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Inonu Stadium, home of Besiktas JK, one of Turkey's most succesful football clubs. I have been at the stadium before: last season I attended BJK-Fenerbahce (0-1 result which was decisive as Fenerbahce won the league shortly after) but Inonu is one of those stadiums I always love to return to. Is Inonu the best stadium on earth? Unlikely. Is it the most beautifully located stadium? Without a doubt.
Inonu is just next to the Bosphorus, next to a beautiful mosque, and next to Dolmabahce Palace where Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (founder of the modern Turkish state) lived until he died. From the stands of Inonu you can see that mosque, the sea with boats passing, and in the distance you see thousands of apartment blocks forming the Asian side of Istanbul. Inonu is probably the ONLY stadium on earth where you can see a different continent from the stands. "Beautiful" would be an understatement. It is such a stunning view and such a unique place to watch football that I happily return here no matter how often I've already visited the stadium.
Earlier this week the mighty Liverpool FC lost here in the Champions League. Besiktas beat them 2-1.
Today's opponent is of a lot less attraction: Istanbul Büyüksehir Belediyespor.
A team that plays its very first season in the top divison, and a team without fans. Yes, without fans! The team is, as the name indicates (belediye = municipality) a team owned by Istanbul City Council. The few fans they have (less than 1000) are all municipality workers. To make it even more bizarre: IBB play their hown games in the Olympic Stadium Ataturk which holds 82000 people. But only 1000 people come to the games. Ever seen a stadium look more empty than this?? The reason of course that Istanbul BB can play in such a stadium is that the stadium is owned by Istanbul City Council, just like the team itself.
Of course you can ask yourself: is a team with no support at all worth of playing in the top division? Good question. However, so far they do well. Because the city council gives the club much money they were able to buy several good players and have so far gotten good results. Especially at home they are difficult to beat, and on the opening weekend of the season IBB managed to even beat Fenerbahce 2-0 (that day there were 10000 people in the stadium, 9500 of them being Fenerbahce fans that made the trip...).
By the way, municipality teams are not that uncommon in Turkey. Ankaraspor, another team owned by their local city council, also plays in the top division (and also has very few fans).
I entered the stadium 4 minutes after kick-off as it cost me some time to get a ticket. Like usual, the nation anthem is played before every game, but I missed that. I of course got in with only 4 minutes played so I saw almost the whole game. Not that there was much to see. The first half was incredibly boring with a lot of midfield play and two teams that kept each other in balance. Istanbul BB, supported by exactly 7 fans in the away section of the stadium, were never dominated and kept their goal protected without too much problems. The only thing we saw on both ends were a few shots from distance that missed the goal.
Just before half-time, Besiktas suddenly woke up and started to put some pressure. A cross from the right was headed just past the far post, and in the dying seconds of the first half a player passed the defender with style and curved the ball only centimeters past the far post.
0-0 at half time.
The second half luckily was better but again none of the teams could dominate. Both teams tried to attack though so we saw at least two teams that tried to make it a nice game. At first though we saw only a lot of crosses easily saved by the goalkeepers. None of the two goalkeepers had a lot to do apart from those crosses and an occasional shot from distance that was easily saved.
Towards the end of the game we saw a few real chances though. First we saw a perfect cross from Istanbul BB that was headed towards goal perfectly under the bar ; goalkeeper Hakan (replacing the absent Recber Rüstü) paraded the ball with style and pushed it over the crossbar.
Besiktas came even closer to scoring when a header hit the crossbar and bounced back into the field. A few goal attempts on both sides were blocked as well by the defense.
0-0 result and especially Istanbul BB will be happy with that. The "ugly duckling with no fans" is often mocked with but they keep scoring points and even have gotten 4 points out of 6 versus Fenerbahce and Besiktas. More so, they got this point without often coming into trouble and a draw was a correct result for both teams, although it is very doubtful if Besiktas will be happy with losing 2 points at home to IBB.
The game was not exciting at all, but the stadium makes up for that. It remains beautiful and stunning no matter how often you see it.
Keep it flaming your desire, always rising higher, aim for stars and hit the sky! (Echo & The Bunnymen, 1996 "Evergreen")