Thunderclap in the Turkish Championship! By winning on Sunday evening thanks to a success against Kayserispor (1-0), Süper Lig, Başakşehir, where former Caen player Enzo Crivelli and former international Gaël Clichy play, became only the 6 th team of history to lift the precious trophy. Vice-champion in 2017 and then in 2019, this young club, in the suburbs of Istanbul, beat the pawn, by the way, to the traditional leaders of the country: Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Besiktas, the other Istanbul teams. And this meteoric rise owes a lot to the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Head of the Middle East department at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) and creator of a work program on Turkey, Dorothée Schmid has agreed to decipher the close relations between Başakşehir and the controversial Turkish president.
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What is the link between the club and Erdogan?
A former semi-professional footballer, Erdogan had the opportunity to show off his attacking skills during a gala match for the inauguration of the new Başakşehir stadium in 2014. Wearing the club's orange tunic, he even scored a hat-trick with, they say, a certain leniency from opposing defenders. This year, the club is bought by supporters of his party, the AKP, in particular by his personal doctor. And the club is chaired by the husband of Erdogan's niece
Dorothée Schmid's opinion: “There is, above all, a historical link. The club, created in 1990, belonged to the municipality of Istanbul. Erdogan became mayor of the city in 1994 and de facto president of the club. It seems that Başakşehir's funding is linked to Erdogan's entourage. In 2014, the club was privatized by setting up a joint stock company structure and received a lot of money from companies linked to the AKP ”.
A neglected club of supporters
Unlike the three big Istanbul stables (Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Besiktas), Başakşehir does not drain the crowds. If the club can afford to recruit big names in football, somewhat at the end of the race, however, such as Emmanuel Adebayor (from 2017 to 2019) and Robinho (since 2019), the stands of the Fatih-Terim stadium are ringing hollow. “We played in front of 100 people,” French player Jérémy Perbet, who spent a season at the club in 2014, told Franceinfo.
Dorothée Schmid's opinion: “This club is considered an artificial creation. He doesn't really have a social link. During the 2017-2018 season, Başakşehir averaged just over 5,000 supporters in home games. The three other teams in Istanbul recorded an average attendance of 30,000 people ”.
Alone against all
In Turkey, football is at the heart of social and political disputes. While they are used to living together in a deleterious atmosphere, the supporters of Besiktas, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray decide to form a united front against the government of Erdogan, during the demonstrations of Gezi in 2013. The arrival in the first division of a club with close links with the Turkish leader, has aroused tensions among supporters of the three big clubs in Istanbul.
The opinion of Dorothée Schmid: “In Turkey, supporters are associated with values different from those advocated by the AKP (parties, alcohol and secularism). There are different social stratifications: Galatasaray is the elite club of Turkish society, Besiktas is very on the left, but both have a very marked fan base in opposition to Erdogan ” .
Erdogan's soft power?
Keen on football, the Turkish President likes to appear alongside international footballers. The most recent is Mesut Özil on the occasion of his marriage in Turkey. The German midfielder Arsenal, of Turkish origin, chose a witness to say the least surprising, in the person… of Erdogan. A way for the Head of State to improve his image by using a sport very popular with the Turkish population.
Dorothée Schmid's opinion: “Erdogan knows that football is a very popular sport around the world. Turkey is associated with European competitions and there is an image issue abroad. For him, it's a personal pleasure because he loves the sport, but there is also the idea that football has a very strong anchoring in Turkey and in particular in Istanbul. He wants to access this political accessory ”.