Saturday, November 10, 2007


Greetings Kankas and Kankies.

At last...... the long awaited `Saga` from Battle Damaged Kanka Damon on the eventful trip made to Bursa last weekend by himself, Maniac Kanka and Yankee Kanka. A gripping and fantastic read if you have 2 hours to spare !!! Read on......


Here it is. I think you'll see why it took me awhile. Please give it a once over since I only have Turkish spell check on my computer. Don't blame me for the length. Harun wanted all the details in there, and you know as well as anyone how stubborn he can be. Although, I see that you did arrange for us to meet at Chopin tomorrow before the match.

I (Battle Damaged Kanka Damon) was having a fish dinner in Bahçelievler when I got the call from Maniac Kanka Harun that he and Yankee Kanka would indeed be making the trek to Bursa for the match. I, of course, wasted no time high tailing it back to the Bilkent campus to try to recruit further supporters for the journey. Unfortunately, Mountaineering Kanka Robbie had work to do (although I found him at a party), and no one else was up for it. So be it. After my failed attempt to increase our numbers, I hailed a cab which delivered me to the reliable Cappadokia bar where I found my two travelling companions. After a dose of what Eski Kanka Jim likes to call the amber nectar we headed off.

On the way, Harun stopped off at a bakal for provisions. These consisted of several cans of Turkey’s finest (Efes, of course), a chocolate bar and two medium sized bottles of 10 YTL cognac (The latter two purchases we stuffed into my backpack. The two bottles would later turn out to be a bit problematic) . We then hailed a cab and after a quick trip back to Harun’s sport shop to pick up his Gücü jacket, we were on our way to the bus terminal Asti, beers in hand. Harun, being the considerate guy that he is, even gave a beer to the driver who, to my relief, decided not to drink it while behind the wheel.

Upon arriving at Asti, someone’s cell phone went off. The ring tone was Bella Ciao the Italian partisan anthem and we walked to the front doors of the terminal singing the song, Harun and Yankee in Turkish, me in Italian. We then chucked our empty cans, entered the otogar, and picked up our tickets. At the ticket booth next to the Nilüfer (Nilüfer is a Bursa based company, and anybody who knows Harun, knows that he always supports local businesses. No doubt this has much to do with why he loves Ankaragücü so much.) booth who should we happen to find other than Ankaragücü’s own boy wonder Gececi who is probably single-handedly responsible for more Ankaragücü graffiti in the city than anyone else. After a quick chat, we went to wait for the bus where we found an extremely young group of Guru supporters. Yankee had them in stitches with his warped humor until it was time to board. Not surprisingly, we were not alone; there were three other supporters on the bus as well. We then tucked in for the six hour ride.

About mid-way through the journey the bus stopped at one of those amazing rest stops that, as far as I know, only exist in Turkey. After the obligatory bathroom break, we ate soup and then headed to the far end of the parking lot to furtively drink our cognac and eat chocolate. Yankee Janka abstained as he has a low tolerance and had already drunk a few too many beers for his constitution while at the Capped. Ha run claimed that the cognac was habit he had picked up in the army while doing his military service--the perfect antidote for chilly weather. After warming up with the cognac, we put the half empty bottle back into my backpack and headed back to the bus. As the bus was pulling out, a bunch of Gücü supporters (about three buses full of Gücü supporters who knew Harun had pulled up by this point) waved and chided us for being sosyetik which literally means “of fashionable society” but is basically a way of calling someone snobby. Apparently, taking a private bus company rather than riding with them earned us this moniker.

We arrived at the otogar in Bursa around 6:30. Yankee was at this point nursing a nasty hangover for which Harun was showing no mercy, taunting him the entire time. We went to get bus tickets. The small booth outside where the tickets are sold was filled with employees. They were a little surprised to see us and even more surprised when they learned that we were just a group of die hard fans and not the team trainers they had initially taken us for.

This was to be my first experience with the hospitality offered to Gücü supporters in Bursa. We were immediately offered tea which was getting constantly refilled until we finally tore ourselves away to catch our bus into town along with the other three supporters who had come in on the same bus.

