Fenerbahçe vs Galatasaray: A Battle Where Chaos Takes Control
The history behind the frenzy
Taksim Stadium, 23rd February 1934. Football fans across Istanbul started pouring into the ground for a long-awaited friendly match between Turkey’s finest: Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray. Once the referee blows his whistle, all the perceived amicableness turns sour as the players on both sides get stuck in as the tie kicks into gear. The referee can only watch on and blow his whistle, trying to inject a sense of rationality in what seems like a fight to the finish. The tensions start mounting; the players engage in a brawl on the pitch and off it too as an unexpected riot between the fans has been ignited. Football, well and truly was never the same in Turkey thereafter.
What’s not in a name?
The Fenerbahçe-Galatasaray derby, which is now known as the Intercontinental Derby is considered to be one of the fiercest rivalries across the world. Fenerbahçe, hailing from the Asian part of Istanbul whereas Galatasaray’s European roots are the reasons behind the feud’s newfound name.
Is it that big a deal?
In 2011, 1.4 million Turkish citizens were asked to vote for the club they supported. The poll ended with Galatasaray finishing 1st with 35% of the total votes and Fenerbahçe coming in on a close 2nd secured 34% of the total votes. With 16 other teams plying their trade in the Turkish Super Lig, the numbers paint a clear picture of who the flagbearers of the beautiful game in the country are.
The biggest sporting event in Turkey, the derby has a global appeal too. Fans travel from across the planet to arrive in numbers and have the honor of witnessing one of football’s most elite battles live in the flesh. Gokhan, who made the 870 miles trip from Syria to Istanbul boasts, “Forget Glasgow. Forget Barcelona. This is the biggest derby in the world.”
The story of “Ulubatlı Souness”
Theatrics never fails to take centerstage when the feud is in action. An incident which involved Graeme Souness in a derby that was immortalized for a rush of blood of the highest order in the 1996 Turkish Cup Final.
The Scotsman stole the headlines to full measure when he planted the Galatasaray flag in the center of Fenerbahce’s pitch after winning the clash. Years later, he revealed that this was a response to one of Fenerbahce’s vice-presidents who ridiculed him for undergoing an open-heart surgery, prior to his appointment.
To the home fans, the former Liverpool boss became somewhat of a cult hero and his actions were compared to martyr Ulubatlı Hasan which led to the name: Ulubatlı Souness. To say the visitors did not hold Souness in the highest esteem is simply mincing matters. How he escaped unscathed after the incident still remains a mystery though.
The darkest derby day
A tragedy that has marred the prestige of the tie came on 12th May 2013 when Fenerbahce overcame their local rivals Galatasaray in a 2-1 win.
With the Şürkü Saracoğlu Stadium packed and hostile as usual, fans chanting and fireworks lighting up the proceedings, it seemed like yet another classic was on the horizon. However, the victory for the hosts and the overall atmosphere was overshadowed by the incident involving a Galatasaray supporter when a 19-year old student, Burak Yildrim was stabbed by 2 hooligans just because he was wearing a Fenerbahce shirt.
While there is no place for even the slightest bit of violence amongst supporters, an incident of this magnitude was truly a shock to the system.
Familiar foes, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe have faced each other a total of 389 times, with the latter having won 146 times of the total encounters has the bragging rights over the former that is 23 victories behind with 123 in total under their belt. Naturally, 120 of these fixtures ended in hotly-contested stalemates.
However, since the start of the 1992-1993 season, ‘Gala’ have kept their foot on their pedal. Out of a possible 27 league title wins, Galatasaray have been crowned domestic champions 14 times in comparison to Fenerbahce at 7.
Galatasaray also has the edge over the Yellow Navy-Blues in Turkish Cup titles too with 18 and 6 titles respectively. European glory has also come Galatasaray’s way as they won the UEFA Cup in 2000 beating Arsenal 4-1 on penalties and subsequently emerging as victors of the UEFA Super Cup after beating Real Madrid after extra-time.
Turgay Seren has the most appearances for Galatasaray, 54 in the derby. For Fenerbahçe, Esat Kaner with 49 appearances tops the chart. When it comes to scoring success, Zeki Rıza Sporel for the Yellow Canaries has netted the ball 27 times in the derby; more than any other player from both sides, 8 more than Gala’s Metin Oktay with 19 goals to his name.
The 2012 Turkish Super Cup final was a treat to watch. With the scores level at 1-1 courtesy of goals from Umut Bulut and Alex, the teams went in all guns blazing in the second half. Galatasaray regained the lead through Bulut’s second of the game only to be cancelled out by Dirk Kuyt’s close range header into an open net. Galatasaray went on to emerge 3-2 winners after Selcuk Inan dispatched his penalty in the dying minutes of the game.
However, no clash has been as jaw-dropping as Fenerbahçe’s home victory against their rivals in the league in 2002. Fenerbahçe humbled them 6-0 as Galatasaray suffered one of the heaviest defeats in their history. In what turned out to be a goalfest, Fenerbahçe managed to score at will against a hapless Galatasaray that went down in the 8th minute of the match after Tuncay Şanlı opened the scoring. Strikes from Ariel Ortega, Ceyhun Eriş, Ümit Özat and a Serhat Akın brace rounded off the rout.
Last but certainly not the least, Galatasaray’s s comeback victory in 2014 is one for the ages. With Fenerbahçe creating more chances and already a goal up, it was looking rather unlikely for Galatasaray to secure all 3 points at home.
Up stepped Wesley Sneijder in the 88th minute. The former Inter Milan and Real Madrid midfielder scored a belter from 30 yards out into the top right corner of the Fenerbahçe net.
Just two minutes later the Fenerbahçe keeper, Volkan Demirel was beaten again by a curling effort that flew into the left top corner from the Dutchman.
With both sides making smart acquisitions in the summer, the showdown on 28th September could be yet another cracker.