As far as Turkish football goes, I’m 100% Fenerbahçe. But when I had a chance to get a cheap ticket to see two of the top teams in the league playing in Istanbul, I jumped on it. This time, I went to see Kasımpaşa vs. Galatasaray at Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Stadyumu. Yeah, I know. You’re looking at the stadium name, right? Usually stadiums are only named after dead people. No further comments.
For the record, I hate Galatasaray with a passion. They have some world-class players and have been successful in Europe, but I despise them. Kasımpaşa I don’t mind so much. They are traditional bottom-dwellers, but they’ve put together a couple decent seasons in a row.
I had been to a Kasımpaşa game in 2011 when they were absolutely horrible. I got in for 10TL and sat at midfield. There couldn’t have been more than 5,000 people at the game. Now that they were good and drawing huge crowds, I was interested in seeing the contrast. Turns out, it was night and day.
Tim bought three tickets for the match in the Kasımpaşa section. Emrullah was our third. We met on Istiklal Caddesi and walked to the stadium from there. Once we got near, we had to wade through huge crowds of people who were also blocking traffic. It was total chaos.
We went to one police officer. He told us to walk back up the hill to another gate to get in. We walked back up the hill around the stadium. When we got to that gate, the police officer there told us to keep walking up and go all the way around. We did that, but the road was closed and yet another police officer told us to go back down and around the other side where we started. Ridiculous.
We finally made it to the correct gate and were met with more hordes of people. We had about 20 minutes before kickoff, but security were refusing entry to everyone! People started to get angry and threaten the security guards.
We were pretty close to the gates when we saw the riot police heading down towards the crowd. At first it was just lots of hissing and booing, but then it seemed like the entire crowd were all running toward us and yelling “biber gazi!” (pepper gas). I dug in and stuck out my shoulders in order to avoid being trampled. Tim and Emrullah ran with the crowd, and I caught up to them. They were rubbing their eyes and coughing. Luckily it didn’t affect me that badly, but I could taste it.
The crowd dispersed and order was restored. One old man threw his arms up in disgust, handed his ticket to a child, and walked away. Emrullah asked a few people what was going on, and we decided to wait it out and see.
Security began letting people in little by little. The game started. We waited. And waited. And waited some more. Kasımpaşa’s Syrian midfielder Sanharib Malki scored a goal, their only of the night, and we were still outside. 20 minutes into the match, we were finally let in.
We went to our seats to find everything completely full. There was no order whatsoever so we just took a spot along the fence right next to the field. I didn’t mind at all, except the men waving flags next to us blocked my view of the other side of the field.
The crowd trouble continued in the stands, and we saw some fighting break out on the other side of the stadium. The police immediately got involved.
Being close to the action was pretty cool, but I couldn’t really focus on the play. Apparently Galatasaray’s Didier Drogba made a sweet pass to Burak Yılmaz who hammered it past the keeper in the 60th minute. Didn’t see a thing.
The match ended 1-1. Kasımpaşa remained in 2nd place, while Galatasaray was stuck in 4th. It wasn’t a great game, and Tim, Emrullah and I were very upset about missing the first 20 minutes and the pepper spray. We all swore never to go to another game at Kasımpaşa.