Başakşehir, genius of suburbia

Little, nasty and not so loved. From everyone, or almost.

The smile of Emre Belözoğlu, glowing after having won against the same Fenerbahçe that discarded him because they didn’t believe in him anymore, was the opening cover of the Turkish football season.
İstanbul Başakşehir‘s domination is not clear, as they often play through counterattacks and a “see-through” gameplan. And they win, deservedly clinching the first place after two months since the beginning of the Süper Lig, in front of local giants like Galatasaray and Beşiktaş.

basaksehirBaşakşehir, at that moment still a neighbourhood under construction, already appeared on MondoFutbol more than one year ago: arrived in Europe exactly one season after the club’s foundation, they represented a story without previous examples. Rewriting the rules of a sport that, for its nation, represents an undeniable tie with its land and the cheer, visceral and hot-blooded, that put Turkey on the map for the ones who love ultras style.
In 2014 in that arid peripheric area there was anything but the stadium, entitled to Fatih Terim after a majestic ceremony, and the new-born team were raising perplexity and skepticism in the town. Now the world seems overturn: the Emperor is under process due to the National Team’s negative performances, and while his star seems to eclipse the stadium’s stands in the deepest west of Istanbul begin to fill up with supporters.

Başakşehir, the neighbourhood, is arising.

And the team can’t be different than his territory. It happened the same in Leicester, a town that “seemed dead, but then it’s like somebody gave it a drop of water“: in the last weeks in Turkey the newspapers’ opening lines were clearly underlining the similarities between the beginning of the orange-and-blue season and last year’s miracle that belongs to Claudio Ranieri‘s Foxes.
And exactly from the bench is building his personal “little LeicesterAbdullah Avcı, 300 appearances between the old and dead Istanbul BB and the new Başakşehir for a man that gained the “legend-status” of a freak reality, that belongs to a periphery full of konut, the gigantic palaces projected with anti-sismic standards by the government’s TOKİ, already a permanent presence in Turkish town’s skylines.
Avcı admitted a mistake he made one year ago, as he excluded the “old” Emre (35 years) in a decisive Europa League game against Dutch outfit AZ Alkmaar.

avciHe built a cohesive group, whose symbol is unexpectedly Italian globetrotter Stefano Napoleoni: the Roman player, one of the two “Italians” actually in the Turkish Super League, accepted many times the bench but resulted decisive with a brace in a come back against Ankara-based Osmanlıspor. Not to speak about Bosnian wizard Edin Višća, undeniable MVP of the Crescent-Star league and inexplicably still unnoticed outside the Turkish national border..

viscaAlways in a European night, Avcı trusted in a team that had a kind of paralysis every time they walked over the frontier.
In Rijeka, however, that 4th August the orange-and-blues weren’t just playing for their shirt.

Our martyrs are immortal, our land is indivisible.

Three weeks just passed from the attempted coup in Turkey: tanks of a rebel army branch occupied the first Bosphorus bridge, both a crowded junction and the beating heart of Istanbul. Hundreds of people lost their lives, due to a power-fight yet to be over.
So, after the 2-2 that tore down Başakşehir‘s European taboo, the club wanted to remember the guys that are no more there with them.

basaksehir-2-2Unluckily the Europa League draw was harsh with the orange-and-blues, bringing to the Arena powerful Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk, vanifying the night in Rijeka.
But something remained. The fundamental awareness that group could overtake their limits.
The team continued their way, following the erdoğanian projects of whatever is going to be Istanbul’s planned thirt airport (3.İstanbul), now brand-new sponsor-financer of a Başakşehir that, both as a team and a neighbourhood, want to be the symbol of a new building-up Turkey.

emre-3istanbulA nation deeply endangered by a dark night, now remembered by every passage on the Bosphorus’ first bridge just renamed Bridge of 15 July’s martyrs.

Fenerbahçe had to pass over there, recently, before arriving to the Fatih Terim Arena. There they found their former legend Emre Belözoğlu and the terrible kids coached by Avcı, maybe just a sensation of this season start, maybe something more.

 

Photos in the article © Bruno Bottaro, cover photo © İstanbul Başakşehir