain:

Before this newly introduced practice, Turkey was acting in accordance with European countries regarding the practice’s [Daylight Savings Time] beginning and ending dates. The decision means that Turkey will be three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in winter as well as summer and two hours ahead of continental Europe in winter.

Personally, I have no qualms with this issue since I believe that the United States should follow this practice as well. After all, the days after the time change—in both Autumn and Spring—are often deadly. Time Magazine notes that DST can be dangerous. Time quotes Steve Calandrillo, a University of Washington Law Professor who studies DST polices:

More people are active during the evening, including kids, and the additional sunlight that DST provides helps provide drivers with the visibility necessary to see pedestrians. “At 5 pm virtually everyone in society is awake,” he [Mr. Calandrillo] said. “There are far more people asleep at 7 in the morning than at 7 in the evening.”

Time adds that:

Adding an hour of sunlight in the evening year-round would save the lives of more than 170 pedestrians annually, according to a 2004 study in Accident Analysis and Prevention. The lives of nearly 200 vehicle occupants would also theoretically be saved by the change.

Others note that “the Monday following the start of daylight saving time (DST) is a particularly bad one for heart attacks, traffic accidents, workplace injuries and accidental deaths.” In fact, there is a twenty-five percent increase in heart attacks on the Monday after DST starts compared to a normal Monday, while

a researcher from the University of British Columbia who analyzed three years of data on U.S. fatalities reported that accidental deaths of any kind are more likely in the days following a spring forward. Their 1996 analysis showed a 6.5 percent increase, which meant that about 200 more accidental deaths occurred immediately after the start of DST than would typically occur in a given period of the same length.

According to data presented in one article in the Los Angeles Times, staying on DST year-round would mean “195 fewer drivers and passengers and 171 fewer pedestrians would die each year.” Indeed, a New York City news station says “A study analyzing a decade’s worth of data from the Fatal Accident Reporting System showed a 17-percent increase in traffic fatalities on the Monday after clocks spring forward”. This is certainly food for thought.

Meanwhile in Turkey (and the ethnically divided island of Cyprus) there have been negative reactions to the decision, which I also understand. Commentator Ismet Berkan notes that (and I must admit he has a point): “In Istanbul, in winter months, the sun will rise around 7:30 a.m. Besides the unpleasantness of waking up in the dark, we may even leave the house in the dark.” No one likes getting up in the dark—after all, it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the unpleasantness of joining the rat race—and this is something I can sympathize with. Another issue, that Zulfikar Dogan makes clear in his column for Al-Monitor, is that the decision to make DST permanent might be influenced by a desire to become closer to the Arab states:

Opponents claim there are religious motives behind the decision. Turkey will now be in the same time zone with Saudi Arabia and most Middle Eastern and Islamic countries. Theologians have been constantly bickering over prayer times, Ramadan hours, and the beginning and end of Eid holidays. With the new arrangement, prayer times will be the same as in Mecca and Medina. There were also objections that the real intention of the change is to distance Turkey from Europe. Some critics even said Turkey’s switch to Saudi time might well be a prelude to changing Turkey’s weekend to Fridays instead of Sundays.

Aside from the economic concerns—being on the same time as Europe helps businesses, after all—Mr. Dogan brings up another interesting point: the cultural dimension of sports may be one segment of society that will be most affected:

The decree will really shake up sports schedules. The European football body UEFA starts Champions’ League games at 9:45 p.m. and European League [UEFA Europa League] games at 8 p.m. and 10:05 p.m. With the new hours, Turkish teams will be starting their games at 10:45 p.m., 9 p.m. and 11:05 p.m. local time. Games will end at midnight or in the early hours of the next morning. In major cities such as Ankara and Istanbul, fans won’t be able to return home before 2 a.m. or 3 a.m.

The fact that Turkey’s membership in UEFA (The Union of European Football Associations) is in itself rooted in geopolitics (like Israel’s membership in UEFA) makes this development especially interesting. In order to tie Turkey to the West during the Cold War, the country was admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on 18 February 1952 and, two years later, it became a member of UEFA after the football governing body was formed in 1954. As is the case with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), another intergovernmental organization, many of the republics of the former Soviet Union joined UEFA immediately after the demise of the USSR. These kinds of international bodies—whether focused on military power (like NATO), or soft power (like UEFA)—help to form the definition of a country and “where it stands”, so to speak, culturally. Is it European, a member of the West? Or is it, instead, an “eastern” and culturally “othered” state? The decision to change Turkey’s time, in many ways, affects this relationship with Europe in the realm of “soft power”.

Whether Turkey’s decision to stay on DST year-round was rooted in science or politics, it is important to realize the role of culture in relation to politics. Since the UEFA Champions League represents an important part of Turkey’s relationship to Europe—allowing Turkish football teams (and by extension, Turkish society) a chance to compete with Europe—distancing the country from the competition may well serve political motives. We shall see what happens in time (pardon the pun), but the important thing to recognize is that culture—and sport is a big part of culture—can often be used as political tool, and the modern nation state is not oblivious to it.

The Case for the UEFA Europa League: Final 2015 Warsaw

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Why watch the Europa League final you might ask. It is, after all, Europe’s secondary club competition. For me, Wednesday’s Europa League final in Warsaw between Sevilla and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk means a lot more. It means watching a competition between teams that are not from Europe’s metropolises and part of European football’s financial elite. Certainly Dnipropetrovsk and Seville are not cities that conjure thoughts of Michelin restaurants and haute couture. Therein lies the beauty of the competition. I have compiled a list of participants in the quarter-final stages of both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League from the last five seasons in order to show the relative stadium sizes and city sizes of all teams involved in the latter stages of both competitions.

