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.