A Scotsmans guide to the Ankaragucu Kanka Group!
This was my 5th trip to Ankara to watch one of Turkeys oldest and most historical clubs, Ankaragucu! Most people just don't get it, why would someone from Scotland travel all the way to Turkey to support a team in the Turkish 3rd tier. Questions would still be asked if i were travelling to watch one of the Istanbul clubs, but at least it would be easier for people to grasp, especially as the trio of Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray dominate Turkish football and at least win trophies.
To really understand, we need to take a we trip down memory lane, but even then it just sounds nuts and difficult to explain. I have always been a keen follower of Turkish football. I remember watching Galatasaray vs Man Utd when i was young, thinking the atmosphere and passion of the fans are incredible and one day i would love to take in a game. After years of watching the games, i decided in 2009 to chose a team to give me some interest.
I looked at all the teams in the Super Lig and when looking them up on google, stumbled across this exact blog. I noticed a picture of a red haired whiter than white Scottish guy, and thought he looks more Scottish than Turkish. Turns out the guy in question Jim Chalmers (we will forgive him being a Hibs fan) was actually Scottish and a season ticket holder at Ankaragucu for many years.
After an initial chat with him, i decided to book flights for myself and my girlfriend Rebecca a couple of months later and took in my first game vs Fenerbahce. Although we lost that match, the trip lived up to everything i imagined with the atmosphere and passion of the fans, and i was already planning my next trip.
Since then i have taken in 4 more trips, first against Bursaspor where we lost 5-1, then my first match watching the team win which was a 1-0 win over Kartalspor, and then a fantastic 5-0 win over Pazarspor.
The above still doesn't explain why i continue to make the trip back over to Ankara every season or so. Over the years i have developed a friendship for life with the Kanka Group and yet again i was overwhelmed by their hospitality and kindness on my most recent trip last week.
The Kanka Group is made up of Ankaragucu fans who are both Turkish Nationals and ex pats, we also have Genclerbirligi Kankas who follow the other Ankara team. For anyone visiting Ankara, or even if you live there i would highly recommend joining these guys for a match as they won't disappoint.
I arrived in Ankara on the early hours of Friday morning where i stayed at the Kayra Hotel in Kizily. Excellent location, friendly staff and overall enjoyed a nice stay and an affordable price. After a couple of hour sleep i headed over to Bestepe Facilities where the team trains and met with my friend Coskun Basak who is the clubs Social Media guy and looks after the website. We had a good chat about Ankaragucu and politics before i met with Ferhat Culcuoglu and Muharram Ozan Cengiz two of Ankaragucu star players this season.
Coskun then introduced me to Mehmet Yiginer who is the president of Ankaragucu and kindly posed for a photo with me before heading off to Friday prayers with the team and fans. There aren't many clubs who will keep their door open to fans and take the time to chat and pose for pictures, but thats all part of Ankaragucu and the family club that they are.
After purchasing the new kit and a tracksuit top at the official club store, i headed over to meet up with Harun at his shop in Kizily. Harun is known as the Maniac, but don't be put off by that, because a nicer and more caring guy you won't find. Harun runs his own shop making T Shirts, Strips, Flags etc for Ankaragucu fans, Schools, and even fans of other clubs. He kindly made myself and Jim nice Ankaragucu T Shirts with the Scotland flag on it, and he has some other excellent t shirts that he has prepared for us becoming champions. As you can see from the picture below, I'm still trying to convert Harun to a Rangers fan, as the Maniac is a big fan of Raith Rovers (long story, i think he is the Turkish Nadeem Raja lol)
Later on that night, myself and Harun met up with Damon, John, Tansu, Murat and the Horseman for some drinks and food at a local bar. It was great to meet up with these guys again and have a good chat about Ankaragucu, football and Kemal Mustafa Ataturk.
Saturday was a wash out, literally! The rain was so heavy that it was actually like standing in a shower and myself and Tansu got soaked standing in the queue waiting to buy tickets. Thankfully Coskun saw us standing and came over and asked us how many tickets we wanted, and kindly brought them over to us. After drying off in Starbucks i headed by to the Hotel until dinner where Harun had arranged a night at a place called Kanatci.
Myself, Harun, Damon, John, Tansu, Ahmet (who i met for the first time), and Jim all met up at Kanatci for what was an excellent night. A traditional Turkish Restaurant with a live band, and amazing food. Harun done a fantastic job with this place, although I'm not sure he will remember any of the night after drinking a full bottle of Raki. Kinetic is one of these places that you won't even know exists as it is well hidden, but if you are ever in Ankara you must give it a go as its great value for money.
Match day arrived, and it was an early rise for me as i agreed to meet with Oguzhan Solmaz from Baskent Media and Muhammed Erdogan from Sporanki to do an interview. We had breakfast in Kizily and done a Facebook live interview on Baskent Media. The support and nice comments i received from the Ankaragucu fans for travelling from Scotland to watch the game was fantastic. They really do appreciate people from the outside coming to support their club.
After the interview, we headed off to the stadium to do another interview, this time with TRT the Turkish TV channel who are filming a documentary about Ankaragucu. They interviewed myself and Jim and it will be broadcast either in May or October. I also met with Onur Erdogan who kindly popped in to meet with me and thank me for coming to the game.
The game itself was eventful and the fans didn't disappoint. Over 25,000 fans attended the game and created a fantastic atmosphere. There were a couple of excellent displays and pyro followed by 90 minutes of fanatical singing and chanting. The game itself was pretty poor and it looked like we were heading for a defeat with Tuzla taking the lead on the 83rd minute.
Everyone was saying how gutted they were that i had come all this way to watch the team lose. Then the equaliser came 2 minutes later. That was followed by one of the best spectacles I've ever seen at a football match. Ankaragucu scored a 92nd minute winner and the place erupted, the scenes were fantastic and the party between players and fans lasted for about 20 minutes after the game.
Even after the game, fans were stopping to get their picture taken and had nothing but kind comments. It really is overwhelming that people want to take the time to speak with you because you are following their team from afar.
The Kanka Group again provided me with a fantastic weekend and i can't thank them enough for everything. These guys are the reason why i keep coming back and will continue to do so. Ankaragucu are a club with many financial problems and have been abused by politicians over the years. But even when they are on their knees there fans still are loyal to the core and they deserve this title which is within touching distance!!!