Only myself (Kirkcaldy Kanka Martyn) and Battle-Hardened Kanka Damon set off for distant Sivas on Saturday morning. After a late night drinking on Friday we forced ourselves out of bed for an 8.30am bus that would last seven-and-a-half hours. It had to be done. It was my last mission as an Ankaragucu Kanka this time in Turkey.
Damon, who has rarely gone to matches, again surprised me by happily going along. He is an adventurer and the idea of venturing into the East of Turkey appealed to him. The other reason for going was Matt. Our old friend from the West country of England had left Ankara and Bilkent for the conservative Sivas last August. He had followed his wife, who had got a job there. He works in a small language school and is possibly the only foreigner in town. Therefore he is a bit of a celebrity.
We arrived in the city at around 4 p.m. and after dumping our bags at Matt's, we went to the pub to try and watch some of the FA Cup final. "The" pub it truly is as it is the only one in the city. Around 300,000 people and one pub. Matt pointed out that it was easy to teach the definite article in Sivas. We couldn't get the game on until the last five minutes of the first half and then we had to go to the stadium.
After a short taxi ride, the three of us arrived at the satdium. I had told the driver to let us off at the away end, but he dropped us at the home end. Luckily we had tied our scarves around our waists and under our jumpers. I approached a policeman and asked him where the away end was. He told me to go to the other side of the stadium. After a bit of a search we found a solitary gate with a small collection of Ankaragucu supporters. They cheered as we whipped our scarves out.
The gate was locked and we had no ticket. A security man came and told us all to go back to the home end to buy a ticket. Two 2 ytl. As we walked around the stadium again, this time in our colours, we were followed by some very young local kids. In English they politely asked our names, shook our hands and said it was nice to meet us. Then they dogged our heels around the stadium and back barking "Money, Money, Money!" I set them on Damon as he is a rich American. I am a mean Scotsman.
The stadium was small. There was a scoreboard behind one set of goals and beyond it we had a nice view of some hills. There was one "VIP" section with a roof, and the rest of the stadium was uncovered. Because the Ankaragucu fans had all decided to go to our brother-team Bursa's match to see them lift the second league trophy, we were a small travelling support. Nine Turks, me, Damon and Matt.
We discovered that these Turks were students from Ankara, who studied at the university in Sivas. To our left we saw The Çilginlar. The Mad Ones. Sivasspor's equivalent to the Gecekondu. There were maybe 30 of them. Young guys with drums. To our right were another supporters group with drums standing next to the covered VIP section. They were less that 30 in number and looked even younger in age. The most full section of the stadium was opposite us. A large all seated section running along the side of the pitch. A small band of supporters sat at the top banging drums. The rest sat quietly with their sunflower seeds. This was their maraton.
Our supporters clubs were going to Bursa, not Sivas. Unfortunately, nobody had told the Sivas police this. Although only 12 of us stood between Sivas's Mad Ones and Young Ones, a number of police entered our section to prevent any violence. In fact around 120 riot police joined us on the terraces. They seemed a bit confused to find us so small in number. We were a bit amused to find ourselves so well attended to. They got their shields out and told us to move to the centre of the section. They were in for an easy night and seemed happy with this. Most of them sat down, placed their shileds at their kness and got ready for the match.
The game began and the supporters attempted to make some noise. It was the last game of the season and the last game in the career of the Sivasspor manager. I had a feeling we would lose. Sivas is a city that appears to value it's home team. There are Sivasspor stickers on shop windows and city buses. You can see their scarves sold along with the traditional tourist merchandise in the old part of town. However, the small stadium had a small crowd, even if it was the coach's last game.
Istanbul fever is surely ingrained in the brains of the locals of Sivas as well. After 10 minutes the Mad Ones sang "Sivas gol gol gol" to our left. The Young Ones replied "Sivas gol gol gol" to our left. To their fury we interupted them with a "Başkent gol gol gol". Twelve people heard by the whole stadium, a minor victory for us.
"Sivas gol gol gol" "Başkent gol gol gol".
