Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Besiktas fans united by Turkish anti-government protests

Ryan Bailey

A few weeks ago, a Fenerbahce fan was stabbed to death at a bus stop by a pair of Galatasaray fans following an end-of-season derby match. Suffice to say, the feeling between supporters Istanbul's big three clubs — Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Besiktas — is one of passionate hatred and loathing.

Thanks to ongoing political protests in the Turkish city, however, fans of the three teams have come together to fight the same cause for the first time.

What started as a peaceful sit-in protest over the proposed redevelopment of Istanbul's historic Taksim Square has now evolved into a full-scale demonstration against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government. Fans have put their differences aside to challenge the authoritarian regime, and a picture of three rival supporters with their arms around each other has been circulating on Twitter:


Reuters has more information:

"Go on spray, go on spray, spray your pepper gas. Take off your helmets, put down your truncheons and let's see who's the tough guy," sang the fans, taunting police with a Besiktas chant which has become popular with the demonstrators.

There are tales of Galatasaray fans coming to the aid of Fenerbahce supporters trapped by the police, or of fans rushing down the hill from Taksim to the aid of rival supporters in the nearby Besiktas district on the shores of the Bosphorus.

"We are normally enemies, but this has really brought us together. It's never happened before," said university student Mert Gurses, 18, wearing a black-and-white Besiktas scarf and chatting with friends near the fish market in Besiktas.

For now, the rival Istanbul fans seem content to stand beside one another in peace and focus their energies on encouraging political change. When the new football season fires up in August, however, the hugging and mutual respect is probably going to come to a very abrupt end.