Istanbul (AFP) – Besiktas football club of Istanbul, is one of Turkey’s oldest sports organisations with an impassioned fan base known for their opposition to the authorities.
Twenty nine people, mainly police officers, were killed on Saturday in double attacks outside its stadium that followed the club’s home Super Lig match against Bursaspor in the brand new Vodafone Arena opened earlier this year.
Besiktas won the match 2-1, boosting its title hopes to make the club joint leaders with local rivals Basaksehir.
But now the night of December 10, 2016 will be remembered not for football but for a tragedy that will forever leave a mark on the club’s history, which goes back to the Ottoman Empire. So far no-one has claimed the bombings.
“Terrorists… attacked our heroic security forces who ensure that both our fans and Bursaspor’s supporters are safe. We will stand firm against the vile attackers who will never achieve their goal,” the club said in a statement.
The club said that among those killed was Vefa Karakurdu, a senior police officer in charge of security at games who was a member of its congress, and Tunc Uncu who worked at its official merchandise shop.
The attacks took place around the perimeter of the gleaming new stadium that is the pride and joy of the club’s fans who call their beloved side the Kara Kartal (Black Eagle).
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had in April inaugurated the brand new waterfront stadium on the Bosphorus and the team has played to packed stands ever since.
Besiktas in 2013 played for the last time at their old stadium in the same historic location on the shores of the Bosphorus just above the Ottoman-era Dolmabahce Palace.
That stadium — which was named after the second president of modern Turkey Ismet Inonu — was knocked down and the over 40,000 capacity Vodafone Arena built in its place.
– Opposition streak –
The club was founded as a gymnastics club under the Ottoman Empire in 1903 and its full name is still Besiktas Gymnastics Club (BJK). Its focus rapidly became football but like most Turkish clubs it proudly remains a multi-sports club.
The club’s famously leftist and anti-establishment fan club Carsi are seen as natural foes of Erdogan and like to chant slogans against his rule.
Carsi members played a key role in 2013 protests against Erdogan over the development of an Istanbul park that represented one of the biggest challenges to the Turkish strongman.
Thirty five members of the group were put on trial on widely-ridiculed charges of trying to stage a coup but all were acquitted in late December 2015.
To the amusement of fans, the April 4 opening of the stadium did not take place at a game but at a ceremony in front of almost empty stands. Some said this was due to fears Erdogan could be booed by fans at a match.
The club won the Super Lig title last season with its star player Mario Gomez of Germany who was top scorer in the Super Lig.
But Gomez shattered fans by leaving in the close season, saying he could not carry on due to the political situation in the wake of the failed July 15 coup.
Luminaries from the past of Besiktas including English former manager Gordon Milne, 79, who guided the club in a stellar period from 1987-1994, and taking consecutive titles in 1990, 1991 and 1992.
The club’s fans are also known for their irreverent humour including slogans like “it’s not about you and me, it’s Besiktas!”.
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