21 May ~ On Sunday the Turkish Super Lig reached an incredible climax when Bursaspor, a club who only only one trophy – the cup in 1986 – snatched the title from Fenerbahce on the final day of the season. There was dancing in the streets, there was rioting in the stadiums and the Fenerbahce stadium announcer was arrested. The Anatolian Revolution begins! screamed the headlines.
Bursaspor winning the Turkish title is an appreciably big thing. Previously, only four teams had won the championship and only one of these (the great Trabzonspor side of the 1980s) had been from outside of Istanbul. What is more, Bursaspor are relative minnows. Unlike Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Galatasaray, they have not been able to snaffle up trophy-signings from the west. (The not insignificant exception to the team assembled by coach Ertugrul Saglam being the Argentine midfielder Pablo Batalla.) On the back of Bursaspor's unheralded success star turn Ozan Ipek, along with Turgay Bahadir, Sercan Yildirim and Volkan Sen, have found themselves on the fringes of the national side. "An TL18 million (£8m) club", as the Mourinho-esque Saglam put it, "beat teams worth €100-200m and became champions". This is Carlisle United winning the Premier League.
Bursaspor's victory is a triumph for footballing outposts. Because its heyday came in the days of the Ottoman Empire, Bursa suffers the enormous condescension of the Istanbul elite. For their part, Bursaspor's fans eschew cosmopolitan pretensions for Azerbaijani flags, which they wave as a sign of solidarity with their Turkic-speaking cousins' border disputes with the Armenians. But as with the recent ascent of teams such as Sivasspor, Bursaspor's rise is a victory for new industry as well as old "Turkish" values. Bursa is Asia Minor's Detroit. Thus the collective organisational and financial breakdown suffered this season by the Istanbul big three (especially Galatasaray and Besiktas) is symbolic of the wider changes afoot.
But none of this mattered a jot on the thrilling final day of the Super Lig season. Fenerbahce went into the final round of matches one point clear of Bursaspor. The title was theirs to lose and they maintained the initiative by taking an early lead against Trabzonspor through Daniel Güiza. Then, in the space of 30 minutes, Trabzonspor equalised and Bursaspor took a two-goal advantage into half-time.
This was sensational stuff and no one expected it to last. Sure enough, Besiktas pulled a goal back through Ugur Inceman with just two minutes to spare and Fenerbahce supporters' sweaty-palmed hope exploded into on-the-field dancing when it was announced that Besiktas had equalised. Whether by misfortune or mischief, the stadium announcer was wrong. Cue Fener fans setting fire to the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium and the greatest no-health-and-safety-certificates-required firework display ever seen at a 19,000 capacity ground in Bursa. Incredibly, brilliantly, Bursaspor were champions of Turkey. Scott Anthony