F for “Fenerbahçe” or “football”, the sport that radiates passions in Turkey

Every two weeks, every Tuesday, lepetitjournal.com Istanbul offers you a “Let’s talk about Turkey…” meeting through short texts by Samim Akgönül, author of the “Unusual Dictionary of Turkey”. You are invited to discover concepts, words and expressions or little-known facts but unusual characters from the Turkish space, inspired by the dictionary in question. Now, the letter “F”…


Well, this is the alphabetical order that drives the Galatasaray that I, to put Fenerbahçe in front. Look no further. Furthermore, for the purpose and taking a malicious pleasure, I will not discuss it but instead focus on Galatasaray, even if it means that some readers will be very angry!

Fenerbahçe, above all, is a relatively high-rise district of Istanbul, on the Asian coast. But throughout Turkey, when the word “Fenerbahçe” is uttered, the first thing that comes to mind is one of the oldest sports clubs in the country, founded in 1907, and especially its football team. The old rivalry between the city’s three football clubs, Beşiktaş, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe, extends far beyond the borders of Istanbul, and even into Turkey. 19 times champion Super Lig, the team is known by its nickname “yellow canaries”. This is true because the attitude of Fenerbahceli during the Gezi resistance in 2013, and especially after the death of Ali Ismail Korkmaz, Fenerbahçe, in my eyes, was less annoying! (19 years old, düşlerinde fözır dünya. Öptüğü şüblu forma, yaşayacak anısında. Ali İsmail Korkmaz, Fenerbahçe lekınmaz!)

Beşiktaş: “Çarşı allışye kaşı”

The more sympathetic is certainly Beşiktaş. Çarşı allışıne kaşı, says the slogan of its famous supporters group “the market is against everything”. “Market” means, in this case, the shopping district of the same name, located on the edge of the Bosphorus. If the district is considered to be of the secular bourgeoisie, the supporters of the eponymous football team are known for their opposition to the powers of the right, whatever they are. The symbol of the team – and therefore of the entire district – is a black eagle spreading its wings, whose statue sits in the middle of Because ifIn the middle of meyhane and kokoreçci. In this district is the mausoleum of Hayreddin Barbarossa, the very famous corsair of Greek origin converted to Islam, then admiral of the Ottoman fleet in the 16th century, sent by Suleiman the Magnificent in support of François 1er. The Ottoman fleet led by Barbarossa was able to join the French fleet at Toulon to recapture Nice from the hands of Charles V in 1543. François 1er offered Barbarossa to cool off at Toulon where, during the winter of 1543-1544 , the city’s cathedral was transformed into a mosque. In Beşiktaş, the Navy Museum, located next to the statue of Hayreddin Barbarossa, displays the remains of the Galley anchored in the port of Toulon.

Obviously, you will understand this, not the icing on the cake but the cake itself, this is Galatasaray!

Galatasaray or the “cim bom bom”

During the debates for an Ottoman Constitution in the 1830s, there was a famous telegram from Edhem Pasha, Ambassador of the Sublime Porte in Vienna, to his Foreign Minister Midhat Pasha: Bize is not a constitution, it is an institution (“What we need is not a Constitution but institutions”). In fact, first the Ottoman Empire, then republic Turkey, suffered from a lack of firmly anchored institutions that would outlast periods and changes of regimes. It’s always like that. One of these rare institutions, in the sociological, identity and organizational sense of the term, is Galatasaray. Literally “Palace of Galata”, a district beyond the Golden Horn, separating old Stamboul from the Genoese and Venetian installations; it was at the end of the 15th century that a school “Enderun” of the Ottoman palace was opened there where educated Içoğlan, intended for the internal service of the Topkapı Palace, or for certain military bodies, including the janissaries. But the real history of Galatasaray only begins in the 19th century, when Westernization became the main civilizing movement of the Ottoman Empire. We can say that Galatasaray, as a school, is the main institution of the era of Tanzimat. In fact, the inauguration of Mekteb-i Sultani in 1868 was part of the trend of secular schools, intended to train high-ranking French-speaking civil servants. For a century and a half, this goal was achieved with this school being converted into a high school in 1927, with the addition of a college and then an elementary school after that, and finally a university in 1992. So, Galatasaray has ended its era as an institution of education and civilization that continues to train the country’s intellectual elite. If you are in a French-speaking country and you know a Turk who is not a traditional economic immigrant, there is a good chance that he or she is a galatasaraylı. That said, Galatsaray is best known in the world (but also in general Turkish public opinion) thanks to its sports club, founded in 1905. cim bom bom, as its fans affectionately call it, sometimes to a sickly level, is a sports club that excels in 13 different disciplines, from basketball to judo, from swimming to bridge! Of course, the football team causes passions to be unleashed, both in Turkey and in Europe.

A final word about this oddity of cim bom bom, whose origins are the subject of intense debate. Among the hypotheses presented there is this onomatopoeia of “Zim Boum Boum” in French that makes the sound of a drum (don’t forget that the school and the club were founded by French speakers). In many popular French songs, including paillardes songs, we find this onomatopoeia.

Cimbombomsun sen, bizim canımız

Sarı Kırmızı akar kanımız

Seviyoruz seni canı nöngölden

Cimbombomsun sen, bizim canımız

“You are Cimbombom, all our lives

Our blood is yellow and red

We love you so much

You are Cimbombom, all our lives”


Author’s latest publications:

> Akgönül Samim (ed.), Turkish modernity: adaptations and constructions in the process of Ottoman and Turkish modernizationIstanbul, Isis Editions, 2022;

> Akkonul Samim, Unusual Turkish DictionaryParis, Cosmopole, 2021;

> Akkonul Samim, The new Turkey “and the Franco-Turks”: a complex interdependence, Paris, L’Harmattan 2020.

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