Football (Americans, read: soccer) in Turkey has a detailed and interesting story which began in the cities of Thessaloniki and Smyrna during the last years of the 19th century when some Englishmen living in the country started to play this sport. At the beginning, it was forbidden for the Turks, and so only the Greek and Armenian citizens could show interest to it. However, as the time passed, the Turks’ love for football outweighed their love for the sultan. When this was the case, the sport began to develop, and became organizational in the capital city of İstanbul. The first football league – Constantinople Football League – was played in 1904. Since then, oceans of football clubs have been established within the city, and while some won the favor of İstanbulities easily, others found almost no lover in such a city of millions.
In this article we’ll mention about İstanbul’s football clubs. To keep the list at a manageable length, we’ve only included İstanbul’s historical clubs, important local clubs, and the clubs that currently play in the Super League. Overall, 16 teams – Enjoy!
İSTANBUL’S BIG THREE
Beşiktaş JK actually began in March 1903, but it was the year 1911 when the district’s two clubs — Valideçeşme and Basiret – joined Beşiktaş JK to reach greater success in the field of football, and football became the foremost branch in the club within the same year. They wore red and white colors when the club founded, but they decided to change them to black and white to commemorate the losses in the Balkan Wars 1912-13. The Black-Eagles became the İstanbul’s league champion in 1924 for the first time, but they couldn’t get another success until the 40s. Since the professional Turkish league started in 1959, they have won 13 Turkish titles, the latest in 2009, and won 8 Turkish Cups, the latest in 2011. Despite that, the club has gained no international success in the field. They play their home games at İnönü Stadium which has the best location in the city as it stands by the Bosphorus, near the Dolmabahçe Palace. We say Galatasaray was aristocratic, and Fenerbahçe was Turkish nationalist bourgeois. Beşiktaş is different than its rivals. Its fan base is originally working class and left-wing, so the team gained reputation as (another) “People’s team.” Now they are showing more Kemalist and anarchist tendencies in their fan base. “Çarşı is against ….. (Fill in the blanks)” is a cult slogan of the Beşiktaş fans who are against everything, even themselves.
Fenerbahçe SK was born in 1907 with the young Turkish football players of the Kadiköy district. During the early years they won many exciting victories over the football teams that were formed by foreign “occupying powers” in İstanbul. Because of this, they gained a reputation as the “Turkish People’s Team.” Now, nothing has changed. Fenerbahçe SK and Turkish nationalist bourgeoisie still have strong amity. Another thing which hasn’t changed is where they play their home games. These games have been/are played at the Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium in Kadıköy since 1908. The yellow-canaries have won 19 Super League titles, 6 Turkish Cups, and 9 Turkish Super Cups so far. When it comes to European adventures, the best they ever had was reaching the Champions League quarter-finals in 2008 where they were eventually eliminated by London’s Chelsea. Here is one last thing that needed to be told: there’s no more important game in Turkish calendar than the Intercontinental Derby – Fenerbahçe vs. Galatasaray. On 23 February 1934, İstanbul witnessed its first football riots during the friendly game between the two teams at the Taksim Stadium, and from that day forward the game has turned into brutal and eternal rivalry.
The most glorious club in the city of İstanbul, Galatasaray was founded in October 1905 with Ali Sami Yen, its first president, and other students of Lycee de Galatasaray (the also legendary Francophile high school that was established in Beyoğlu district in 1481). They played their first game against Cadi-Keuy FC, defeating them with a score of 2-0. They won their first championship title in the 1908-1909 season, heralding the coming of Turkish football. Since the beginning, the Lions have won 68 trophies, including: a record 20 Super League titles, a record 16 Turkish Cups, and a record 13 Turkish Super Cups. However, there’s another record that makes Galatasaray special in the Turkish people’s heart. The Lions reached the pinnacle of their powers in the season 1999-2000, when they won the UEFA Cup, without losing any of their games, and won the UEFA Super Cup, beating the Champions’ League winner Real Madrid. From then on, Galatasaray were never able to repeat such a feat, but they are still the most successful in domestic league. They are still the crowned champions in this domestic league for the third time in last four years.
