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Soccer in Turkey as a source of social cohesion

Wednesday 12 January 2011, by Hakan Tasçi

When Professor Hakan Berument of Bilkent University, one of the most productive professors of economics in Turkey and my advisor during my graduate studies at Bilkent, showed me his first work on soccer, I could not resist laughing at him as a Trabzonspor fan.

He worked with a good friend, Eray Yücel, and showed that Fenerbahçe victories abroad in international tournaments increase the industrial production of Turkey by a quarter percent. However, domestic wins of the same team did not have a similar significant effect. The main claim is that when your favorite team wins, you get in a better mood and you become more productive. Variations of this research stream show significant relationships between soccer success and exchange rates as well as stock market indices. Remembering endless soccer debates during my high school years in Trabzon and how winning over the weekend affects the mood of the students on Monday morning, I am still curious about the relationship between high school students’ grades and local team victories, especially in Trabzon.

The Turkish Super League is dominated by the championships of the three İstanbul teams, Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş and Galatasaray. The only exception in the league’s 60 years of history was Trabzonspor’s six championships during the 1980s, that is until recently. Last year Bursaspor for the first time won the national championship. This year, at the midway point through the league, there were three Anatolian teams in the top four spots. Fenerbahçe is the only exception as a usual suspect and is third in the ranking. You see teams from Gaziantep, Kayseri and Karabük together with Trabzon and Bursa in the higher echelons of the Super League. It is quite likely that either Trabzon or Bursa will win the Super Cup this year.

There are a few theories behind this success. One camp says this is not the failure of the İstanbul teams but rather the success of the Anatolian tigers. They have learned how to form and manage a team as well as invest heavily in infrastructure and youth. They also learned how to bring income to clubs and manage it successfully. But the other camp blames the unsuccessful management of the İstanbul clubs. There is some truth to both theories, but this does not change the league rankings. Anatolia has undisputedly achieved success in recent years. There was the unique success of teams like Trabzon before. But this is the first time we have a more diverse boom in Anatolia.

If you look at the annual budgets of the teams, you’ll see this success story clearly and also the failure of the İstanbul teams. Fenerbahçe, ranked third, has a budget of 148.3 million euros this year. Galatasaray, ranked ninth, has a budget of around 128 million euros. And Beşiktaş, ranked fifth, has a budget of around 107 million euros. When we look at the budget of the leader at the halfway point, Trabzonspor, it has an annual budget of around 60 million euros. Bursaspor, ranked second, has a budget of 55 million euros.

There’s another interesting statistic that I would like to note here: Turkey’s top 13 industrial cities are all represented in the Super League in one way or another. İstanbul has five teams and Ankara two. One significant city that I think is underrepresented is İzmir. There is only one team, Bucaspor, and it is ranked 17th out of the 18 teams playing in the league. Teams from İzmir’s Altay, Karşıyaka and Göztepe districts are not present at all.

Sports success is an innovation that boosts the morale and self-esteem of the fans of a team. Nelson Mandela’s rugby team won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, after which Mandela himself handed the cup to team captain François Pienaar of this surprise South African team. This was selected as one of the most inspiring sporting moments of the century by the BBC.

Clint Eastwood directed the movie “Invictus,” in which he told the story of this South African rugby team with a strong emphasis on color discrimination. Turkey today is living in another interesting moment, where Anatolia is leading the game. The tricky question at this point is going to be the issue of sustainability and performance. Work hard and develop strategies both in the economy and soccer, and you will be remembered.

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Source : TdZ, 28 December 2010, Tuesday

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