Besiktas Fans: “We Are All Pluto”

Last week, The New Yorker ran a feature on rabid Turkish soccer fans (just about the only kind, apparently), and while we usually dislike “look at the crazy soccer hooligans” stories in American media, this one delivers some golden nuggets.

Jozy Altidore’s Bursaspor features in the article (even if he and fellow American-in-Turkey Freddy Adu both go unmentioned), but the focus is on Besiktas and its rivalries with the other two big clubs in Istanbul—Galatasaray and Fenerbahce.

If you had to choose one of those three to support, we would strongly suggest the “underdog,”’ “working-class” Besiktas. The main reason being this:

“‘We Are All Black,’ proclaimed one banner, after rival fans had made reference to the race of the French-Senegalese Besiktas star Pascal Nouma. When Fenerbahce disparaged a Besiktas manager whose father had been a janitor, there were banners saying ‘We Are All Janitors.’ And when an international committee of astronomers removed Pluto from the list of planets [supporters group] Carsi took up the cause: ‘We Are All Pluto.’ ”

That sealed it for us. As long as Altidore’s Bursaspor (and Adu’s second-flight Rizespor) are not involved, we’re pulling for Besiktas.

The piece, by Elif Batuman (a brave woman: she ventured into the terraces solo), contains multiple other high points. Such as:

“During the course of the Rapid Wien game, the covered stands recited several anti-Fenerbahce chants, a staple of the repertoire no matter what team Besiktas is actually playing. The most famous anti-Fener chant, sung to the tune of ‘Those Were the Days,’ consists of three lines pledging an end to swearing in soccer, followed by the chorus ‘But one last time, suck my d***, Fener.’”


[A handful of old-timers from the supporters group, Carsi, discussing the turf wars that raged when the three Istanbul clubs were forced to share Besiktas’s Inönü Stadium]

“There would be news of a fight. Five hundred people would head straight there, some with guns. Have you seen the movie ‘Braveheart’? It was exactly like that.”

There’s a lot more good stuff in the story, including Carsi members joking [?] that they should kidnap Batuman, the supporters’ obsession with donating blood, and one fan’s assertion that he doesn’t care about extraterrestrials because, “Even if they exist, they’re hardly going to be Besikstasli.”

Check out the complete article in the March 7 edition of The New Yorker or read it right here if you have a subscription.

MLS Philly Fans a Cut above Regular Philly Fans

You may or may not have heard that Kansas City Wizards coach Peter Vermes was slapped with a DUI arrest on August 30, but the Sons of Ben, the Philadelphia Union’s supporters club, certainly did.

And we’re happy to report that the way they used this information represents a significant break from the tradition of mainstream sports fans in Philadelphia—the people who pelted Santa Claus with snowballs, cheered a potential neck injury to Michael Irvin, necessitated an in-house jail at the old Veterans Stadium, and perpetrated vomit-assaults on young girls.

Compared to all that, the Sons of Ben went positively Oscar Wilde on Vermes and the Wizards when they came to PPL Park this past Saturday.

When Kansas City took the field, fans launched into their own Vermes-tailored version of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” Very funny; very funny.

Then they kept going. And going. And it became brilliant, as they worked their way through every verse of the song. They paused now and again as game events dictated, but they eventually reeled off the whole thing.

We’re pretty sure this is a landmark moment for both MLS supporters’ wit and sports fandom in the city of Philadelphia.

Here’s some video:

U.S. – England: A Compendium of Trash Talk

The Daily Show’s resident Limey, John Oliver, visited the U.S. World Cup camp the other day for what he told the AP was a “free exchange of opinions as to how the England game would go.”

His report—which of course “degenerated” quickly into taunting—airs tonight. We will certainly be tuning in.

In that light, let’s review a small sampling, a drop in the ocean of s***-talking that has been flying back-and-forth between the U.S. and England in the run-up to Saturday’s hugely-anticipated matchup.

From the The Guardian’s “Treisman Tapes”* World Cup preview feature comes this description of the U.S.:

“Dental hygiene fascists and incorrigible donners of khaki trousers who have to invent abstruse games to call themselves world champions.”

