Most hated teams part 2 : Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyespor

Since 2007-2008 there is a new "ugly duckling" in the highest division of the Turkish football. Now there have been more such teams and often they disappear again into lower leagues and get forgotten soon. This one however has capital and seems to be no one season wonder. Meet the team without fans that nonetheless is on its way to become a famous name in Turkish football: Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor.

Let’s first look at the football map of Istanbul. The city with over 12million inhabitants (de facto it will be more than 15million) and literally bridging two continents, is as big as some European countries and the city alone has more citizens than my native Belgium. Every single district of the city is big enough and different enough from neighbouring districts that the district would be a city of its own in any other case.

At the European side we find the old heart of Istanbul with its numerous souks (Arabic/Middle Eastern markets, typically in a maze of small alleys) and ancient mosques such as the Blue Mosque at Sultanahmet Square. These can be found mainly in the Beyazit and Sultanahmet districts of Istanbul. We have the cosmopolitan vibrant avenues with sight on the Bosphorus and countless terraces and clubs by the waterside in districts such as Ortaköy and Beşiktaş. There are the business districts such as Mecidiyeköy and the vibrant nightlife district of Beyoğlu… Suburbs are the notoriously rough Zeytinburnu and (further out of the center) Sariyer, to name just a few. On the Asian side there are residential areas such as Kartal, Maltepe and the nighlife districts of Moda and Kadiköy by the boards of the Bosphorus.

Most of these districts all have their own football club, although there are exceptions. Also sometimes a club plays out of its own district due to lack of space for a stadium in its own district. Three clubs have dominated football in Turkey since professionalism was introduced and these three Istanbul giants are supported throughout the entire country: Galatasaray SK in Mecidiyeköy, Beşiktaş JK with its famous stadium next to the Dolmabahçe Palace and with sight on the Bosphorus, and Fenerbahçe SK on the Asian side in the outskirts of Kadiköy. These three all have big stadiums, an impressive list of trophies and fanclubs all over Turkey and beyond the borders of the country.

Now and then another Istanbul club will appear in the highest league, usually without making any impact and without attracting many fans. Zeytinburnuspor and Sariyer had a few stints in the highest league during the nineties, and Istanbulspor even was quite succesful on the pitch, battling for European football. Clubs such as Kartalspor, currently in second division, have been well respected for producing some talented players that would eventually end up with one of the big clubs.

In 2007 two other Istanbul teams promoted to the highest division much to the dislike of Turkish football fans: Kaşimpaşa SK (heavily supported by Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after whom their tiny stadium in Beyoğlu is named) and Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor (often abbreviated to Istanbul BB, IBB or Istanbul BBS). The reason for the dislike for these clubs: while Kaşimpaşa had only few fans, IBB literally has no fans except for the family of the players and a few colleagues.

Let’s focus on IBB. Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor literally translates as "Sport club of Istanbul Greater Municipality" or "Sport club of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality". The name gives it away: this omnisport club, who is active in many sports, is the sport club operated by the government of Istanbul and with the intention to serve the staff working for the municipal government. The club was formed through a merger of three municipality-operated clubs in 1990: IETT, ISKI and Itfaiyespor. ISKI SK Derneği had at that point gained promotion from the regional amateur leagues to the 3.Lig, the 4th level in the Turkish football pyramid (ISKI SK was the club of the municipality-owned water distribution company). IETT (founded 1941 as Istanbul Elektrik, Tramvay ve Tünel Işletmelerinin Külübü) was the club of the electricity, tramway and tunnel-enterprises of the city and was mainly succesful in volleyball. Finally, Itfaiyespor was founded in 1966 by the fire department of the city. It seems to have been as well succesful in volleybal, as far as the translation machines of Google are not letting me down when trying to decipher the Turkish language website of the current club.

These three municipality-serving teams were merged in 1990 to the current omnisportclub Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor on the initiative of then mayor Nurettin Sözen. The club competes in football, basketball, volleyball, taekwondo, judo and many other sports, but I will focus on its football team now. Most of its existance since the merger was spent in the second level of the Turkish football with an occasional drop and few seasons in the third level. At the end of the 2006-2007 season the club promoted for the first time in history to the Türkcell Süperlig, the highest level of Turkish football.