City Sizes StadiumSizes

The results show that, on average, teams participating in the UEFA Europa League hail from much smaller cities and as such play in smaller stadiums. The Europa League has also been much kinder on teams from countries outside of Western Europe—indeed this year’s final pits an eastern European side against a western European side. Three times in the last five years there have been multiple teams from outside of western Europe represented in the last eight of the UEFA Europa League; the last time multiple teams where represented in the last eight of the UEFA Champions League was the 1998-99 edition of the tournament. Additionally the Europa League has tended to see more countries represented—not since the 1998-99 season has the Europa League/UEFA Cup had less than five different countries represented in the last eight. The UEFA Champions League, on the other hand, has seen just four countries represented in the last eight for two out of the last seven seasons.

europaLeague Champions League

For me, football is about the fans and parity—any side should be able to win on any given day, free from the constraints placed on the modern game due to finances. This is not to say that participants in the UEFA Europa League are not involved in the financial side of the game—it is an aspect of today’s world football that is unavoidable, and Dnipro are certainly a team with a healthy budget (http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/26/sport/europa-league-dnipro-ukraine-sevilla/). Just, in my mind, participants in the UEFA Europa League are closer to true grassroots football and not so-overly reliant on the financial side of the game as participants in the UEFA Champion’s League are. I have provided statistics below in addition to graphs in order to present my findings. I know that many might prefer the glamour of the UEFA Champion’s League and that is fine—I just would like to point out that, sometimes, all that glitters is not gold and that the closer we are to true grassroots football in the face of advancing industrial football the closer we are to enjoying a purer form of the game. That is why I will be rooting for Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in this year’s final—enjoy the football!

 

KEY: Team-City/Country/City Population-Stadium/Capacity-Seats Per Person-Most Expensive Season Ticket/Cheapest Season Ticket

“Western Europe” refers to: The “Power” leagues in Austria, Benelux, the British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland.

“Eastern Europe” refers to: Eastern Europe including former Eastern Bloc nations and Greece and Cyprus, Non-EU Countries (Turkey, Israel), and Scandinavia. Essentially teams either geographically located in the eastern half of the continent and non “power” leagues such as those in Scandinavia.

2014-2015 CL Quarters:

Atletico De Madrid-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Vicente Calderón 54,907-1 seat for every 57.7 residents

FC Barcelona-Barcelona/Spain/1,620,943-Camp Nou 99,354-1 seat for every 16.3 residents

FC Bayern Munchen-Munich/Germany/1,407,836-Allianz Arena 75,000-1 seat for every 18.8 residents

Juventus-Turin/Italy/911,823-Juventus Stadium 41,254-1 seat for every 22 residents

AS Monaco FC-Monaco/Monaco (France)/36,371-Stade Louis II 18,523-1 seat for every 2.1 residents

Paris Saint Germain-Paris/France/2,273,305-Stade de France (St. Denis) 81,338-1 seat for every 27.9 residents

FC Porto-Oporto/Portugal/1,474,000-Estadio do Dragao 50,431-1 seat for every 29 residents

Real Madrid CF-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Santiago Bernabeu 81,044-1 seat for every 39.1 residents

 

Average City Size: 1,756,843.5 (Size of Winner’s City: ?, Cities Under 500,000: 1, Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 1, Cities Over 1M: 5)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Average Stadium Size: 62,731.4 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: ?, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 1, Stadiums over 50K: 6)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Total Countries Represented: 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 8

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 0

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 18

Teams (Out of 32) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 22 (69%)

Teams (Out of 32) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 10 (31%)

 

2014-2015 Europa League Quarters:

Club Brugge KV-Bruges/Belgium/117,170-Jan Breydel Stadium 29,472-1 seat for every 4.0 residents

FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk-Dnipropetrovsk/Ukraine/993,091-Dnipro Arena 31,003-1 seat for every 32.0 residents

FC Dynamo Kiev-Kiev/Ukraine/2,847,200-NSC Olimpiyskiy 70,050-1 seat for every 40.6 residents

ACF Fiorentina-Florence/Italy/379,180-Stadio Artemio Franchi 47,290-1 seat for every 8.0 residents

SSC Napoli-Naples/Italy/990,000-San Paolo Stadium 60,240-1 seat for every 16.4 residents

Sevilla FC-Seville/Spain/703,021-Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán 45,500-1 seat for every 15.5 residents

VFL Wolfsburg-Wolfsburg/Germany/122,457-Volkswagen Arena 30,000-1 seat for every 4.1 residents

**FC Zenit-St. Petersburg/Russia/4,879,566-Petrovsky Stadium 21,405-1 seat for every 228.0 residents

 

Average City Size: 1,378,960.6 (Size of Winner’s City: ?, Cities Under 500,000: 3, Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 3, Cities Over 1M: 2)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: 878,874.1

Average Stadium Size: 41,870 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: ?, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 5, Stadiums over 50K: 2)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants (**): 44,793.6

Total Countries Represented: 6

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 3

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 26

Teams (Out of 48) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 24 (50%)

Teams (Out of 48) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 24 (50%)

 

2013-2014 CL Quarters

Atletico De Madrid-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Vicente Calderón 54,907-1 seat for every 57.7 residents

FC Barcelona-Barcelona/Spain/1,620,943-Camp Nou 99,354-1 seat for every 16.3 residents-

FC Bayern Munchen-Munich/Germany/1,407,836-Allianz Arena 75,000-1 seat for every 18.8 residents-

Borussia Dortmund-Dortmund/Germany/575,944-Signal Iduna Park 81,624-1 seat for every 7.1 residents

Chelsea FC-London/England/9,787,426-Stamford Bridge 41,837-1 seat for every 233.9 residents

Manchester United FC-Manchester/England/502,900-Old Trafford 75,635-1 seat for every 6.6 residents

Paris Saint Germain-Paris/France/2,273,305-Stade de France (St. Denis) 81,338-1 seat for every 27.9 residents

(W) Real Madrid CF-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Santiago Bernabeu 81,044-1 seat for every 39.1 residents

 

Average City Size: 2,812,353 (Size of Winner’s City: 3,165,235, Cities Under 500,000: 0, Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 2, Cities Over 1M: 5)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Average Stadium Size: 73,842.4 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 81,044, Stadiums under 25,000: 0, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 1, Stadiums over 50K: 7)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Total Countries Represented: 4

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 8

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 0

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 18

Teams (Out of 32) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 24 (75%)

Teams (Out of 32) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 8 (25%)

 

2013-2014 Europa League Quarters

AZ Alkmaar-Alkmaar and Zaanstreak/Netherlands/95,076-AFAS Stadion 17,023-1 seat for ever 5.6 residents

