Diyarbakır is a town down on its knees, between the fires of the army and the PKK. The atmosphere got even worse in the last months, with clashes, imposed curfews and a worrying tension escalation.
In front of this view football brought a ray of sunlight, a shy hope, thanks to the Turkish Cup. Against all the predictions Amed SK, club subject to another political debate some months ago, put the Watermelons’ Town name on Turkish football’s maps.
Diyarbakır, in Kurdish language Amed, finds its role through football: Amed won twice the ‘derby’ against the nearby Şanlıurfaspor, club from a superior category and symbol of the GAP, South-Eastern Anatolia government project promoted by Ankara and contested by Diyarbakır/Amed, the town where everything has two names.
Turkish, Kurdish and other identities, the mosaic is a lot more complex than expected.
Who knows if for the first time the whole town will support Amed SK, hoping that the Bursa away game, for the Turkish Cup eight-finals, might give one of those matches that remain in football’s history.
As if the tension was not high enough, a gesture by Başakşehir’s striker Semih Şentürk opened old wounds: in the last Turkish Cup match, in which Amed SK achieved a historic draw in Istanbul, Şentürk celebrated the last-minute 2-2 goal with a military salute.
A clear support to those who lost their lives fighting against PKK, a signal that a part of Bursaspor ultras group Teksas misinterpreted to prepare a resentful pre-match atmosphere before Bursaspor-Amed SK.
In 2010, when Amed were called Diyarbakırspor and had Süper Lig ambitions, the teams challenged more on the stands than on the pitch. The Turkish National Anthem was booed, casualties and browls completed the atmosphere.
This is why Bursaspor-Amed is not, and never will be, just a football match.
It’s already a very passionate rivalry, hidden through the years and suddenly reawakened. Timsah Arena, Bursa and Turkish football are in front of a maturity test: they have the opportunity to give a signal to politics, actually something that football already did by that surprising decision of giving Amed the rights to change their name into the ‘Kurdish’ one.
A historic message, in countertrend in front of the complete chaos which the country’s South-East is passing through.