ISTANBUL - This weekend's Turkish League fixture offers a tense battle for Beşiktaş, as it visits Bursaspor. It may not be a big game for the BlackEagles, but this is not the case for the Crocs, who hold a grudge against Beşiktaş. This is the game of the year for Bursaspor
If you think Turkey's hateful football rivalries are limited to Fenerbahçe-Galatasaray, try watching Sunday’s Bursaspor-Beşiktaş game in the Turkcell Super League, the country’s real answer to the famous Argentinean River Plate-Boca Juniors enmity, at the fan level anyway.
Their rivalry is neither class-related as the Buenos Aires derby, nor city-based like Istanbul’s two giants. They are not even battling for supremacy, as say in Glasgow between Celtic and Rangers, because Beşiktaş would leave Bursaspor far behind if trophies were compared.
But the two teams have something in common when it comes to their fans. Beşiktaş’s Çarşı and Bursaspor’s Teksas are probably the most influential and extrovert fan bases, and that is what it is all about.
A quick rewind to the last weeks of 2004/2005 is inevitable to remember how it all started. Beşiktaş, low on morale after losing the chance to defend the Turkcell Super League title, repeatedly played poor games and lost to relegation battlers Çaykur Rizespor and Akçaabat Sebatspor, indirectly causing Bursaspor to be relegated to the second-tier for the first time in its history.
Bursaspor fans still cannot get over the thought that Beşiktaş deliberately avoided challenging Rizespor and Sebatspor back in the day, so that Bursa would be relegated. After Bursa returned to the top-flight two years later, its most important projection became to win the Beşiktaş games, and for fans, it was to cause problems for rivals.
No visitors allowed
It is for the players to do what they can to work for the former, but for the latter, the Football Federation has banned the visitor fans’ entrance to the stadium. This week, no Beşiktaş fans will be allowed into the Bursa Atatürk Stadium, and it is highly likely that it will be vice versa in the second half of the season.
Last year, the teams met in a neutral setting, Adana, due to Beşiktaş’s ban. Even then, some Teksas members, disguised as Beşiktaş supporters, attacked rival fans, which goes to show that this enmity does not seem likely to end anytime soon.
During this week’s training sessions, Bursa fans chanted that the players would not be accepted if they did not beat Beşiktaş. Meanwhile, Beşiktaş coach Mustafa Denizli downplayed the pressure, saying that this would be a normal game for his players. Sunday’s 90 minutes will tell if he is correct.