Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How history is written

Wednesday mornings find me checking out an excellent little resource on the Guardian's website called "The Knowledge".

It is basically one of those columns where someone asks a question and then hopes on the collective wisdom of football fans to find an answer. Questions are usually obscure in the extreme: "Can you clear up whether this is truth or a myth: did a referee in Brazil actually shoot dead a player who disputed a penalty?" or "Has witchcraft ever been used at the African Cup of Nations?"

I love it and so when a question was asked last week which I thought I might be able to help with I sent off an e-mail to "The Knowledge".

The question: "Everyone seems to be obsessed with record crowds nowadays," sighs Andy McKenzie, "but the other day as I was talking to a friend about Scottish lower division football, we wondered what it would be like to watch Queen's Park at Hampden. This season they have had crowds of fewer than 500 in a 52,000 capacity stadium, meaning over 51,500 empty seats. What is the record number of empty seats there have been at a major league or cup match?"

Which reminded me of a report I wrote in December last year.

I wrote at the time: "The radio announcer said he could count six (yes, six) fans at the match being played in the 80,000 capacity Beyaz Fil Olympic Stadium. Although he did admit that he could hear singing and that anyway the lower stands can't actually be seen from the radio booth.

Still, what the hell is the point of Istanbul BBS playing their games at an enormous stadium a million miles away from the heart of Istanbul."

So I did a bit of research (ie a quick look at Wikipedia) and sent off a report to "The Knowledge" who today printed my observations.

"4. Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor (Istanbul BBS) - c.81,000

Oz Kanka has a higher offer from Ankara. "They don't announce official figures for matches in the Turkish Super Lig for some reason," he writes, "but on December 9 last year I listened to the radio broadcast of Istanbul BBS v Genclerbirligi which was being played at Istanbul's Ataturk Olympic Stadium. The radio announcer said he could see a total of six fans in the 81,283 stadium. There were a few more than that, as this picture shows (ie the photo above) the entire crowd could not have numbered more than 50 souls for the exciting 0-0 draw." We reckon there's at least a couple of hundred in that picture, but it's one empty stadium nevertheless."

Gave me a bit of a thrill and I then promptly forgot about it.

Then the Turkish language ANKA news agency got around to reading Sir Eski Kanka's favourite newspaper and posted the the Guardian report as if it is definitive history.

I'll do a quick translation:

"The Guardian newspaper has conducted research into the smallest number of spectators at large stadiums. It found that the December match between Istanbul BBS and Genclerbirligi with 50 people watching was in fourth place."

When we started off this blog Sir Eski told me that he wanted it to a journal of record that historians in the future will be able to mine for useless bits of trivia.

And it has come to pass.

We write a report on a match via a radio commentary, post a photo from the Alkaralar website, send off an under researched e-mail to an English paper, Turkish news agency quotes English newspaper as having conducted its own research.

That, my dear friends, is how history is written, and why you should always be sceptical!


  1. Great story from Oz Kanka.

    Also, as I mentioned in a recent post...... The Round Ball in Ankara is the authoratative voice of Ankara footie.

    That was not said `tongue in cheek` either..... I really meant it, and now the Mighty Guardian knows about us. All we need now to be truly accepted is a quote in The Daily Telegraph, or failing that, The Sydney Herald !!!

  2. Anonymous12:24 pm

    Congratulations for your blog.
    Gail thinks you are hilarious and a good blog-writer. Keep those blog entries going.
    Greetings from Granada -España-!