Is this terrace engineering?

Is this terrace engineering?

After the “attack the pitch” show during the Beşiktaş-Galatasaray match, “the administration” started cheering for the need to increase security measures in the stands. The detention of more than 80 people from several football fan groups in Istanbul raised the level of the thriller feature of the incident. Among the charges leveled against those detained is serious business, such as incitement to murder. We will wait in curiosity for the concrete evidence to be presented. 

The Association for the Rights of Football Fans (Taraftar Hakları Derneği) is voicing its suspicions about how come the preparation, which was claimed to have been going on for one and a half years, is now bearing fruit. Are they farfetched when they claim that this is a part of “the government’s determination to fine tune football fans since the Gezi protests, and to redesign the football terraces”?The fact that serious allegations that the “1453 Eagles” group was the perpetrator of the pitch invasion show have been very lightly covered in the pro-government media strengthens these suspicions. We understand that the 1453, which is based on a nationalist group working for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is set to function as a psychological war tool, creating a counter force against Çarşı, or at least to “keep it busy.” It is a coarse and fraudulent way of “bringing the terraces into politics,” with their own hands and for their own favor, while they supervise every slogan and every symbol with warnings such as, “do not associate politics into football.” 

Last week, readers asked me for a documentation of fan groups in the world similar to the 1453 one. It is difficult to find a similar one. Of course there are many groups who fervently support official politics, especially nationalist policies, and who are loyally connected to the government. Of course they are also protected. But they are not artificial organisms, they are groups that already exist. Although the 1453 group will claim that it has “deep roots” as long as it continues, it will definitely be different from the disobedient and cheerful spirit of Çarşı, becoming the open political polarization generator in the stands. 

As an example of political polarization, in Germany, the tension at the football club Alemannia Aachen reached the level where the left-leaning group had to withdraw from the stands. The Karl’s Band is at one end of the tension (resembling the 1453), while on the other side are the non-political Aachen Ultras, which fight against racism, fascism, homophobia and the criminalization of fans. Ideas clash as well as tribune cultures: Samba-like, cool and witty songs clash against the traditional cursing-marches… 

However, the two-year old tension in Aachen escalated to threats, house raids and open attacks. Measures were ineffective. In the end, the ultras rejected even speaking the same language as Karl’s Band, and decided to withdraw from the stands. If they want to watch the game, they will now go individually and sit in the more wholesome closed tribune. 

An example that is just the opposite of this one in every sense is from Ukraine. A group of leftist young people - who did not agree that racism, nationalism and anti-Semitism should be considered normal, or even cool, in the football environment - thought it was time to open a contra-front in the stands a few years ago. Just like their rivals they were prone to violence, working out and body building. Because it had fewer supporters and also because it was a low-profile club, they chose to support Arsenal Kiev and became its “ultras.” Well, this is the flip side of the “artificial formation.” 

Tanıl Bora is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece was published on Oct. 2. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.