As I heard during my stay in Turkey, where I lived in the Maltepe area on the Asian side, the club would have played in the same stadium as Maltepespor prior to the promotion to the highest level. This I am unsure about since I could not find any confirmation about this. The club since its first appearance in the highest level uses the Atatürk Olympic Stadium of Istanbul.

Some people claim that going to Glasgow and visiting a Queens Park FC home game in the national stadium Hampden Park is the experience of how a stadium looks totally empty. I won’t deny that with a 200 to 500 fans in the approx 60000 capacity stadium, Queens Park indeed has a lot of empty seats. But IBB does even worse. The Atatürk Olympic Stadium, home of the legendary 2005 Champions League final in which Liverpool came from 3-0 behind to beat AC Milan on penalties, hosts almost 82000 people. The problem is, Istanbul BB has no fans. The only people coming are family of the players or staff of the city hall. Sometimes pictures of fans of the visiting team appear, showing that literally IBB has only 20 supporters in the stadium. Imagine a 1000 or 2000 fans in an 82000 capacity stadium (and 99 percent are fans of the visiting team) and you really knows how it feels to watch a game in a desolate stadium. One time, when facing the also supporterless Hacettepe SK (which in fact was the reserve team of Gençlerbirligi), the reports claim that there were less than 100 people in the 82000 capacity stadium and all of them were family or relatives of the players or officials of the Turkish FA. In other words: 0 real fans.

I had the privilege to watch Beşiktaş play against Istanbul BB at home in Inönü in the 2007-2008 season, IBB’s maiden season in the highest division. While sitting amongst the BJK fans, I could count the Istanbul BB fans. Exactly 7. And this was an Istanbul derby! I guess if only 20 fans show up at home, you cannot expect much more than 10 maximum in away games. The only times there is a decent crowd (although 10000 to 15000 fans is still looking odd in a 82000 capacity stadium) is when Istanbul BB hosts a game against one of the three Istanbul giants at home. In that case, there can be 10000 or more fans, but it has to be said 99 percent of those will be fans from the visiting team (either Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe or Beşiktaş). In all other occasions the stadium looks totally empty except for some lost souls that can easily be counted in a couple of minutes or less.

How does this fanless club get to play in this stadium? Easy: the stadium, like the club, is property of the Istanbul government, and thus they are allowed to use this giant stadium even when everybody knows nobody will come to see the games. As the Atatürk Olympic Stadium is so far in the outskirts of Istanbul (from the city center it can take more than an hour to get there by bus) it is also not helping a lot to attract new fans.

The true anger of Turkish football fans is however the reason why this club is still quite succesful: the club is ran and the players paid with tax payers’ money. Ironically, the tax money of locals who support Fener, Galatasaray or Beşiktaş is partially used to keep an opponent club going. This, and the fact that people argue clubs don’t contribute to the league when having no fans at all, lead to a general hatred against the team.

Belediye teams representing and organised by the local government are nothing new in Turkey. In the top flight there was Ankaraspor, which also grew from a sports club formed by the Ankara city hall. In the lower leagues the clubs named Belediyespor are countless : Gaziantep BB Spor, Güngören Belediyespor, Menemen Belediyespor, Denizli Belediyespor, … and many more. That said, not every team named Belediye is a city hall-owned club. Belediye Vanspor for example only uses the term because when the club restarted after bankruptcy the initial name Vanspor could not be used again the first years, hence they added the word Belediye. Most Belediye clubs will have some connection to the local city hall though. Company teams are also usual: Türk Telekomspor, Oyak Renaultspor, Batman Petrolspor, … So why is it especially Istanbul BB that angers Turkish football fans when Belediye teams are not that unusual?