**FC Basel-Basel/Switzerland/173,808-St. Jakob-Park 38,512-1 seat for every 4.5 residents

**SL Benfica-Lisbon/Portugal/2,666,000-Estadio da Luz 65,647-1 seat for every 40.1 residents

**Juventus-Turin/Italy/911,823-Juventus Stadium 41,254-1 seat for every 22 residents

Olympique Lyonnais-Lyon/France/491,268-Stadede Gerland 41,044-1 seat for every 12.0 residents

**FC Porto-Oporto/Portugal/1,474,000-Estadio do Dragao 50,431-1 seat for every 29 residents

(W) Sevilla FC-Seville/Spain/703,021-Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán 45,500-1 seat for every 15.5 residents

Valencia CF-Valencia/Spain/809,267-Mestalla 55,000-1 seat for every 14.8 residents

 

Average City Size: 915,532.9 (Size of Winner’s City: 703,021, Cities Under 500,000: 3, Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 3, Cities Over 1M: 2)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: 524,658

Average Stadium Size: 44,301.4 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 45,500, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 4, Stadiums over 50K: 3)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants (**): 39,641.8

Total Countries Represented: 6

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 8

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 0

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 27

Teams (Out of 48) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 24 (50%)

Teams (Out of 48) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 24 (50%)

 

2012-2013 CL Quarters

FC Barcelona-Barcelona/Spain/1,620,943-Camp Nou 99,354-1 seat for every 16.3 residents-

(W) FC Bayern Munchen-Munich/Germany/1,407,836-Allianz Arena 75,000-1 seat for every 18.8 residents-

Borussia Dortmund-Dortmund/Germany/575,944-Signal Iduna Park 81,624-1 seat for every 7.1 residents

Galatasaray SK-Istanbul/Turkey/14,377,018-Turk Telekom Arena 52,652-1 seat for every 273.1 residents

Juventus-Turin/Italy/911,823-Juventus Stadium 41,254-1 seat for every 22 residents

Malaga CF-Malaga/Spain/568,507-La Rosaleda 30,044-1 seat for every 18.9 residents

Paris Saint Germain-Paris/France/2,273,305-Stade de France (St. Denis) 81,338-1 seat for every 27.9 residents

Real Madrid CF-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Santiago Bernabeu 81,044-1 seat for every 39.1 residents

 

Average City Size: 3,112,576.4 (Size of Winner’s City: 1,407,836, Cities Under 500,000: 0 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000:3 , Cities Over 1M: 5)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Average Stadium Size: 67,788.8 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 75,000, Stadiums under 25,000: 0, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 2, Stadiums over 50K: 6)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Total Countries Represented: 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 7

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 1

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 17

Teams (Out of 32) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 22 (69%)

Teams (Out of 32) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 10 (31%)

 

2012-2013 Europa League Quarters

FC Basel-Basel/Switzerland/173,808-St. Jakob-Park 38,512-1 seat for every 4.5 residents

**SL Benfica-Lisbon/Portugal/2,666,000-Estadio da Luz 65,647-1 seat for every 40.1 residents

(W) **Chelsea FC-London/England/9,787,426-Stamford Bridge 41,837-1 seat for every 233.9 residents

Fenerbahce SK-Istanbul/Turkey/14,377,018-Sukru Saracoglu Stadium 50,509-1 seat for every 284.6 residents

S.S. Lazio-Rome/Italy/2,900,000-Stadio Olimpico 72,481-1 seat for every 40.0 residents

Newcastle United FC-Newcastle upon Tyne/England/279,100-St.James’ Park 52,405-1 seat for every 5.3 residents

FC Rubin Kazan-Kazan/Russia/1,176,187-Central Stadium 25,400-1 seat for every 46.3 residents (Home games during the 2012-13 Europa League were played in Moscow).

Tottenham Hotspur FC-London/England/9,787,426-White Hart Lane 36,284-1 seat for every 269.7 residents

 

Average City Size: 5,143,370 (Size of Winner’s City: 9,787,426, Cities Under 500,000: 2 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 0, Cities Over 1M: 5)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: 4,782,256.5

Average Stadium Size: 47,884.4 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 41,837, Stadiums under 25,000: 0, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 4, Stadiums over 50K: 4)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants (**): 45,931.8

Total Countries Represented: 6

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 6

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 2

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 25

Teams (Out of 48) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 28 (58%)

Teams (Out of 48) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 20 (42%)

 

2011-12 CL Quarters

APOEL FC-Nicosia/Cyprus/239,277 (This figure is for the South’s Metro and City ONLY)-GSP Stadium 22,859-1 seat for every 10.5 residents

FC Barcelona-Barcelona/Spain/1,620,943-Camp Nou 99,354-1 seat for every 16.3 residents-

FC Bayern Munchen-Munich/Germany/1,407,836-Allianz Arena 75,000-1 seat for every 18.8 residents-

SL Benfica-Lisbon/Portugal/2,666,000-Estadio da Luz 65,647-1 seat for every 40.1 residents

(W) Chelsea FC-London/England/9,787,426-Stamford Bridge 41,837-1 seat for every 233.9 residents

Olympique Marseille-Marseille/France/850,636-Stade Velodrome 67,394-1 seat for every 12.6 residents

AC Milan-Milan/Italy/1,353,882-San Siro/Giuseppe Meazza 80,018-1 seat for every 16.9 residents

Real Madrid CF-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Santiago Bernabeu 81,044-1 seat for every 39.1 residents

 

Average City Size: 2,636,404.4 (Size of Winner’s City: 9,787,426, Cities Under 500,000: 1 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 1, Cities Over 1M: 6)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Average Stadium Size: 66,644.1 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 41,837, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 1, Stadiums over 50K: 6)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Total Countries Represented: 7

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 7

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 1

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 18

Teams (Out of 32) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 22 (69%)

Teams (Out of 32) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 10 (31%)

 

2011-12 Europa League Quarters

(W) Athletic Bilbao-Bilbao/Spain/349,356-San Mames (1913) 40,000-1 seat for every 8.7 residents

