This is not a club like the others that PSG will face this Wednesday in the Champions League. The Basaksehir Istanbul is a UFO in Turkish football. For his sporting career already. This Istanbul team has seen a meteoric rise for years and exploded the historical hierarchy by becoming Turkish champion last season. His links with Recep Tayyip Erdogan also explain this side apart. Since the President of Turkey looked into his case, the destiny of this long anonymous club on the Turkish football scene has turned into an intriguing success story.
When we talk about Turkish football, we have long been talking almost exclusively of the Istanbul behemoths, Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, Besiktas, or even Trabzonspor, based in Trabzon on the shores of the Black Sea. Historical formations accustomed to representing the colors of Turkey in Europe and supported by many supporters in a country where membership of a football club is part of the identity of each individual. The Basaksehir Istanbul… has nothing to do with them.
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Goksel Gumusdag and a Basaksehir shirt
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A club that did not exist on the football map
Founded in 1992, this new Istanbul club, which is playing its first Champions League, plays the spoilsport by appearing out of nowhere. “Fifteen years ago, this is a club that did not exist on the Turkish football map“, tells us Pierre Raffard, geographer specializing in Turkey and teacher-researcher at ILERI.”The club vegetated in the second and then the first division for years. He had no supporters and was not talked about because he plays in a stadium far away. It has no common measure withits competitors in Istanbul “.
Everything changed in 2014. The Basaksehir, which until then was an association managed by the municipality of Istanbul, was bought by those close to power. “It is one of the only Turkish SuperLig clubs to be a company, and not an association, explains Pierre Raffard. It was bought by seven partners. And in the first partners, you find Mesut Altan, who is a businessman close to the AKP (editor’s note: the Islamo-conservative party of President Erdogan), Ahmet Ketenci who is him the son of Erdogan’s brother-in-law. And Göksel Gümüşdağ, the current owner of the club, is the nephew of Erdogan’s wife.”
The events of Gezi as an origin?
The shadow of the Turkish president is never far away when it comes to Basaksehir. Its main sponsor is also Medipol, a hospital group headed by… the current Minister of Health. The team was established in a new “district ssymbol of the town planning of the AKP. “. And the club plays in orange, the colors of the presidential party. Some fans of other Turkish clubs have baptized it” FC Erdogan “to underline its connections with power . “Basaksehir is a club with no popular ties. There are no supporters“, adds Pierre Raffard.”Erdogan has never hidden his relationship with the club. Neither did his son. Bilal Erdogan even called himself the club’s biggest supporter. And the ultras from the other teams have fun saying, ‘it’s normal, he’s the only one’ “.
So, why this sudden interest in Basaksehir Istanbul on the part of the government and Recep Tayyip Erdogan? We have to go back to 2013, one year after the purchase of the club. “2013 is the year of Gezi events. It is an uprising of part of the Turkish population following the destruction of a park. These large demonstrations have gradually become a criticism of the policy pursued by the government, Pierre Raffard still enlightens us. During these events, we saw something that we never see in Turkey: the three clubs of Istanbul found themselves behind the same banner whereas they usually hate each other viscerally. With Basaksehir, the idea is therefore to have a fourth club in Istanbul to compete with the big historical clubs.s”.
Basaksehir achieves the feat of uniting all supporters of Turkey around a common hatred
If the club is under control, its ties to power are not the only reasons for its sporting success. “Basaksehir took advantage of deplorable economic situation of other clubs, confirms Pierre Raffard, who evokes the tendency of the Istanbul giants to bet on stars at the end of their career. Some big clubs are in the red. And if the supporters of Basaksehir will say that the leaders of the club have handled the accounts very well, the opponents will consider that they have hijacked the rules a little by disregarding financial fair play as the club does not create anything: no ticketing or derivative products“.
With his more draconian management, Basaksehir Istanbul is in any case winning his bet, even if he still has some way to go before winning the hearts of many supporters like his rivals. In the current context where Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in conflict with Emmanuel Macron following the French President’s recent remarks on Islam and freedom of expression, there is also little chance that the authorities will seek to use this meeting in the face of at PSG. “Using Basaksehir which is one of the hated clubs in Turkey, if not the club, it would be a bit counterproductive “, considers Pierre Raffard, who concludes: “Basaksehir achieves the feat of uniting all supporters of Turkey around a common hatred“.
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