The reason is simple. Most of these Belediye teams without fans vanish after a short stint in the limelight. Most of them have no access to playing their home games in the nation’s biggest stadium. IBB however seems like a team that could very well become an established club in the Süperlig. The first season already they finished mid-table and had some remarkable results: their maiden game in the top flight was also the opening game of the season, versus Fenerbahçe. The approx 10000 fans in the Atatürk Stadium (95 to 99 percent being Fener fans) saw a surprising 2-0 win for Belediyespor against the defending champions. A huge shock to start the season with. In the second round they would also get a draw in Fenerbahçe’s home. Beşiktaş did equally bad against the unlikely underdog: a draw at home in Inönü and a 2-1 loss in the return in the Atatürk Olympic Stadium. Of the three giants, only Galatasaray managed to win against the newcomer, 0-3. However, the game at home in Ali Sami Yen versus IBB ended in a draw so in their first season in the top division Istanbul BB got a 4/6 points against Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş and a 1/6 against Galatasaray. And that all while the club was run with tax payers’ money. Somehow you gotta love the irony of fans of the Big Three seeing their tax money spent on a team that then takes points from their beloved team.

All of this, and the fact that IBB gets good results despite having no fans, enrages the average Turkish football fan. They consider a supporterless club to be a joke for the entire Turkish league, the club uses the tax money of people not even supporting them, and can use the biggest stadium in the country despite having no fans. About the idea that a club with no fans adds nothing to the league, you can debate. However, on the pitch, nobody can deny IBB is going very well. The first season they finished 12th, their second season in the top division saw them finish 9th and the third season (2009-2010) even saw them finish 6th. The supporterless club is unlikely to vanish from the Turkish top division soon, and even may play in Europe at some point: in their 4th season in the top division (the currently ongoing season 2010-2011) they are, shortly before New Year, again close to the top-5. It seems Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor is there to stay for now, and fans will have to get used to a supporterless club being present in the league. They won’t battle for the league title with Trabzonspor, Bursaspor and the Big Three from Istanbul, but I also don’t see them being in danger of relegating anytime soon.

A sidenote: what happened to the other much disliked team that promoted together with IBB, Kaşimpaşa SK? The club heavily supported by the prime minister has a very small stadium in the city center, and has to move to the Atatürk Olympic Stadium, Ali Sami Yen or Inönü for games when a large crowd can be expected. Their first season after promotion ended with relegation, despite a shocking 0-1 victory away versus Galatasaray. At least one of the two unwanted teams was gone. But it seems the Turkish fans aren’t spared by fate: Kaşimpaşa SK immediately promoted back to the Süperlig and last season managed to survive their comeback year and stay in the highest level. This season they again battle against relegation, so unlike Istanbul BB they are less likely to become a regular for the near future. But with some other clubs doing quite badly as well, it is also not sure Kaşimpaşa will be relegating again. For sure Turkish fans will need to tolerate IBB in the highest division for the foreseeable future.

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About thepathslesstravelled

An Aspie who has had a lifelong fascination with travelling, discovering new cultures and discovering new ways of life, and with a strange attraction to the less known and often forgotten places in the world. And very obsessed with sports and music.
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7 Responses to Most hated teams part 2 : Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyespor

  1. IRAKLIS GATE 10 says:

    NICE JOB

    IRAKLIS SALONICA

    GRUPPO AUTONOMO GATE 10
    IRAKLIS GATE 10

  2. scuzzmonster says:

    Very good. Travelling to Istanbul in January 2014 and hope to see some football while there.