Atletico De Madrid-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Vicente Calderón 54,907-1 seat for every 57.7 residents

AZ Alkmaar-Alkmaar and Zaanstreak/Netherlands/95,076-AFAS Stadion 17,023-1 seat for ever 5.6 residents

Hannover 96-Hannover/Germany/518,386-AWD Arena (Niedersachsenstadion) 49,000-1 seat for every 10.6 residents

Metalist Kharkiv-Kharkiv/Ukraine/1,430,885-OSC Metalist 40,003-1 seat for every 35.8 residents

FC Schalke 04-Gelsenkirchen/Germany/257,850-Veltins Arena 61,973-1 seat for every 3.8 residents

Sporting CP-Lisbon/Portugal/2,666,000-Estádio José Alvalade 50,095-1 seat for every 10.9 residents

**Valencia CF-Valencia/Spain/809,267-Mestalla 55,000-1 seat for every 14.8 residents

 

Average City Size: 1,161,506.9 (Size of Winner’s City: 349,356, Cities Under 500,000: 3 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 2, Cities Over 1M: 3)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: 1,211,836.9

Average Stadium Size: 46,000 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 40,000, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 3, Stadiums over 50K: 4)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants (**): 44,714

Total Countries Represented: 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 7

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 1

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 24

Teams (Out of 48) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 27 (56%)

Teams (Out of 48) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 21 (44%)

 

2010-11 Champions League Quarters

(W) FC Barcelona-Barcelona/Spain/1,620,943-Camp Nou 99,354-1 seat for every 16.3 residents-

Chelsea FC-London/England/9,787,426-Stamford Bridge 41,837-1 seat for every 233.9 residents

Inter Milan-Milan/Italy/1,353,882-San Siro/Giuseppe Meazza 80,018-1 seat for every 16.9 residents

Manchester United FC-Manchester/England/502,900-Old Trafford 75,635-1 seat for every 6.6 residents

Real Madrid CF-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Santiago Bernabeu 81,044-1 seat for every 39.1 residents

FC Schalke 04-Gelsenkirchen/Germany/257,850-Veltins Arena 61,973-1 seat for every 3.8 residents

FC Shakhtar Donetsk-Donetsk/Ukraine/975,959-Donbass Arena 52,187-1 seat for every 18.7 residents

Tottenham Hotspur FC-London/England/9,787,426-White Hart Lane 36,284-1 seat for every 269.7 residents

 

Average City Size: 3,399,221.4 (Size of Winner’s City: 1,620943, Cities Under 500,000: 1 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 2, Cities Over 1M: 5)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Average Stadium Size: 66,041.5 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 99,354, Stadiums under 25,000: 0, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 2, Stadiums over 50K: 6)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Total Countries Represented: 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 7

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 1

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 18

Teams (Out of 32) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 22 (69%)

Teams (Out of 32) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 10 (31%)

 

2010-11 Europa League Quarters

**SL Benfica-Lisbon/Portugal/2,666,000-Estadio da Luz 65,647-1 seat for every 40.1 residents

**Sporting Braga-Braga/Portugal/181,494-Estádio Municipal de Braga 30,286-1 seat for every 6 residents

FC Dynamo Kiev-Kiev/Ukraine/2,847,200-NSC Olimpiyskiy 70,050-1 seat for every 40.6 residents

(W) FC Porto-Oporto/Portugal/1,474,000-Estadio do Dragao 50,431-1 seat for every 29 residents

PSV Eindhoven-Eindhoven/Netherlands/221,402-Philips Stadion 36,000-1 seat for every 6.2 residents

**FC Spartak Moscow-Moscow/Russia/11,503,501-Luzhniki Stadium (Used at the time) 78,360-1 seat for every 146.8 residents

**FC Twente-Enschede/Netherlands/158,004-De Grolsch Veste 30,206-1 seat for every 5.2 residents

Villareal CF-Vila-real/Spain/51,367-El Madrigal 24,890-1 seat for every 2.1 residents

 

Average City Size: 2,387,871 (Size of Winner’s City: 1,474,000, Cities Under 500,000: 4 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000:0, Cities Over 1M: 4)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: 1,148,492.3

Average Stadium Size: 48,233.8 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 50,431, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 3, Stadiums over 50K: 4)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants (**): 45,342.8

Total Countries Represented: 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 6

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 2

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 25

Teams (Out of 48) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 27 (56%)

Teams (Out of 48) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 21 (44%)

 

Champions League Quarter Final Participants Average City Sizes/Stadium Sizes

2014-15: 1,756,843.5/62,731.4 (1 Stadium with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2013-14: 2,812,353/73,842.4 (2 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2012-13: 3,112,576.4/67,788.8 (1 Stadium with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2011-12: 2,636,404.4/66,644.1 (1 Stadium with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2010-11: 3,399,221.4/66,041.5 (2 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

 

Europa League Quarter Final Participants Average City Sizes/Stadium Sizes (Excluding CL entrants)

2014-15: 1,378,960.6 (878,874.1)/41,870 (44,793.6) (3 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2013-14: 915,532.9 (524,658)/ 44,301.4 (39,641.8) (2 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2012-13: 5,143,370 (4,782,256.5)/ 47,884.4 (45,931.8) (2 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2011-12: 1,161,506.9 (1,211,836.9)/ 46,000 (44,714) (3 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2010-11: 2,387,871 (1,148,492.3)/ 48,233.8 (45,342.8) (4 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

 

Champions League Quarter Final Participants Geographic Distributions (Total Group Stage, Western Europe/Eastern Europe)

2014-15: 5 Countries, 8/0 (18 Countries, 22/10)

2013-14: 4 Countries, 8/0 (18 Countries, 24/8)

2012-13: 5 Countries, 7/1 (17 Countries, 22/10)

2011-12: 7 Countries, 7/1 (18 Countries, 22/10)

2010-11: 5 Countries, 7/1 (18 Countries, 22/10)

 

Europa League Quarter Final Participants Geographic Distributions (Total Group Stage, Western Europe/Eastern Europe)

2014-15: 6 Countries, 5/3 (26 Countries, 24/24)

2013-14: 6 Countries, 8/0 (27 Countries, 24/24)