İSTANBUL’S CLUBS BORN IN 1908
BEYKOZ 1908 SK
Probably everyone knows the district Beykoz that is located along the İstanbul Strait on the Asian side, and one of the most beautiful parts of the city as it is filled with green and surrounded by blue. Beykoz SK was originally founded as Mumeresat-I Bedenye Şubesi in this district in 1908. Three years after the club was renamed as Beykoz Şark İdman Yurdu. The club took its final shape in 1921 when it was merged with Beykoz Zindeler İdman Yurdu, and renamed as Beykoz SK. During the first years they just played friendly games, but they soon entered the İstanbul League in 1923 for the first time. Beykoz SK also has the honor of playing the first game of Super League, against İzmirspor on the 21st of February, 1959. They played in the Super League until 1966, when the club started to suffer from financial crisis, mismanagements, and inattentions, which pushed them to the bottom of the leagues. Since the 2013-2014 season they have been playing in the amateur league. In conflicts stemming from the old days, Beykoz has very poor relations with the every other team in İstanbul, except Anadolu Üsküdar. Because of this, there are always many numbers of police that appointed to the games Beykoz SK plays against Karagümrük SK or Beylerbeyi SK, and even so the games usually end with mobs.
ÜSKÜDAR ANADOLU 1908 SK
In 1907, there were two clubs – Fenerbahçe and Üsküdar Anadolu – that were established on the Asian side of the city, but that is where many their similarities end. It is said that the idea of merging Üsküdar Anadolu with Fenerbahçe SK was at the agenda in 1907, but it was eventually rejected due to differences between the two neighborhoods. Another interesting fact is that the founder Burhan Felek and his friends couldn’t register the club in 1907 due to the fact that their families were extremely against soccer, and so it took another year to make the club official, thus making 1908 the official birth year of the club. Since this rocky start, the club has always played lower-league football due to the club’s unending financial problems. If this wasn’t enough, many of the tragi-comic events have happened to this unfortunate club. For instance, some facilities of the club were seized after the 12 September Military Coup, or the club suffered of many robbery events which erased almost everything belong to club’s back days… Regardless, wearing green and white, Üsküdar Anadolu still continue to play football in the amateur league, with the support of a steady little crowd coming from the district. They are ground sharing with Beylerbeyi SK at the Beylerbeyi 75. Yıl Stadium.
Vefa SK is one of the most special football clubs in the history of Turkish soccer. It was founded in 1908 by the students of Vefa College (an Ottoman high school located in the Vefa neighborhood), thus the green-white Vefa SK became the first Turkish football club of the İstanbul’s old city. They played in the İstanbul League until the first professional Turkish league started in 1959. In the first season they missed the final and came second after Galatasaray SK. They could continue their success a few more years, but eventually it ended when the club went into decline in the early years of 1960’s. Their decline ran parallel to the radical change of city’s environment due to mass migration from Anatolian rurals to İstanbul. Since the 1962 Vefa SK has played in the all lower leagues. Then, they even dropped to the amateur league where they currently play. Vefa SK probably will never return to the glorious times it once knew, but this is the club of history and tradition, so its importance will always be remembered by the citizens of İstanbul. By the way their ground is the 12,500 capacity of Vefa Stadium or Karagümrük Arena – that is the stadium gave rise to the endless rivalry between Karagümrük SK and Vefa SK in the 1940s.
İSTANBUL’S TWO CLUBS THAT NOW PLAY IN SUPER LEAGUE
İSTANBUL BAŞAKŞEHİR FK
This unassuming football team from the unassuming district of İstanbul was once the most hated club in the history of Turkish football. To do justice, that was actually İstanbul BB (Sports club of İstanbul Greater Municipality), a team without fans! Before this team without any lover, there was İSKİ SK that was owned by İstanbul Municipality’s water distribution company. İSKİ SK began to play in amateur leagues, and in the long run they found themselves playing in the Super League in 1996. What was sad for the Turkish football? Their home ground was 82,000 capacity of Atatürk Olympic Stadium, which was home of the legendary 2005 Champions League final, but there was nobody who loved İstanbul BB, and so the great stadium always looked totally empty! This fanless club finished the 2009-2010 season 6th place, which was their best, and continued to give a good performance until June 2014 when the club turned to İstanbul Başaksehir FK as a new team of the İstanbul’s Başakşehir district. They play their home games at the Başaksehir Fatih Terim Stadium which is owned by the Municipality of İstanbul. They finished the 2014-2015 Super League season 4th place.