    • Thanks for the response to my article! I do hope you will be attending football in Istanbul in January 2015, because January 2014 has long passed 😉 You have the choice between 5 top division teams in Istanbul for the coming season. Other than the big 3 (Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, Besiktas), both Kasimpasa and Istanbul Büyüksehir Belediyespor are in the top division next season. Kasimpasa used to be a small club serving just one area of Istanbul, but they improve and improve, they only narrowly missed European football (finishing one spot below those that come with entry to the Europa League qualifiers). And Istanbul BB is just a nice rarity, I would visit that one if I must choose but I realise I’d be one of the only groundhoppers who would choose a virtually empty stadium and no atmosphere when there’s 3 of the most passionately supported clubs in the city. But I like oddities in football, and Istanbul BB has a very small fan group now so the stadium is no longer totally empty (they also have some quite unique chants such as “For us every game is an away game”, “The referee is right”, … Nice and interesting group of people, although no idea how they decided to start supporting IBB!). If visiting the big teams is what you prefer: Fenerbahçe has a great stadium with very good atmosphere, the fanatic fans being very close to the pitch. But while I have not been in the new Galatasaray stadium yet, I heard it’s equally atmospheric, and their fans are extremely fanatic and passionate. Besiktas fans are too, and their stadium is one of the most beautifully located ones in the world (you can see the Bosphorus and the Asian side of the city in the distance while on the stands of Inönü). You should have a great time, Turkish football fans are extremely passionate about their team. I have not seen Kasimpasa play but I heard their support is smaller than the big 3 but large enough to create a good atmosphere. Be sure to visit the Grand Bazar in the Beyazit district (a maze of covered Streets full of small shops selling oriental spices and arts, carpets, lamps, …), the Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) just a 15 minutes walk from the Grand Bazar (you can enter as a tourist outside of praying times, but dress modestly), the Dolmabahce and Topkapi palaces (Topkapi is very close to the Blue Mosque) and of course, have a great idyllic dinner with seaside view and view on 2 continents: plenty of restaurants next to the bridge over the Bosphorus 🙂 In Ortaköy there are some great open air restaurants and some clubs, all by the Bosphorus. The Besiktas area has some lively Streets with nice restaurants, or what about Turkish tea in beach-like chairs by the borders of the Bosphorus? 🙂 On Asian side, nothing too interesting except the Kadiköy district (very close to Fener’s stadium) which is lively and good for shopping and clubbing. Taksim Square is usually the center of nightlife and shopping activities, but beware there are lots of political protests there recently, often resulting in clashes between police and protesters. If you’d go there, check in advance what the security situation is. The rest of Istanbul should be very safe. But try to avoid large gatherings, those are often political protests and you don’t want to get stuck in a clash between police and protesters. I would recommend to avoid such gatherings, and not talk about politics as currently it’s a very heated subject. Don’t photograph such protests or clashes neither should you be unlucky enough to witness one. But… a bit of common sense and you should be perfectly fine and have a great journey! Enjoy your travel! En büyük, Istanbul!

      • scuzzmonster says:

        Yeah, 2015, I meant! 😀

        Had a few days in Moscow at the beginning of this month where I got to see to see the city’s six main stadiums, along with going along to watch FK Khimki’s final game of the season in the Russian Second Division West, way up on Moscow’s northern city boundary.

        I’d like to do something similar in Istanbul although I believe the Turkish leagues have a mid-season break sometime in December/January which might be a problem as I visit between 4-11 January 2015. Still, I’m hoping to be able to watch some friendlies even there are no league games on during this period. I don’t really mind whether it’s at one of the big clubs or the smaller ones – I like the atmosphere at both. It’s very different, don’t you think? My brother lives in Edinburgh and we have a lot of fun going to the lower Scottish leagues when I visit. The atmosphere is still great but in a very different way to, say, Celtic or Rangers.

        Anyway, thanks again for the tips and keep up your great blog.

        Regards,

        scuzzmonster/Mick

      • Hmmm, the Turkish league has better months to attend football indeed, and I don’t dare to say with certainty that the stadiums will be open if there is no match (with a bit of luck though you may get in to take photos, and Besiktas and Fenerbahce both have a museum which may include accessing the stands if you ask friendly enough ;)). The number of stadiums is for sure big enough for a whole groundhopping adventure, but just like Moscow we talk about a huge city with long distances between the districts. On European side you got Galatasaray, Kasimpasa, Besiktas, Istanbulspor (now in 4th or 3rd level), Sariyer, Zeytinburnuspor (both also in 3rd or 4th level or maybe even down into the Istanbul amateur leagues) who are all within reasonable travel distances. Reasonable for Turkish standards I must add, these are still long distances because Istanbul is so huge, also the public transport can be chaotic and complex to figure out. Istanbul BB is back in the highest league but their home ground, the huge Atatürk Olympic stadium (82000 seats more or less despite IBB having virtually no fans) is in the outskirts of Istanbul, over an hour from the city center. Very far away, hence the fans sometimes sing “For us each game is an away game” (their fans being about 200 in numbers). On Asian side I believe Güngören is quite close to the Bosphorus but I’m not sure. Anadolu Üsküdar 1908 cannot be too far from the Bosphorus since Üsküdar is one of the places where the ferries cross towards Europe. Fenerbahce play in Kadiköy, a very lively area right next to the Bosphorus. From there you can go deeper into the Asian side of the city and pass Maltepespor (I used to live very close, it’s a small stadium but the local mosque on the market square is great!) and finally Kartalspor (I would estimate just below or around 10000 capacity). If you of course include amateur leagues (the Istanbul Amateur League consists of several levels below the 4 Nationwide leagues, so from level 5 and further down it’s regionalised per area) you have even more options with for example the lovely seaside area of Ortaköy and I also believe the equally nice seaside area of Bostanci has its own team but not 100% sure about that one. Moda, an area considered “hip” and “vibrant” near the sea, apparently also has a team but I wonder if it’s true since there’s few open spaces to install a stadium in that area. Ortaköy for sure has a team but it’s level 5 or lower.