2012-13: 6 Countries, 6/2 (25 Countries, 28/20)

2011-12: 5 Countries, 7/1 (24 Countries, 27/21)

2010-11: 5 Countries, 6/2 (25 Countries, 27/21)

 

 

 

White Hart Lane, London, England–(Tottenham Hotspur FC): Tottenham Hotspur-Besiktas JK (1-1) Matchday

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Some more pictures of White Hart Lane taken from the away supporters section during the UEFA Europa League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Besiktas JK. White Hart lane opened more than a century ago in 1899 when the first match saw a modest crowd of just 5,000. While the record attendance is an astounding 75,038, from a match in 1938, the new seating regulations mean that the current capacity is 36,284. Since this is smaller than the capacity of many Premier League stadia there are plans for reconstruction afoot. Luckily, I was able to make it out before another classic British ground fades into the past. The stadium has a cosy feeling, there is no denying that, and as a fan it feels as if you are almost on the pitch. To get there, take the Victoria line to Seven Sisters station and change for a National Rail service to White Hart Lane station.

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London Fall Football Fest 2014 (10.01.2014-10.06.2014): Six Days, Four Matches, One City

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Ölümle Yaşamı Ayıran Çizgi, Siyahla Beyazı Ayıramaz Ki . . .

The Line That Separates Life From Death Can’t Separate Black From White . . .

Those poetic lines come from Beşiktaş supporters and they became a bit of a mantra for me during my recent trip to London. It was four matches in six days, punctuated by all sorts of lessons learned on either side of lines that separate so many instances of life—things that are so close yet so far apart. One often thinks of white and black as opposites—symbolizing life and death, respectively. Yet, in the context of one football team, these two opposites are inseparable; separate they may mean two different things but together they symbolize something that is very much alive: love for one football team.

 

London Fall Football Fest Part One: The Line That Separates Football Crazy From Just Plain Crazy

 

Çocukluk aşkımsııııııın!!!!!

Sen ilk göz ağrımsıııııın!!!!

You’re my childhood love!!

You’re the first apple of my eye!!!

 

The tune—if it can even be called that—rises from a single tinny voice somewhere behind me. Imagine the most off-key singer you’ve ever heard . . . then ten times worse. This is something like that. I haven’t turned my head yet, neither has Ekin. We want to make it crystal clear that we are not with this man.

 

Kimseyi, kimseyi sevmedim senin gibiiiiii…

Sevdanın uğruna terkettim herşeyiiiii…

No one, I’ve loved no one like I’ve loved you…

I’ve abandoned everything for the sake of your passion…

 

No, we have certainly never seen this man in our life.

“John, what was our flight number?”

“Let me check . . . 519.”

“519? What kind of a flight number is that?”

“I don’t know man! It’s on the boarding pass!”

 

Hayatın anlamıııııı

GALATASARAY!!!!!!

Hayatın anlamıııııı

GALATASARAY!!!!!!

 

The meaning of life is….

GALATASARAY!!!!!

The meaning of life is….

GALATASARAY!!!!!

 

The off key-tune keeps interrupting us as we try to fill out our immigration cards. Our minds have turned to mush after traveling and now, at 12am, this one-man sideshow is really the last straw. By now others have noticed him and are starting to stare. The UK citizens line is staring, and the non-Turkish contingent in the non-UK citizens line begin to send disapproving looks his way. He seems to be oblivious as I look him over.

He is definitely a strange looking fellow. But, then again, you’ve got to be a little off to be belting out Galatasaray songs in the middle of the night below the UK BORDER sign in the passport control line at London Stansted Airport.

I just hope that his ill-timed display of team pride won’t disrupt our entry; our purpose of visit—to see some football matches—could mean we get painted with the same brush as our wayward friend in line behind us. After all, the UK BORDER sign puts us in our place. We are all guilty until proven innocent here.

 

We inch through the line at a snail’s pace, everyone is being scrutinized down to the last detail. I’m not worried about getting to where we need to go—the busses to central London run 24 hours a day from Stansted. However, I am worried about the exchanges taking place behind me.

“I can see the light! We will get the three points from Arsenal!” He sounds confident, judging by the sound of his voice. Perhaps he hasn’t watched the first five matches of the season.

“What light? Have you seen us play lately? I’m treating this as a sightseeing trip!” Someone gives him the answer I would have given.

“A sight-seeing trip?” He gets in the other man’s face. “If you’re just here to see the sights then you can’t say ‘Galatasaray’!” He is definitely out of his mind and I just turn to Ekin. We share the same grave looks, looks we know all too well from living in the same country some 3,000 Kilometers away.

 

Gözlerime bak! Gözlerime baksana!! (Look into my eyes! Look me in the eyes!)” he has now found another adversary and is staring him down in a zero-sum game. After all, they don’t have anywhere to go—they’re surrounded by velvet ropes on either side. Another man tries to intervene.

Yapma, değmez. Haydi kardeşim, en azından burada yapma (Don’t do it, its not worth it. Come on brother, at least don’t do it here)”. I chuckle at the “don’t do it here”. Its clear that this man will cause some trouble in England—this just isn’t the time or place for it.

 

Ekin and I laugh at this with the people behind us in line. They are at least normal. One is a girl who has lived in London for seven years, another is a middle aged man who has come to see the game, like us. He says he is looking for tickets to the Beşiktaş match as well and Ekin—ever the optimist—assures him that some can be found.

“Well, if not, all I want to do is watch this Galatasaray match safe and sound.” He pauses as if for effect and all four of us look over our shoulders. “I mean, there will be people like that.”

Yes, there will indeed be people like that. I can read Ekin’s mind as we stand, immigration papers in hand, waiting for our turn to be examined beneath the UK BORDER sign. All we can do now is stay away from those who live on the other side of that line separating football crazy and just plain old crazy.

 

London Fall Football Fest Part Two: The Line That Separates Turkey From Europe (And England From Europe, For That Matter)—Arsenal FC-Galatasaray SK (4-1) 10.01.2014

 

We’re seated in the Arsenal seats but we may as well be in the Galatasaray section. Only a single police officer separates us from our fellow fans to the right; nothing separates us from the Arsenal fans to our left (who would surely tear us limb from limb if they knew our true allegiance).

