The Blue and the Green today

I do not know what happened from the time Roman horse racing went out of fashion until football was invented. The modern racing track at least is a very pale counterpart of its old predecessor. And so are its regular customers. In Byzantine times they were a wild bunch, but some of the modern Turkish hooligans do their best to imitate them.

In Antakya the partisans of the football teams Galatasaray, Beşiktaş and Fenerbahçe are well represented. In a small village outside Antakya we have even seen the big banner of Trabzon Spor (a football team from the black sea coast) hanging from one of the houses. But the modern Antiochian partisans are a lot more moderate than those of old.

Not so in Istanbul. There they do their best to imitate the supporters of the Blue team and the Green of old Byzantium. A friend of mine was nearly stabbed because he wore a scarf of wrong colours. One of the favoured weapons of the hooligans is the “döner bıçağı”, the shawarma knife, as big as a sword.

Another friend of mine, the Danish football-player Jess Høgh who used to play for Fenerbahçe, once told me that a small handful of Trabzon Spor supporters committed suicide because their team lost to his team. The Fenerbahçe team had to be escorted to the Trabzon Airport by the military.

Once there was a match between a Turkish club and a team from England. The riots in the streets were formidable. One of the hooligans was arrested and taken to court. The press and representatives of the consulate were there. He naturally denied everything, but was found guilty as one of the local newspapers had his lifelike picture on the front page showing him threatening a policeman. He was sentenced, but blamed it all on the interpreter.

In Antakya however football hooliganism is a laid-back affair.

Fortunately so!

About Antiochene

Writer and translatorliving in Antioch on the Orontes (Antakya, Turkey) and Copenhagen.
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