Essential Tips for Watching a Football Match in Turkey
Football, the most popular sport in the world, is not just an activity for the weekends but also an important aspect of life for Turks. The kick off in an Istanbul derby (between Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş) means pausing the life for 90 minutes and will be the main topic of daily talks for the upcoming days.
Turks' passion for football has helped them to create amazing atmospheres in their grounds. Especially the 'three giants' of Istanbul have always played in front of noisy, passionate-but sometimes hostile fans. Watching a football match in Istanbul is something every football lover must experience in his or her lifetime.
However, nowadays Turkey's football is experiencing a sudden change in its ticketing system. Passolig, which is introduced this year following the new anti violence law in 2001, is the main reason for the loss of former passion. Unlike the past, the stadiums are no more full and the number of people attending to games are almost half of the last year.
Boycotted by the various fan groups, the Passolig has also caused resentment from other fans. The system requires people to sign up and provide personal data such as national ID, photo etc. before they can purchase match tickets, which raises doubts about how this information might be used. The process of obtaining a card is also challenging, especially for foreigners. Although new ticketing system caused fans to turn their backs to the live games in stadiums due to several reasons, three football stadiums in Istanbul have still a lot to offer to those who seek live game experience, which is different than just sitting and clapping.
Now let's have some closer look at the stadiums of three giants of Istanbul:
Türk Telekom Arena - Galatasaray
Opened in 2011, TT Arena is the new home ground of Galatasaray, replacing the old Ali Sami Yen Stadium, which was known as Hell due to its famous scary atmosphere. TT Arena is a very modern, multi-purpose stadium with a capacity of 52,652 seats. Although it does not have the same old-school, scary and noisy atmosphere of the old "Hell", but it is certainly a safer place for tourists to watch Gala team playing in front of their fans.
It is easy to reach stadium with subway. The easiest way to go to Arena is taking the M1 metro line and then switching to Seyrantepe connection at Sanayi station. The stadium is far away from the city center, therefore as a Gala fan, I highly recommend you to spend some time eating and drinking at Taksim before heading to stadium. It is a tradition and a must for us, and you should be a part of this and enjoy being a Gala fan.
Vodafone Arena - Beşiktaş
Unlike Galatasaray, Beşiktaş did not have to relocate their stadium. Vodafone Arena, is being built exactly where İnönü Stadium was and will start serving Beşiktaş (3rd biggest team of Turkey) starting from next year. In the heart of the city; right next to the Beşiktaş district, which the name of the club comes from, with a view of Dolmabahçe Palace and the Bosphorus, the location of the stadium couldn't have been better for Beşiktaş fans.
The noise generated by Beşiktaş JK fans has been recorded at 132 decibels in their old stadium against Manchester United FC, the equivalent to a plane at take off.
It was deafening. There was a point in the second half when I couldn't hear myself think, it was that loudManchester United FC goalkeeper Ben Foster
Before every match, fans gather at Beşiktaş and walk together to the stadium chanting and drinking. Accompanying a crowd like this alone is a great experience, but do not forget to taste the traditional meatball sandwiches which are sold around the stadium.
Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium - Fenerbahçe
Fenerbahçe, the only giant on the Anatolian side, has maintained its original stadium, Şükrü Saraçoğlu (named after Fenerbahçe's legendary chairman and Prime Minister of Turkey at 90s) since its opening in 1908. Each stand was demolished and rebuilt in turn, but the stadium has never failed to serve Fenerbahçe as a noisy home.
Fenerbahçe's stadium is located at the heart of Kadıköy, where most of the fans live both the district and the club. On a matchday I would advise you to take a ferry from Beşiktaş or Karaköy to Kadıköy, so you can enjoy the Bosphorus and while travelling from one continental to another. Afterwards you can have a drink in a pub and walk to the stadium to watch the 'yellow canaries' in their homebase.
Getting a ticket
The hard part of attending a match in Turkey has always been getting a ticket: Before Passolig was introduced, the difficult part was getting your hands on a ticket due to high demand, but nowadays the real problem is obtaining a Passolig, since it is a must for buying a ticket. However, because of the boycott, high demand on tickets is no more.
As a foreigner, you have to order 'Cüzdan prepaid card' from Passolig's website, to be able to buy tickets. Afterwards you do not have to wait the arrival of your card and you can buy tickets instantly. You have to load credits to your account before buying any tickets. You can do this with your credit card or directly from a bank account.
Passolig asks you to choose a club when registering, and some clubs do not allow others to attend their matches; e.g. a Gala fan visiting the Fenerbahçe Stadium. However there is an "I don't support any team" option and it allows you to attend almost any match. Following these steps, you have to wait up to two weeks to collect your card from any collection points.
In order to avoid any delay, I strongly recommend to apply for the card before your visit.
If your card isn't arrived yet, you can get a "single-use only" temporary entry card from the appropriate stadium box office before the day of the game, you won't be able to get it on the matchday. After getting your Passolig card and having a ticket on it, you can head to stadium, in addition to your Passolig card, passport is needed to show your identification if asked before entering the stadium. This process is necessary for Super League matches: If you want to get a ticket for Champions League or Euro League, you should keep an eye on the official webpages for the announcements of ticket sales. These tickets will be single-use only and can be bought without Passolig. To secure your seat, you should arrive a bit earlier than kick off; it is very common in Turkey that someone else occupies your seat if you are not early enough.
As an away fan
If you are so devoted to your team, that you want to watch them in the Turkish side, there are some issues you need to be aware of: Firstly, you do not have to bother yourself with Passolig, which is not needed for European matches. Istanbul is considered to be a tough place to go as an away fan, but apart from rare incidents including fights between hooligans, most of the fans in Turkey are friendly to away fans and love to talk to them about football.
They would not reject switching scarves, which is for me the best souvenir to take home for a football fan. If you could not get a ticket from away section, you can try to get one from home section and watch the match peacefully between Turkish fans, in case you do so, try to avoid stands behind goal, where ultra groups are located.
Stay Connected During the Match
Few of the stadiums (Man City, for example) have started to enable free Wi-Fi to their supporters. However free Wi-Fi is still not available in the Turkish stadiums.
If you are one of those who enjoy staying connected while traveling abroad, you can easily book a pocket wi-fi from Alldaywifi.com. To enjoy unlimited data wherever you go in Turkey, you can complete easy booking steps and rent an Alldaywifi today.