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Before I can get settled and take in the atmosphere of Emirates Stadium it seems as if the game is already over. Danny Welbeck has already netted two goals in the first half hour en route to his eventual hat trick. Not that this surprises me of course, I just thought that Galatasaray would be able to at least hold “the Gunners” off until the second half—such is the hopeless hope of a football fan. “Two nil, to the Arsenal…two NIL, to the Arsenal!” rings out across the Emirates Stadium, and I just hope that those around us don’t notice our conspicuous silence.

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As the match starts to slip away from Galatasaray I can feel the tensions rise and the policeman next to us starts to scan the crowd, the nervous look showing in his young eyes. Like the oppressive humidity before an oncoming rainstorm the air is heavy and the inevitable thunderclap comes in the form of sound bombs. Then comes the downpour. Flares are literally raining down onto the pitch as the Galatasaray section is bathed in an orange glow. Smoke rises into the London night and that old familiar burning scent comes to my nostrils. I can’t help but think that “this is football”.

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The grass has caught fire and Galatasaray keeper Fernando Muslera picks up one of the flares as Wesley Sneijder does his best to calm his fans down.

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The Arsenal fans, for their part, are watching with a mix that is equal parts fear and glee. Fear because it is an unpredictable situation, glee because London has not seen such a colorful night in a long time. While pyro shows are common in Eastern European stadia, they are virtually non-existent in Britain. It is that strange sense of being both in and out of Europe that the English love to cultivate.

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The PA announcer is barely audible as bottles begin to fly in the Galatasaray section. Arsenal fans in the upper decks are egging on the visiting supporters below as they return fire, not to be outdone. Extra police are called in to form a ring around the unruly supporters while the riot gear gets distributed among them. The policeman to our right takes off his vest and calmly dons his helmet as the Arsenal fans hold the tune “Who are ya?!” It is definitely going to be a long night, I can read it in the faces of the cops swarming around us.

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The Arsenal fans are booing the Galatasaray fans with each chair that is thrown into the air. Their reaction is the right one—after all, you don’t go into someone’s house and ransack it. But this is football. The hooliganism that Britain terrorized Europe with in the 1980s has now come back to them. I would have preferred it if my fellow fans could have shown a modicum of self-control but that isn’t always possible. I think back to the man in the line at passport control. No, it isn’t always possible at all, and I’m not surprised. It is the childish glee of the Arsenal supporters that surprises me more. But it too is normal. After all, they can relax. They are the ones on the other side of the line. They are behind their police. They are an island. They are in Europe. And Turkey is not, it is that simple.

 

By halftime it is 3-0, seven minute into the second half it is 4-0 as Danny Welbeck completes his hat trick and I’m bracing for the chant “Five nil, to the Arsenal. FIVE nil! To the Arsenal!” but it never comes. Keeper Wojciech Szczesny is sent off just past the hour mark and Burak Yilmaz sends the substitute keeper the wrong way to grab a consolation goal and make it 4-1. My consolation is that four of the five goals came in the goal directly in front of me. But it is a hollow feeling, scraping what little happiness we can get out of a night where the lines between Turkey and Europe showed themselves as clear as the bright orange flares burning in the smoky air.

As the police dogs come onto the field to prevent a pitch invasion after the final whistle we file out, headed to the Arsenal Tavern down the road to drown our sorrows in a few pints of London Pride.

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London Fall Football Fest Interlude #1: The Line That Separates Art from Art

 

I don’t think I’ll ever understand modern art. I’m trying to work off the previous night’s stress before tonight’s Tottenham-Beşiktaş match by taking in some “high culture” to offset my days and nights spent in the “low culture” of football stadiums. The day before it had been the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, today it is Tate Modern on the banks of the Thames. As I stroll through the exhibits I find it difficult to wrap my mind around what constitutes “Art”. The masterpieces I saw at the National Gallery blew me away. On the same level as the pieces of the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg they inlcuded, among other things, Monets, Friedrichs, and what was probably the first “Instagram collage”…from 1642, a portrait of Cardinal Richelieu by Pilippe de Champaigne.

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Now, I can only laugh when a mirror on canvas is presented to me as art. As if the mirror wasn’t enough, then there is of course a beige octagon on the wall. Or vertical brush strokes, painted until the paint runs out. Those too are art. I was hoping that the beers I drank at the Globe Theater—the absurdity of Shakespeare’s famous venue housing a watering hole aside—would kick in at the Tate but I have no such luck. I look at myself in the mirror, criticizing the lines on my face and decide “No. This is much too ugly to be art”. Or is it?

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I remember a conversation I once had with a friend, himself an aspiring artist. When I told him that I disliked some of the pieces of modern art on display at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) museum—after all, is a simple black canvas with a red square art?—he told me that was exactly what art is supposed to do. Anger or dislike are still emotions just like love or enjoyment, so—even if it is not positive, if it elicits an emotion in the viewer then it is indeed art. By his definition then yes, I suppose Tate modern is certainly a tour de force of emotionally stirring artwork!

I am left trying to work out the thin line that separates the concepts of “art” in my head as I leave the former power plant that is now a modern art Mecca and head down the walking path along the Thames. Teenagers are skateboarding in front of an urban gallery of spray painted “art” while I peruse the nearby used book market. I choose The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence, reasoning that a British author is most fitting. Plus, I think most of us can agree to its merit as “art”.

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London Fall Football Fest Part Three: The Line That Separates The Bad People From The Good People—Tottenham Hotspur FC-Besiktas JK (1-1) 10.02.2014

“Hey! You! Take that Galatasaray shirt off, you can’t wear that here!” I look around with the most innocent “Who, me?” face I can muster as the cop comes up to me. We are buried in the innards of White Hart Lane in the small café area allotted to the Beşiktaş fans–the walls tell me what section I am in.

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“Come on now, put something on over that shirt.” The cop is getting impatient as I attempt to explain. As I tell him that our friend invited me here and explicitly told me to wear my Galatasaray shirt it even seems like he will let me go. That is, until I feel a hand on my collar, trying to get at my throat. It is not the policeman’s hand, and it is not an English voice yelling in my ear. It’s…a Turkish voice.

