By Cagri Cobanoglu – the foreign news editor of Akşam – a national Turkish daily
Fenerbahçe-Galatasaray games are the peak of Turkish football, getting more global attention year by year.
And this Sunday (10th November), the Turkish giants are facing each other once again. Life will stop for 90 minutes in Turkey. Fenerbahçe has not lost any game to Galatasaray since 1999 at home. Galatasaray wants to bring that to an end and Fenerbahçe will be determined to protect its title.
But what makes their rivalry bitter?
If you look at the Fenerbahçe-Galatasaray rivalry, on the face of it you may not see a strong political, religious or class background like other big derbies such as Celtic-Rangers or Barcelona-Real Madrid. Fenerbahçe-Galatasaray games have a social background which has no real meaning today.
Galatasaray is a team founded by students of Galatasaray High School, whose education system is based on the French culture. Galatasaray High School raised Turkish elite. Those who graduated from Galatasaray High School gained important positions in politics, arts and business.
Fenerbahçe, conversely, is founded as a people’s team. It has many supporters from all walks of life. Today, Galatasaray claim that too but inside the club, it is no secret that those who graduated from the High School have a privileged status over others as a result of its traditional values.
Fenerbahçe’s popularity lies in the history which is beyond its success in professional football. Fenerbahçe which was founded in 1907, played against British troops at the end of World War 1 when United Kingdom occupied Istanbul. Fenerbahçe won most of these games and made Turkish people proud against invaders.
But it wasn’t just on the fields where Fenerbahçe became active. The club was also secretly moving guns to the Anatolia from its main building using small boats to support resistance against the occupation. The players were going to fronts, fighting against the invading troops and returning to Istanbul to play games and move more guns and ammo.
Fenerbahçe has become the most popular club of Turkey since the early 20th century while Galatasaray stood as a sports club of the privileged. During the 90s and early 21st century, Galatasaray won trophies in domestic and international arena which rose its popularity among the masses.
As a result of this, the social aspect of the rivalry has lost its power. Though class difference between Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray is not a big deal today, the excitement of Istanbul derby is still the same.