        I think by the way that Israel has no winter break or maximum a very short one, so if you’re in the Middle East anyway… If the security allows it of course, and of course we have to add that the Israëli league standard is lower than the Turkish league standard. Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Tel Aviv are decent teams and share a stadium, that may be an option if you’d be interested.

      • By the way, you’re from Scotland? A friend of mine who is a groundhopper too (but mainly UK and Ireland) and has visited all 92 league clubs in England, has recently moved to Edinburgh for a new project. He wants to follow local club Hearts for one year, every week again, and write a book about a year on the road with the club ; plus some pages on general life in Scotland too. He moved to Edinburgh last months and hopes to have the book done after 1 year of following Hearts. If he succeeds, it’ll be his second book after he already wrote a book on stadiums in England (which has been published twice, once in his own management and once by a publishing house that slightly edited the title and a few chapters; but mainly minor differences). He says Scotland is a joy to be a groundhopper in, and he adores the lower leagues and visiting clubs like Greenock Morton (one of his all time favourite stadiums), Queen of the South, Arbroath, … He’s even been all the way up to Elgin, and he has also attended Junior League games (or at least 1 game, maybe now that he lives there he’ll attend more). On jorisvandewier.nl you can follow his adventures in blog format, I hope though that his books will be translated into English too as I’m sure a lot of people will be curious to read his adventures coming all the way from the Netherlands into the UK to see as many games in England and Scotland as possible. While working on that second book, you can follow his blog at jorisvandewier.nl and he also has another blog focusing more on his first book and the games he attended before moving to Scotland (that blog is doingthe116.wordpress.com). I hope life in Edinburgh suits him, but he loves Scotland so I’m sure he’ll be pleased enough!

  3. scuzzmonster says:

    Much obliged. All this information is going to be really useful for my trip in January.

    No, I live in Greater Manchester, England. It’s my brother who lives in Edinburgh. Your friend is right, though – groundhopping in Scotland IS great fun and I shall certainly be checking out his doingthe116.wordpress.com and jorisvandewier.nl blogs. I’ve only done about 20 in Scotland but haven’t really been groundhopping as a hobby for very long – 5 years perhaps? I’m 53 now but, as a kid, used to follow the one team, Middlesbrough F.C, and go the same grounds all the time. Done about 70 of the 92, now plus loads of non-league, but still don’t take it all that seriously if I’m being perfectly honest.

    Hearts are an interesting team to follow at the best of times – loads of crazy stuff goes on there! – but this season is especially interesting as both Edinburgh clubs got relegated from the Scottish Premier League to the Championship last time around (Hibs, too), as well as Glasgow Rangers getting promoted into the same league, so it could well be the most interesting division in the whole of Britain this coming season.

    I’m sure your friend will be fine in Edinburgh. It’s a great city with loads to do and a lot of fun. Also, the Scots are holding an Independence Referendum on 18 September for the first time since 1979 which could lead to the break-up of the UK so a very exciting time for him to be there.

    Anyway, once again, many thanks for your help.

    Regards,

    Mick / scuzzmonster

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