Cikart o formayı! (Take that jersey off!)”

Sakin ol, polis ile konuşmaya calışıyorum! (Calm down, I’m trying to talk to the cop!)”

Burası siyah beyaz tribünü seni öldürürüm! (This is a black and white crowd I’ll kill you!)”

The cop gives me his best “I told you so” look and all I can do is relent. After all, if these two Beşiktaş men were rational—and could understand from logic—I wouldn’t have a hand around my throat. All I can do is resign myself to falling into the policeman’s clutches. It is undoubtedly the safer option.

“Alright, alright” I acquiesce as he carts me away. I can feel the fifty-pound ticket going out the window, I figure he’s ejecting me.

“Where are your seats?” I’m relieved but he still has his arms around me as I direct him to where we were seated. As soon as I’m released I go for my shirt and begin buttoning it up over my beloved jersey. Ekin does the same as the cop looks on, making sure the job is done correctly.

Ne yaptığıni sanıyorsun? (What do you think you’re doing?)” Asks one of the Beşiktaş fans below us as he watches me button up my shirt.

Formaları çıkart dedi (He told us to take off our jerseys).” I say, nodding to the cop.

Hayır. Çıkartmayacaksın. Forma kalcak. (No, you’re not taking it off. You’re going to keep it on)”.

The cop can only shake his head as they start arguing with him before he wanders off realizing we are in good hands. Sometimes there is no reasoning with football fans.

Aşağıda saldırdılar bize (They attacked us downstairs).” I explain in a bid to clear our names as I slowly take my shirt off, revealing the jersey again.

“Boşver. Burası siyah beyaz tribünü falan değil forma’da ay yıldız yok mu? Burası kırmızı beyaz tribünü! (Forget it. This is not a black and white crowd isn’t there a Turkish flag on your shirt? This is a red and white crowd!).” He’s right—we’re here to support a Turkish team, as if the Englishmen surrounding us—the ones yelling profanities at us from behind the police line—care what team we support. They just know we’re the enemy, football is sometimes simple like that.

 

The men in front of us are definitely the good guys, the great guys. They almost want the people who attacked us to come to our seats so that they can set them straight. As one man says, its better to be in a Galatasaray shirt among the Beşiktaş supporters than be the one in a Fenerbahçe shirt among the Tottenham fans (apparently, there was someone like that in the stadium). One guy gives Ekin a Beşiktaş scarf that he wraps around his neck and I know that here, within five minutes, I have interacted with both spectrums of humanity. Luckily, here good has prevailed over bad in spectacular fashion. It’s one nil to the good guys after all.

Buoyed by the good guys’ support I redouble my singing, belting out Beşiktaş songs at the top of my lungs and sending a few choice words out to the Tottenham supporters to our right, focusing on a particular asshole who is mocking my Galatasaray shirt.

“Keep going in his language,” say the fans around me as I continue in a profanity laced exchange that cannot be printed here.

Luckily Demba Ba equalizes by converting his 88th minute spot kick to save me—and us—the blushes, allowing me to take out my anger at the bad guys by giving it to the Tottenham supporters. They’re not to be out done though, sending bottles and coins our way as a scuffle erupts between the fans following the final whistle. I have half a mind to pick up the coins that were thrown at us—after all, they’re British Pounds Sterling! Before I can do that, however, the cops push us back—there is no separation between good guys and bad guys, Galatasaray and Beşiktaş supporters here. We are all just potential hooligans, and they deal with us accordingly before sending us out into the night.

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The author wearing the questionable jersey beneath the Spurs Shop.

 

London Fall Football Fest Interlude #2–The Line That Separates Being Lost in Life and Just Finding Your Way Through Life

Four in the morning and you’re sitting at a roulette table on Leicester Square. Soon the morning will come and make everything clear. Or so you hope. Until then its one more Maker’s Mark, and one more bet on Red. Or should it be evens? The day has been long but it isn’t over yet.

It started sightseeing and walking all over the city before moving to a London club, dancing with those girls who carry themselves with a sense of purpose, in a way that only the residents of a true world city can. Some were pretty in a British sense—something about the way they wear their hair. Others were partiers, on vacation from Berlin and Amsterdam. Staring at those dancing crowds you realize you’ve come a long way from getting foreign objects thrown at you on the terraces of White Hart Lane. But that’s not the purpose of your journey, they are not the objects of your attention. It can all wait, you say, following your friends into the casino.

You tell yourself you’re not lost, you’re just finding your way through life like you find your way through the crowds of the cities, the club, the casino, of the football stadiums. And that is where you find your confidence even though your life is as random as the silver ball spinning around the roulette table, waiting to land somewhere, anywhere at all . . .

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London Fall Football Fest Part Four: The Line That Separates Dreams From Reality—Southend United-Morecambe (0-1) 10.04.2014

No trip to London would be complete without a little rain, and I get my share of it on a Saturday afternoon. In the drizzle the train pulls out of London’s Liverpool Street station and I settle in for the hour-long ride to Prittlewell in Southend-on-Sea. The train stops at a lonely suburban station and I follow the crowds in what I assume is the direction of the stadium under a rain that is slowly picking up.

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At the central intersection there are a few pubs and the crowds have gotten larger, everyone making their way to Roots Hall Stadium. The mood seems buoyant, which is normal considering that Southend have gone four matches without defeat.

 

I queue for twenty minutes, thankful to be out of the rain, and eventually get my twenty-one pound ticket with…the amazing view of a support column. Thankfully, due to my experiences at Fenway Park I’m not too disappointed. It’s all just a part of the adventure.

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No sooner have I settled in than Morecambe strike, Jack Redshaw hitting a fifth minute shot to put the visitors up 0-1. The home “shrimper” fans are not too disappointed that the visiting “shrimps” have scored—after all, Southend are on a good run of form. I like the idea of the match as a “Shrimp Derby” (both teams have shrimps on their badges) and strain around the column to look at the proceedings. Sitting behind that column and listening to the fans screaming at the top of their lungs I can’t help but realize it is all part of a losing battle. Roots Hall, with a capacity of just over 12,000, can not compete with the big money in London that I saw first hand in Emirates Stadium and White Hart Lane. Yet here these fans are, fighting the good fight of dreams in the face of reality. As football has become more and more about money, it is unlikely that any of these smaller teams will ever be able to truly compete with the teams in the Premier League and Championship any time soon. Sadly there isn’t much to see on the field either and, forty minutes later, its still 0-1 at halftime.

