Two matches in Turkey including the Cup Final and a play-off encounter.
Wesley pounces for Aslan.
7th May 2014 Eskisehirspor 0 Galatasaray 1 Turkish Cup final. 22,456 (split about 50:50)
I made a very late decision to go to this one because it is likely to be one of the last big games at the Konya Ataturk stadium.
And it was worth it.
Having arrived overnight via Istanbul and Ankara I walked from the railway station to the nearby stadium at around midday as the souvenir sellers were getting ready.
Further on I passed fans strolling around the centre - plenty in both red & black and red & yellow.
Though they seemed to mix well enough eight hours before the start nearer match time, with the fans channelled toward different ends of the stadium, the tribalism began to kick-in.
And that means opposition scarf and flag burning followed by sirens blaring and running around.
Marching to the ground is accompanied by flares.
Inside there were a lot more (I wonder if they coordinated the displays like the Belgrade ultras?)
A particular Galatasaray fans’ firestorm caused the game to be paused for about three minutes for the smoke to clear.
This was hardcore pyro plus the noise, with marginally more of that coming from the ES-ES supporters.
Inside the fans were roughly split 50:50 although it seemed, perhaps surprisingly, that Eskisehirspor had brought slightly more.
Maybe it meant more to them as they had just the one cup triumph - back in 1971.
While Roberto Mancini’s men were winning a record fifthteenth title.
That was delivered by ex-Spurs midfielder Wesley Sneijder.
He converted a ball from the right with the ES-ES defence stretched.
But ES-ES certainly played their part, coming closest after a scramble with a shot cleared off the line.
Though they missed Drogba’s presence up front Gala still had the edge on quality and despite some late pressure, with the ES-ES goalie coming up for corners, Galatasaray were able to break up play and waste time sufficiently to secure the win.
I remained for a short while as the players celebrated but didn’t wait around for the inevitably prolonged presentations.
After a twenty minute walk back to my hotel, past no bars, I had an early night.
Samsun strong enough.
9th May Samsunspor 1 Ankaraspor 0 League 1 play-off first leg c. 15,000 (negligible away)
From Konya via Ankara to the Black Sea port of Samsun.
Where the flags were out on the streets as the local team were aiming for the Super League again.
I’d spent the morning firstly around the centre seeing the fine representation of the historic visit by Ataturk to Samsun in 1919, then via a tram ride to a park where I enjoyed a coffee, conducive background music and a nice view of the Black Sea.
Perhaps not a ‘Moment in Time’ but pleasant enough.
The 19 May stadium was a 40 minute stroll from my central hotel.
Along the way I sampled a ‘durum’ (kebab) and practised my Turkish ‘thank you’ - appreciated by the amused locals.
Again the stadium will at some point be replaced a modern version, out towards the airport.
But as it stands it’s reminiscent of various others with low level, curving, cover.
A handful of away fans, to the left, were protected by police while the home side were supported by groups of ultras at either end with the bulk of the fans in the eye-catching French (?) style side stand opposite.
From where they produced the pre-match choreo (though no pyro).
In a game of limited chances both sides eventually hit the ‘woodwork’ before a long free-kick eluded the Ankaraspor goalie and Yilmazer Musa headed in the winner from close range, to start ecstatic celebrations.
They were due to play the second leg some days later.
I’d had some breadsticks and tea at half-time and followed that with a couple of Tuborgs (there are slightly some more alcoholic options in Samsun) on the way back to the hotel.
On a very pleasant day for watching football, with a temperature of around 19 degrees, I rested early before getting the early morning flight back to the UK via Istanbul.
more pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/2576673517