"Mazbatayi ver, mazbatayi ver, mazbatayi ver, Imamoglu & # 39; na!"
The Besiktas fans are singing against local rivals Istanbul Basaksehir before their home game and it's very, very loud.
Football in the biggest city of Turkey always means color, passion and noise, but the match on Saturday was played under very special circumstances between two very different clubs.
Istanbul is going through strained, uncertain times. The recent results of the local elections show that the candidate favored by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was defeated here. His governing party, however, refused to accept the result and ordered a recount.
The singing sung by the Besiktas fans prompted Erdogan to give "Ekrem Imamoglu", the "winning candidate" who was present at the game, power and sat next to Besiktas & # 39; chairman.
This is Turkey in a nutshell – politics and football are intertwined, there is no escape. In terms of basaksehir, league leaders and a new power in the scene, they have close ties with Erdogan.
Founded in 1990 as an amateur team, they rose quickly through the leagues and reached in 2007 for the first time the first league.
But it was 2014 when her fortune really changed. At that time, a group of business people were taking place near Erdogan's ruling AK Party.
Former Turkish manager Abdullah Avci was appointed manager and Goksel Gumusdag joined as club president – he is married to the niece of Erdogan's wife, Emine.
While Tottenham introduced club legends Paul Gascoigne and David Ginola for the opening of their new site in March, Basaksehir himself deployed Erdogan when they unveiled a new 17,000-seat stadium in July 2017.
A former semi-professional player, Erdogan scored a hat-trick in the first half with a 9-4 victory for his side in a remarkable performance with the Daily Sabah newspaper His second goal, a choppy attempt to compare with what the Lionel Messi of Barcelona would achieve.
Erdogan wore the number 12 jersey in the match and was voted the country's 12th president a month later. Basaksehir paid tribute by leaving the squad.
Basaksehir may have come to the top of the Turkish table, but many see their route as artificial, relying on outside investments that have paid for new players and a new stadium.
Their average goal is around 4,000, but many believe that only a quarter pay paid viewers. The remaining tickets are purchased by sponsors or distributed to schools and local people.
Their success is a rivaling fan, especially that of Besiktas, an association that is proud to be the oldest in Turkey. They were founded in 1903 to date the nation itself – the Republic of Turkey was officially proclaimed in 1923.
"I've lived all my life in Istanbul and never met a single Basaksehir fan," said Besiktas supporter Cagri ahead of the two teams' meeting on Saturday.
"This is not a derby, it will never be, you are a fake club and have no story, I have no feelings, no nerves to play them, and everyone else feels the same."
If Basaksehir is a "pro-government" and "pro-Erdogan" club, you can see that Besiktas represents exactly the opposite.
In the afternoon before the game, the narrow, winding streets in the Besiktas district of Istanbul were a black and white sea. Anyone wearing the color of another team may be in trouble.
The clubs Carsi Ultras gathered around a statue of a black eagle – the emblem of the team – and when a man circled around me, smashing a drum, a little too close to comfort himself, the afternoon could still be seen Azaan (Call to prayer) between the minarets of the mosque that dominate the skyline.
There is a particularly dramatic story that says a lot about that Carsi Politics of the group.
What began as a small peaceful protest against the demolition of Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul in 2013 turned into long and large-scale demonstrations against the government.
The focus seemed to be coming when the police used tear gas to disperse the activists. In the long violent clashes that followed, thousands were injured and 22 people died.
As the protests in Istanbul grew, members of the Carsi The group launched a bulldozer that had been left in front of Besiktas & # 39; during the renovation work, and used it to push back the police's water cannon.
Blood was spilled on the streets of Istanbul for centuries, and only in 2016, when a military coup attempted to topple the government of Erdogan, and failed. More than 250 people died.
Although Gezi Park was reopened, it was closed again on Saturday. A large police presence had cordoned off the area with anti-riot vehicles. Rumor has it that President Erdogan was voiding the election results for the local elections.
After the game on Saturday, there is a happier mood among the Besiktas fans. After 90 minutes singing, smoking and jumping is also a victory to celebrate.
Ex-Real Madrid and striker Manchester City's Robinho (35) took the lead on Basaksehir. The Brazilian is one of several aging big names that has arrived in recent years. In addition to former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor (35) and former Chelsea striker Demba Ba (33), led by former Newcastle midfielder Emre Belozoglu (38).
The home side scored twice to win 2-1. Despite the defeat, Basaksehir was still eight points behind third-placed Besiktas. The result, however, meant that their closest challengers were able to reduce the distance to the city on Sunday in the city's biggest derby, between the heavyweights Fenerbahce and Galatasaray.