I head down to the bar underneath the stand for a half time pint of Foster’s in order to get the gloomy thoughts out of my head. It’s not surpising that a bar exists in the stadium—after all, the team were formed on May 19 1906 in the Blue Boar Pub! Watching highlights of other League Two matches deep inside Roots Hall I think back to high school. My soccer coach at the time, himself an ex Southend United player, had brought our whole team to London when we were just fifteen. It had been our first real experience in European Football (and European drinking), and for that I am forever indebted. The least I can do is take in a match at Roots Hall in return.

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I decide to watch the second half from the top of the stand—I couldn’t go back to the column, now that Southend were attacking the goal with the obstructed view. Again, there isn’t much action even though Southend go close numerous times. Before the final whistle I get scolded for taking pictures by the steward—apparently it is grounds for dismissal. I told him I wasn’t going to make a live stream of the match via my smart phone’s video camera but he wasn’t amused. I guess, for some reason, I just can’t stop getting in trouble at matches during this London Fall Football Fest.

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I’m not offended, he’s just doing his job. The match ends 0-1 to the visitors, just as the sun begins to break through the clouds. I head to the club shop after the final whistle and grab myself a Southend United shirt. I ask whose name should be on it and after a fierce discussion amongst the workers Jack Payne’s #19 is decided upon. Apparently he has been the best over the past month, shortlisted for the Player of the Month award.

What drove me to the shirt was a charity fundraiser for Prostate Cancer UK. The Men United logo to raise prostate cancer awareness in the UK will be displayed on every number of every football shirt in the Football League during the 2014-2015 season. This may not be as famous as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge but it is no less important. Prostate Cancer affects one in every eight men in the UK, and one man will die of it every hour according to the charity. So the next time you pull on a Football League shirt, go the extra mile and get a name and number set to help raise awareness while showing your team pride.

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For the match report please see Southend United’s website at http://www.southendunited.co.uk/news/article/041014-morecambe-match-report-1988517.aspx. For some professional quality pictures of the match please visit Southend United’s website for the Match Gallery at http://www.southendunited.co.uk/news/article/060114-morecambe-gallery-2000937.aspx.

 

London Fall Football Fest Part Five: The Line That Separates England’s Past from England’s Future—West Ham United-Queens Park Rangers (2-0) 10.05.2014

On my last day in London I find myself on Green Street (of Green Street Hooligans fame) getting tickets for an East London-West London derby clash between West Ham United and Queen’s Park Rangers. After getting my tickets from the Boleyn Ground I head down Green Street alone, just to get a sense of the area, and here it hits me how blurred the lines between England’s future and England’s past truly are.

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It is a sight to see. Subcontinental clothiers line the street, windows full of saris that carry all the colors of the rainbow. The colors remind me a bit about my own closet of football shirts back home, and I feel how far I am from the clothiers of Picadilly Circus. Even the signs in the Underground advertise the same things—either sending money to India or Islamic dating. Britain’s colonial past is alive and well here in East London.

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Being a child of parents that come from two different cultures I know how valuable biculturalism can be—but only if it is accepted. Otherwise, it falls pray to xenophobia and racism—destroyed before it can show its benefits. Here on Green Street watching the QPR and West Ham United fans walk together beneath signs for the Al-Madinah bookstore, I see just how complicated the relationship between England’s past and England’s future is.

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Once my friends finally make it into the Boleyn Ground I’m confronted with this harsh reality again and—not being one to hold my tongue—I almost pay the price for it. I understand how difficult it is to accept immigrants and I know that those glassy blue eyes and beautiful blonde girls (who could only be British) are slowly being outnumbered by new arrivals either from the ex-colonial territories or Eastern Europe. Therefore, I understand but could never condone the sentiments of a particular West Ham United fan I encountered at the Boleyn Ground.

The friend I was staying with, Berker—himself Turkish but a man of the world having studied in the United States and lived in London for four years—led us to our seats. We thought we were in the correct row, since the writing noting the letters of the rows had worn out on the steps. Berker told the man sitting in what he thought were our seats that he was in the wrong area. Well, it turns out we were mistaken, standing in Row J instead of row I.

We apologized to the man, but—after explaining to us our error—I heard him mumble “learn the language”. And it pushed me off the deep end. I told him that it wasn’t my friend’s lack of linguistic skills (which he has in abundance, I might add) that brought us to the wrong row, it was the fact that the stadium’s infrastructure was out of date and that the paint denoting rows had worn off in this particular row. Before he could give me a response my friends chided me for talking back to him. Perhaps they are more refined than I am, I’m not sure. But the one thing I am sure of—despite not being part of any firm—is that one line from Green Street Hooligans rings true: “Its not about your friends having your back. Its about you having your friend’s backs”.

 

Our conflict settled we sat down and watched. West Ham went one to the good early on, much to the enjoyment of our ‘‘friend’’ behind us and went into halftime with the lead. At the half I went for a snack, as is my custom—Carlsberg and spicy hot dog was the fare on offer.

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In feasting I missed United’s second goal, right at the beginning of the second half, but I didn’t really care. After all, I came for stadium culture and stadium fare. Plus, I’d already heard the faithful sing “Bubbles” upon entering the stadium, which was truly an experience to behold and something we can all relate to. We all have hopes and dreams that—for reasons out of our control—cant always be realized.

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I’m forever blowing bubbles,

Pretty bubbles in the air,

They fly so high,

Nearly reach the sky,

Then like my dreams,

They fade and die.

Fortune’s always hiding,

I’ve looked everywhere,

I’m forever blowing bubbles,

Pretty bubbles in the air.

 

For a clip of a few renditions taken from Green Street Hooligans:

And for a Punk Rock Cover, why not the Cockney Rejects rendition from the 1980s—London Calling eh?

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