Sivas scored. 1-0. A deflected shot from some 20 yards out. The Young Ones made signs for us to be quiet. We were. I realised that our supporters didn't know many songs anyway.
It started to piss it down with rain shortly before half-time. We were left out in it since there was no cover. The police put on their raincoats. One smiled at me in humour as I dripped water from my nose. Then we equalised. Ali Ölmez got the ball on the edge of the box, skipped past two defenders and slotted it past the keeper. A fantastic goal. We cheered, we hugged, we sang.
Then we looked to return the favour to the Mad Ones and the Young Ones. But they had gone. The Young Ones had scrambled into the VIP section and the Mad Ones had just dissappeared.
We spent half-time in the toilets. The whole Ankaragucu "travelling" support crammed in and smoking away. We were the centre of attention. The strange foreigners who had travelled so far for a meaningless game. They asked me in Turkish why I supported Ankaragucu? I answered, "Ne Besiktas, ne Cim bom bom, ne de ibne kanaryalar". They errupted in laughter. A nice moment.
Then one admitted that he was a Besiktas fan. Another supported Fenerbahce. These were not real Ankaragucu fans. One supporter was and he had dragged his university mates along. Big Serkan was Gecekondu. These guys would stand in the rain for him. However, we now knew why they didn't sing so much.
Not much point in talking about the 2nd half. Some good open football on a surface that was hard to keep balance on. Yet the stadium was like a ghost ground. The Mad Ones had stopped singing, the Young Ones remained in the VIP section. We noticed that the advertisment running around the side of the maraton read "Silent Beach Resort". The "Silent" certainly referred to the maraton supporters, but what of the "Beach Resort"? Was this where the locals dreamed of being at that moment as they stood passively, watching second rate Turkish football, drenched in the rain? Had these people ever seen a beach?
This was becoming more like a strange dream than the passion that Ankaragucu matches normally entail. The supporters never letting you rest for a minute, forcing you to be part of their constant chorus.
With 12 minutes left, it was the Sivas supporters who finally awoke from the dream due to the goal of one man. A man who Gencler fans may hope will lead them to cloud nine next season. Dos Santos. I hear the striker could be on his way to our neighbour team.
He had impressed me during the match. A tall, strong player with what looked like a good touch. He had caused us a lot of problems and now his glory came. The ball was kicked into the stand for a Sivas throw in on the left. Another ball was used to take the throw in. At this moment a Sivas fan threw the old ball back onto the pitch. Just before the Sivas winger crossed, one of our players was kicking the old ball out. The cross went to the back post and Dos Santos powerfully headed home. 2-1.
Should that have been allowed? Twelve people couldn't be heard complaining as the Sivas supporters returned from the "Silent Beach" in celebration. They scored again immediately after the re-start. A defensive mix-up which ended in the keeper getting lobbed. 3-1. Game over.
The 12 Ankaragucu hooligans were made to wait for the stadium to empty by the 120 strong police force. In the cold, we stood for 30 minutes. Finally we marched back to the city centre, to the Pub.
Only Big Serkan, the real Ankaragucu supporter, entered the pub with us. Serkan said he hated Sivas. It was too conservative. He couldn't be himself. His friend was celebrating his birthday upstairs. Another student originally from Ankara. When we met him it was apparent that he was gay. A gay lad, stuck in Sivas. He was truly uncomfortable and unhappy. But we had beer, our wives were at home and we had been on another adventure with Ankaragucu. We were happy. That was until the bar closed at 11.30 on a Saturday night.
We left Matt in the morning and took the long bus home to Ankara. Damon and I had enjoyed our trip, and tried not to think about the coming Monday morning. The season has ended, and my first fling with Ankaragucu has come to a close. We can be happy to still be in the Super League and look forward to better things. Sivas will surely struggle after the loss of their coach and the excitiment of their first super league season has passed.
And now I head off to Liverpool, for a new life and maybe a new team. But I will return. Along with our Kankas, I will never leave. Cünkü biz Ankaraguçuluz.
Yours Kirkcaldy Kanka Martyn