The two teams are located on the opposite bank of the Bosphorus and are referred to as the "Intercontinental Derby". Galatasaray is located in Europe and Fenerbahce in Asia.
Divided by social and cultural differences, they share a bitter rivalry.
Galatasaray is seen as the representative of the elite formed by students of Galatasaray High School, the oldest in Turkey. To date, you need to be a graduate to be a member of the team board. Fenerbahce is now considered a folk club.
Together, they have won 40 of the 62 Super League titles that have been contested since the founding of the League in 1959.
However, the landscape is a bit different nowadays. Uefa's financial fair play sanctions have reduced their purchasing power and forced them to promote junior academics who were not good enough.
While Galatasaray is the title candidate of Basaksehir, Fenerbahce is fighting against relegation. Her team was described as "really poor" and "the weakest in 20 years".
When the fans arrived on the ferry before the game to cross the Bosphorus, I spotted a man in a full Fenerbahce tracksuit. Staring blankly, he stared across the water, looking like a man shaken with nerves before the game. Savac was his name.
"From Istanbul?" I asked. "No, from Frankfurt in Germany." It was only his third game at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium, but he was by no means alone when he had finished the journey. I was told that up to 3,000 others had done the same, including Okan from Munich.
"I do not support Bayern," he said. "My family is Turkish, so we support teams from here, my dad is a Trabzonspor fan."
The 22-year-old has been in every home game with his friend Tim since 2015 and has always stayed a few days. It costs around £ 4,500 per season for tickets, travel and accommodation. The obsession is clear.
The 20-minute drive across the water took us to Kadikoy – Fenerbahce Heartland. They are immediately hit by the yellow and blue shirts, scarves and flags. What impressed me most was the Galatasaray fans, who walk freely and without problems.
Before I made the trip to Istanbul, a response I heard from many people was about possible dangers. "Stay safe," they said. "Stay away from trouble." When asked if they had been in town, the answer was no.
The killings of supporters of Leeds United, Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight, ahead of a semi-final of the Uefa Cup 2000 against Galatasaray, may be in the foreground almost 20 years later.
In his book & # 39; Welcome to Hell? In search of real Turkish football, British social anthropologist Dr. John McManus from Ankara the question of violence in football and hooliganism in the country.
The term "Welcome to Hell" comes from Manchester United's Champions League visit to Galatasaray in November 1993, when Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs and his company were greeted particularly hostilely by their arrival at the airport. Trailers stormed about seven hours before kick-off at the old Ali Sami Yen Stadium.
McManus wrote: "My own experiences were anything but hellish." When I think of Turkish football, I imagine warmth, camaraderie and enthusiasm in crowds that I've never experienced before.
"I'm thinking of London Turkish descent who would pull on a Fenerbahce top and fly halfway across Europe to watch their team.
"I never felt unwelcome in Turkey, and the gap between perceptions and the reality I encountered was strong."
After the boat trip, it was easy to see what he meant, and around Fenerbahce's ground a carnival atmosphere was already in place five hours before kick-off. The wave carried me along.
Fans lined the streets singing songs and lighting up. The smoke was so thick that your eyes itched and spread in your throat. There was no decline. Surprised, my heart skipped a beat as fireworks emitted a tremendous shudder.
The burned-out torches are thrown away on the streets by the hundreds, along with thousands of beer cans and millions of sunflower seeds that must be carried away by the truckload.
Another, less innocent ritual before the game is to stop traffic in the one-way street parallel to the ground. Excited fans then rock the cars from side to side. The older the vehicle, the more powerful the rocking. Those who drive Mercedes and BMW get off easily.
In the Fenerbahce Stadium Sukru Saracoglu, a cauldron of a place, the game itself is a typical encounter with a derby. The crescendo of whistling fans every time Galatasaray hits the ball provides another round of the eardrum.
It's a game of tricky fouls, and the home fans are upset when defender Hasan Ali Kaldirim is sent off after the referee has consulted the assistant referee.
It ends 1-1. Fenerbahce fans will be happier driving home. They are only six points from the last three points, but they are at least undefeated at home to Galatasaray since 1998. In addition, they may even have slightly affected the title hopes of their rivals.
A draw means that Galatasaray reduced the deficit against Basaksehir to five points after six draws, but victory would have reduced the lead to three points.
Galatasaray will face league leaders this season in the penultimate round of the game. A match that may determine who wins the title.
If Basaksehir can hold on, they will only become the sixth club that has won the Turkish league since 1959.
It will undoubtedly be a historic achievement, but only a small number of the millions of passionate football fans in Istanbul will be celebrating.