Despite being only a suburb of Beyoğlu district, Kasımpaşa is home to one of the five İstanbul-based teams that play in the Super League. The club was originally founded as Altıntuğ Club in 1921, when two sport clubs of this suburb–Altıntuğ and Kasımpaşa Terbiye – united their forces for a better future. However, the club’s name changed to Kasımpaşa SK in 1942, while the dark blue and white colors of team remained. Except the season 1945-1946, they played in the İstanbul League from 1939 to 1959. After playing five seasons in the Super League, they relegated to Second League, where they remained for very long time. In 2007, they promoted to the Super League that they had been longing to join for almost 43 years. That year, Kasımpaşa SK relegated to Second League once again, but it took them only one season to return to the Super League. Since 2013, they have strengthened their squad with well-known players such as Ryan Babel from Ajax, Eren Derdiyok from the Bundesliga, Ryan Donk from Club Brugge KV, Andreas Isaksson from Manchester City. They play out of the 15.000 capacity Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Stadium in the Kasımpaşa neighborhood where Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been dominating Turkish politics since 2002, grew up.
İSTANBUL’S IMPORTANT DISTRICT CLUBS
ANADOLUHİSARI İDMAN YURDU SK
Anadoluhisarı is a small neighborhood in the district of Beykoz. The football club of this neighborhood was founded in 1913 by the grand vizier Talat Pasha, the Lazistan deputy Süleyman Sudi Bey, the İstanbul Police chief Cemi Bey, and their friends. They gave green and yellow colors to the club that played in the season 1914-1915 for the first time. Soon after, they began to play in the İstanbul Friday League. Between the years 1945 and 1984, they played in the Amateur League, where they promoted to the Third League, and then to the Second League in the season 1994-1995. It was their best achievement, but they only stayed for two years, and then the club fell into a decline. In 2001, they found themselves playing in the Amateur League where they still play today. Their home ground is 2,500 capacity of Anadoluhisarı Sport Academy Stadium that is belong to Marmara University.
FATİH KARAGÜMRÜK SK
In pure footballing terms, Fatih Karagümrük is the most rowdy team in İstanbul. They are famous for their insanely passionate fans, and their games against İstanbul teams such as Beykoz, Kasımpaşa, Zeytinburnu and Eyüp usually carries a greater hooligan risk than the any other in the local derby, including the one between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe. Karagümrük SK was formed in 1926 when the unification of the neighborhood’s two clubs – Acıceşme and Karagümrük Gençleri – actualized. After the long arguments over the club’s colors, the final decision was red and black, referring the famous fire brigades of the neighborhood who wore red undervest and black pants to save life in İstanbul during the Ottoman times. The successful years for the club began with 1932-1933 season, and they were crowned champion of 1941-1942 İstanbul Professional League before the unfortunate event happened to the team within the same year. Their stadium, Karagümrük Arena, which was the Cistern of Aetius once upon a time, was taken from them, and given to Vefa SK. When this happened, the club closed, until 1946 when they started to play in 5th league. Regardless of this struggle, Karagümrük SK succeeded to promote the Super League by 1959. However, they could stay only until 1963 when the turbulent times began for the team. Since then they have played almost every leagues, and now it is the Second League, having been promoted in the 2013-2014 season.
Eyüp is İstanbul’s most Muslim district that is located on the Golden Horn. The first sport club of the district was founded as Eyüp İdman Yurdu in 1917, but the club remained closed for two years due to the wartime. When the club was re-opened in 1919, the new name was Eyüp SK (Eyüpspor) and they wore lilac and yellow shirts. It was officially registered in 1927, and they promoted to the İstanbul League in 1934. Since then, they have played in almost all the divisions except Super League. Between the years 1987 and 1994, they played in the First League, which was the last step before the Super League, but where they ended this adventure was Second League. Almost twenty years passed from that time, and Eyüpspor still plays in the Second League. Their home-ground is Eyüp Stadium that hosts 2,500 fans. Their eternal rivals are Fatih Karagümrük and Beykoz SK. Whenever Eyüpspor plays against them, the game usually ends with big riots. March 2015 was the last time when a riot occurred at Vefa Stadium in which Karagümrük fans attacked to Eyüpspor fans so brutally that many number of police had to take action.
Those who believes that Beşiktaş is the oldest club that is still active today is very wrong! Kurtuluş SK was founded as Tatavla Heraklis Jimnastik Kulübü by the local Greeks of İstanbul in Tatavla neighborhood in 1896, and it immediately became one of the major Greek clubs in İstanbul. They brought the first medal to the Ottoman Empire when their sportsman, Georgios Aliprantes of Constantinople won the rope-climbing event at the 1906 Olympic Games in Athens. From 1910 to 1922, Tatavla Heraklis was one of Greek clubs that undertook Pan-Constantinopolitan Games that were played between the Greek clubs in İstanbul. In 1922, the club got its new name: Tatavla Spor Kulübü. From then on, the club gave more efforts in other fields of sports such as basketball, volleyball, wrestling and athletics, meanwhile football continued in amateur standards. Kurtuluş SK now belongs to Aya Dimitri Foundation, and managed by an independent administrative board that consists of seven directors, all under the chairman Konstantin Belalidis, since 1981.
