Everyone has some of those crazy traveling stories, Joining a Turkish Soccer Riot is one of mine!
Home to the Turkish Super Liga, one of the most competitive and intense rivaled leagues in the world, Turkey is the epitome of passionate soccer.
It was May 24, 2015 and I just happened to be in Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city, for the most important game of the year.
Turkey has three teams that consistently battle each other for the top of the league: Galatasaray, Beşiktaş, and Fenerbahçe – all from Istanbul and fierce rivals. That Sunday night Galatasaray had the chance to clinch and ultimately win the league; they just had to beat their arch rival Beşiktaş.
A hostel friend Mac and I were grabbing some dinner that night when we noticed every restaurant along the popular Ataturk Cd. road on the gulf was packed with soccer fans watching the same game.
Once we realized what was at stake we grabbed a seat and cup of tea, and joined in for the second half. Galatasaray was already up 1-0 and in the 80th minute got the insurance goal they needed from Dutch striker Wesley Sneijder. The place went wild!
The Turkish League was ultimately theirs, but it wouldn’t be official until the next night when Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş were playing in Istanbul.
Galatasaray needed a loss or tie from Fenerbahçe, who was just a few points behind in the standings. And that’s exactly what happened – the game was held to a 2-2 draw and Galatasaray had won the league!
My Swedish friend Pontius and I were downtown getting some dinner when the city started to erupt. I had a brief worry that I needed to make it back to the hostel for safety, but when else am I going to be in the middle of a massive soccer riot!? So naturally, we decided to join in.
I’ve never seen so much madness. Thousands of people gathered in the heart of Izmir and between epic chants, lighting off flares, and obstructing traffic & shaking cars, I couldn’t believe my luck!
After hanging around the madness for a while, my worries disappeared and began to join in on the fun. These people weren’t going to hurt anyone, they were just passionate fans having a great time.
I grabbed a huge flag portraying the club’s fighting lion mascot and became one of the locals. I certainly didn’t have a clue what to chant but it didn’t matter.
I wasn’t able to make it to a soccer game when I was in Europe, but who can say they were in the middle of a Turkish championship celebration?? An insane memory
Turkish Soccer Riot 2015