Courtesy of Deadspin commenter Hatey McLife, we have the following proposed starting lineup for England:

Goalkeeper: Pip

Defenders: Some Limey, A Toothless Wanker, That Guy Who Eats Organ Meats, Lord Palmerston

Midfielders: That Closeted Gay Guy That I Roomed With One Semester, The Cockney Rhyming Guy, Prince…You Know, the Ginger

Attacking Midfielders: Elton John, The Other Prince

Striker: A Tea Sipping Crumpet Monkey

That should keep the wickets from sticking to the pitch!

Simon Johnson of the London Evening Standard offers a totally evenhanded assessment of the game, here, in which he states that while Rio Ferdinand’s injury hurts England, 

…it would take the rest of the squad to fall victim to a swine flu epidemic … for the game to start looking like an even contest.”

(Johnson goes on, inventively, to call MLS “Minor League Soccer.”)

And it’s not only the groundlings who are involved in this “exchange of opinions,” to borrow Oliver’s phrase. No, it reaches all the way up to the highest levels of government, as the following exchange between the U.S. and England ambassadors illustrates:

From: Philip Breeden, US Embassy London

To: Martin Longden, British Embassy Washington DC

Subject: World Cup Bet

Mr. Longden,

It has not escaped our attention that a certain sporting event is fast approaching, and that our respective nations will soon be meeting on the fields of South Africa.

My Ambassador has asked me to see if your Ambassador might be interested in a small wager? We will understand if you decline, given the outcome of the last such encounter.


Philip Breeden, U.S. Embassy, London


From: Martin Longden, British Embassy Washington DC

To: Philip Breeden, US Embassy London

Subject: Re: World Cup Bet

Mr. Breeden,

Even for such an exceptionally optimistic nation as the United States, I am struck by the confidence with which your Ambassador proposes this wager. It is testament, I assume, to the generosity of your great nation – since the British Ambassador does not anticipate paying out.

Your email does not specify the exact terms of the wager. May I suggest that, in the event of an England victory, the US Ambassador agrees to entertain the British Ambassador at a steak-house of his choosing in downtown DC? And in the event that the United States is able to engineer a fortuitous win over England, then my man will entertain yours at a London pub of his choosing. Loser pays.

Your reference to a previous sporting encounter between our two countries puzzles me. Since the history of English football is long and extensive, in contradistinction to US soccer, I regret that I cannot immediately recall the encounter to which you refer. No doubt it is remembered fondly on these shores; we have quite forgotten it, however.

Are you sure you want to do this?

Yours sincerely,

Martin Longden, British Embassy, Washington DC


From: Philip Breeden, US Embassy London

To: Martin Longden, British Embassy Washington DC

Subject: Re: World Cup Bet

Mr. Longden,

It is with great pleasure, and no small measure of anticipation, that the U.S. Ambassador accepts the terms of the wager. I am surprised, given the well known love of the British for history, that you have forgotten what happened the last time the “special relationship” was tested on the pitch. Of course, given the result, you are to be forgiven for having misplaced that particular episode in your memory banks. I refer of course to the victory of the U.S. over England in the 1950 World Cup.

It is true that our soccer (a fine English word we have kindly preserved for you) history is not as long and illustrious as yours. However, as your generals noted during WWII, we have a unique capability for quickly identifying and advancing talent.

Game on!

Sincerely, Philip Breeden


From: Martin Longden, British Embassy Washington DC

To: Philip Breeden, US Embassy London

Subject: Re: World Cup Bet

Mr. Breeden,

Very well; it’s a bet!

Incidentally, you should know that the Ambassador takes his steak like American soccer victories—somewhat rare.


Martin Longden

Those are some high-level high-jinks right there, and we approve.

As for the outcome of Saturday’s game, Oliver says a U.S. win would let loose “a complex series of emotions, from hug embarrassment to outright humiliation to deep anger…. You can’t even comprehend how bad it would be.”

So much for the stiff upper lip.

*Lord Treisman had been chairman of England’s 2018 World Cup bid until one of English tabloids caught him, in a sting, claiming that rival bidders Spain and Russia were plotting to bribe referees. He resigned and the bid is currently on shaky ground. The Guardian’s “Treisman Tapes” feature, according to our English sources, is kind of a “what we really want to say” description of each nation in the World Cup. Worth a read, here (scroll to bottom of each team capsule).