My trip to Turkey started very early on a Monday morning. It was only 5.15am and I was having my first pint of the day, we’d just checked in and had a bit of spare time before the flight departed for Istanbul via Vienna.
Like quite a few people who travelled out there, I had a feeling of scepticism and pre-conceptions of what it would be like, it’s never been portrayed as a welcoming place, and I’m sure in the back of other fans minds were the two Leeds fans tragically killed eight years ago in Istanbul. On the other hand, if Liverpool had been out there three times is as many years and without incident then it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that there would be trouble.
The city itself was a very pleasant place, no initial bad feelings about the place and nearly everyone speaks fluent English so there was no language barrier to get around. After seeing some of the sites we tried a few bars to try and find one to our liking, as soon as we saw the aptly named Sah Bar we knew we’d need to try it, and it would be the closest thing to West London.
Colours or no colours, being English you stand out, and it isn’t hard to guess that most of the English people would be Chelsea fans, so there wasn’t much need to try and be cautious or to not stand out. After having an Efes or two (their local beer) we tried the Raki, which is absolutely 100% disgusting and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Their fans were really friendly and hospitable, welcoming us and the atmosphere was always pleasant, and they’d approach us to talk about not just the match but our thoughts on football, England etc.
Like the Fenerbahce fans on the forum, they were all very confident that they would win, and it was good to see just how much they cared about their football, their passion is just as strong as any, of the nine Euro aways I’ve done, I’d definitely class their fans as showing more passion then others.
Normally on the day before the match you expect to see a lot of Chelsea shirts, flags and a pub or two taken over, if there was any of this we didn’t see it, and we had a quite busy day, whether or not it was due to any pre-conceptions or not I don’t know, but it wasn’t the traditional feel to a Euro away, whereby you see plenty of faces you see all the time back home and nod to, without knowing their name, or having ever spoken to them, just sharing one thing in common – Chelsea.
A few more Chelsea fans turned up in the evening in the Sah Bar where most of us staying until the early morning, again there was trouble that I was aware of, and by now I was feeling pretty comfortable that there wouldn’t be any.
Wednesday yet again failed to deliver that European feeling when you see a few hundred/thousand Chelsea fans gathered together making themselves known, and again there were surprisingly hardly any colours being worn. The Turkish fans were really welcoming still, whether it be Fenerbahce fans telling us they’d win 8-0 or that Kezman would score five, or be it Galatasaray and Besiktas fans telling us that they wanted us to win, they all did it in a friendly way.
Istanbul is divided by a sea, so after a fairly quick ferry ride we touched down in Asia a few hours before the match, again there were a few Chelsea in a few pubs but we didn’t see any big collection of fans, and upon heading near the stadium had some good banter with some Fenerbahce fans, where we exchanged songs, they even sung their Anelka song, which wasn’t as good or catchy as ours.
After a while there, we walked into the ground, which was a decent stadium, I was hoping to feel a hostile atmosphere, but for our own safety they’d stuck a plastic screen along the divide either side of us, followed by a fence, and then a row of police, and a safety net over our heads. The atmosphere was loud from the off, it would have been much more deafening had we not so much protection, and the Fenerbahce crowd produced a pre-match display which was very impressive, they were most certainly up for it. The atmosphere was too loud to compete, and after trying a few carefrees, a lot of us in the upper tier resorted to ironic chants such as ‘We forgot that you were here’.
Their booing when we were on the ball was cleverly done, as a few of their fans continue singing, so when they retain possession, everyone can pick up the song where it’s left off. Got to say I was disappointed that there wasn’t any flares being lit as I was looking forward to seeing that, I think we may have lit one in the lower, there was certainly smoke coming from there, it was only at the final whistle where each stand lit one flair.
I’ll leave this with the most impressive fan clips, bouncing about and when each stand chants one word (well the first lot chant two) ‘DARK BLUE, YELLOW, FENER, CHAMPIONS’ from what I was told afterwards normally it starts slow and builds up to a quick tempo, but everyone in the ground seemed to get involved.
Usually I hate using my phone or camera during the match, in fact the only previous time I remember doing so was the other month to take a picture of the Shed End that Liverpool left half empty with ten minutes to go. But there fans were too good not to record, including Liverpool this was my 11th European away, their fans were by far the best in terms of both noise and friendliness, and it’s a shame we didn’t sell out our end.
After an hours’ wait we were finally out the ground at 1am for a fairly short journey back to the Sah Bar, where we again chatted with the Fenerbahce fans about the match, and our thoughts on who would go through. ‘Win or lose we drink together afterwards’ was their message, and had we of won, I am sure they would have kept it.