This very old football club has been everywhere in the city since it was founded as Süleymaniye Sirkeci SK in the old city in 1911. At the beginning, they wore dark blue and orange shirts, but soon the colors changed to black and white so as not to wear similar colors, such as the ones Fenerbahçe SK wore. They played in the İstanbul’s local leagues between the years 1914 and 1949, when they began to play in the Amateur League. They promoted to the Third League for the first time in 1970-1971 season, and to the Second League, which was their best, in 1981. This football club kicked-off the 90s with some radical changes, the first being that the club moved to Küçükçekmece district, which lies on the European shore of the Sea of Marmara. They also changed the name from Süleymaniye Sirkeci to Küçükçekmece SK, and the colors to green and white. After the club established itself as a new entity, with their new ground, name, and colors, Küçükçekmece SK promoted to the Second League in the 1990-1991 season; however, the club went through a period of financial turmoil in 1993 when they relegated to Third League, and then to Amateur League where they currently play. Their ground is Metin Oktay Stadium that can host 3,000 fans.
This team, also known as the White Seagulls, is the football club of famous Sarıyer district, a different world in İstanbul. It is usually known as the ferry’s last stop on the European side, just at the entrance from Black Sea. Despite being identified by white seagulls, the club has a fish on their dark blue and white emblem. The club can trace their roots back to the first club formed in the neighborhood in 1920. However, Sarıyer Gençler Cemiyeti proved very short-lived. Sarıyer SK replaced them in 1940. They played in the Second and Third Leagues until 1982 when they promoted to Super League. Until 1994, they played an excellent football, even threatening İstanbul’s big three, and so they were regarded as the 4th biggest club of İstanbul. They also won Balkans Cup in 1991-1992 season against Romanian club Otelul Galati with results; 0-0 away and 1-0 after extra time at home. Their time of success ended in the mid-1990s when the rich business families left the Sarıyer district. The financial problems weakened the club, and they couldn’t stay within the Super League, or with the First League. They now play in the Second League. It is said that once Karagümrük SK had daggers drawn with Sarıyer SK, fans fighting almost every time they came across; however, they became brothers in 1989 after a hand to hand fight against police together.
Zeytinburnu began life in 1953, and went professional in 1957 when Zeytinburnu SK (Zeytinburnuspor) merged with Mithatpaşaspor. The club that wears dark blue and white played in the Second and First Leagues until 1989 when they played in the Super League for the first time. During the 1990s the club went between the Super and First Leagues. Meanwhile, they broke record for the worst performance in Super League – 27 lost and 2 won in 34 matches – in the 1996/1997 season, which was their last season in the Super League. They played their last game in the First League in 2000, went between the Second and Third Leagues until 2011 when they relegated to the amateur leagues. Their home ground has been the 16,000 person Zeytinburnu Stadium since 1984. They also played some of their Super League games at this stadium where Zeytinburnu SK has introduced to the Turkish football some of the most important Turkish football players such as Emre Belözoğlu and Arif Erdem. By the way, they have an everlasting rivalry with Karagümrük SK which is still on, and there’s high risk of hooliganism associated with matches between them.
AND… A SPECIAL TEAM
İstanbulspor is like the city’s stepchild football club as they find neither fan nor support in such a city of more than 15 million. They came out as a football club in 1926 by the students of İstanbul High School, which gave its colors, yellow and black, to the club that granted the privilege to use the Turkish flag in its emblem. (There are only 16 teams in Turkey that can use Turkish flag in their emblem) Their most notable success in the history is winning the İstanbul League in the 1931-1932 season. Since the Super League began in 1959, they have played in Super, First, Second and Third leagues until 1990 when the management of the club passed from İstanbul High School foundation to Uzan Family, a Turkish business dynasty. After the club started to be funded by the Uzan family, they got stronger, and promoted back to Super League in 1995. They came in 4th for the 1997-1998 season, when they gained a chance to play in the UEFA Cup. While everything was going good for the Bulls, the support of Uzan family was cut in 2001. From then on the club has experienced financial crisis, which pushed them down to lower divisions. They now play in the Second League.
*We listed all the football clubs alphabetically in their sections.