More foreign fans flocking to Turkish football stadiums
Ceyhun Kuburlu - ISTANBUL
The total number of foreigners who have watched first- and second-tier football games in Turkey neared 132,000 in the last two-and-a-half seasons, according to data gathered from Passolig, the ticketing company.
As the current season nears the end of the first half, some 38,000 foreign fans have already registered for the system, a legal must for those who want to go to football games in Turkey, with officials foreseeing the season-end figure at 65,000.
A Fenerbahçe-Beşiktaş derby game on Sept. 24 saw the highest number of foreigners in a game this season.
First-tier Fenerbahçe, which faces the worst season ever in its history, and Black Sea giant Trabzonspor followed the top two in attracting foreigners but a tiny second-tier team, Istanbulspor, sits on the fifth place, with 13,95 non-Turkish spectators this season.
People from 90 countries have gone to football games in the last two-and-a-half seasons.
German citizens topped the list, followed by Lebanese and Iraqis.
The Passolig ticketing system, which requires ID information of the ticket or season ticket buyers, was introduced by the end of the 2013-2014 season with aims to put an end to hooliganism.
The system was initially rejected by many die-hard fan groups, with the resistance declining in time.
Nearly 35.6 million foreigners visited Turkey in the first 10 months of this year, according to Culture and Tourism Ministry figures, which point to a 22.4 percent increase from some 29 million in the same period last year.
Russians have topped the overall visitors with 5.72 million people, followed by 4.15 million visitors from Germany.