The trip on the city bus was uneventful. We were alerted to the correct stop to get off at by a helpful Bursa woman and then caught a dolmus from Bursa to Mudanya a small neighboring town on the sea. Harun had been determined to get to the sea before heading to the match. And it is a good thing he was because from the time we got on the dolmus it was readily apparent that Bursa, despite being overly industrialized, was a gorgeous city. Everywhere you looked it was green, and with the early morning fog hanging over the trees it was, at times, breathtaking.

After arriving at Mudanya, we found an open restaurant where the six of us noshed on ekmek sucuk (garlic sausage sandwiches) throwing pieces of bread and sucuk and cookies to two nearby dogs. When we had arrived, the dogs had been wrestling. They were clearly friends but that didn’t keep them from trying get the upper paw one over the other. I thought to myself that they were aptly symbolic of the match to come.

We then walked along the promenade breathing in the salt tang and finally onto a poorly maintained beach where a handful of locals were fishing. Harun and Yankee sat with them for awhile while the rest of us just wandered around admiring the sea and the mallards swimming nearby. We then headed back to the dolmus stop. Yankee and our other three companions took a slight detour when they saw a city park full of exercise equipment. For those of you who know Yankee, I am sure you can imagine what he must have looked like on a pink metal cross-country skiing machine. According to his calculations, he was three kilos lighter by the time he caught up with us.

Soon we were on a dolmus back to Bursa, or so we thought. Turned out it was the wrong dolmus. After being informed of this fact by another kindly Bursa lady, we got on the right one, paid our money, got off shortly thereafter and got onto another form of Bursa public transport: the train. On the train we were greeted by a couple of Bursa Spor fans also heading to the match. The lot of us soon reached our stop and headed up a hill towards Atatürk stadium.

As we were climbing up the hill two kids came running at Harun and Yankee asking for their Gücü caps. Neither was feeling so generous as to part with his hat. Yankee, though, felt the need to explain. He turned to me as we were still walking and said “Listen, I need it; I’m bald.” I couldn’t argue with him there.

It was still only eleven o’clock when we bought our tickets. So with plenty of time to spare, we proceeded to Kültürpark which was already starting to fill up with supporters for both clubs. We were looking for a place to grab a beer (we were also trying to figure out what to do with the damned cognac), but, not surprisingly with a mosque sitting in the middle of the park, it appeared to be dry. No beer, no reason to stay. So we headed off on another quest to satisfy another kanka vice: an iddaa booth, so Harun and Yankee could bet on the day’s matches. Having done this, it was back on the quest for a cold one.

We soon found our Holy Grail across from the stadium. We grabbed a corner table and ordered beers and dried chickpeas. There were only a couple of other guys in there drinking. One of them began chatting with Harun. Soon other Bursa-ites began to filter in. Among them we met a Hasan, two Murats and a Süleyman. I was introduced as “the American” which appeared to raise some eyebrows. This was probably a consequence of current political tensions between Turkey and America as well as surprise at finding that Gücü had at least one American supporter. I explained that many Americans had also been against the Iraq war from the beginning. I then proceeded to tell them about one banner we had held up in marches before I had left the States. I translated “With a Dick (as in Cheney) and a Bush in the White House all America gets f####ed” into Turkish. The two guys wearing Bursa Spor tops in particular seemed to get a chuckle from this, and that was the end of the raised eyebrows—although one guy in the corner continued to look at me strangely. Hey, you can’t please all the people all of the time.

After another round, it was time to go. But there was still the problem of the cognac bottles in my bag. I figured if the police won’t let you in with a lighter or loose change, cognac was certain to be out of the question. So we asked the kid tending bar if he would hold it for us. He graciously accepted. We then paid our tab and set off. On our way to the gate, we passed in front of a Bursa Spor store. We all stopped and looked at all the goodies in the window. Harun got a dreamy look on his face. I guessed he was thinking how nice it would be to have a similar shop full of Gücü gear parked right outside the stadium. I said, “I would be nice wouldn’t it.” He responded “Hopefully one day.” Yes, maybe one day the people of Ankara will stop being Istanbul posers and see the light and support their teams like Bursa supports theirs. Until that day, our little kanka group will do its part.

The gate was a madhouse. Yankee was the first one to squeeze through (having gotten over his hangover and gotten in a workout to boot, he was obviously in good form). Harun and I managed shortly thereafter. We literally had to climb over a railing and other supporters to make it further. In the end, we got through. It was a good thing we had left the bag in the bar because brother team or not there were still police waiting inside to search us. Having passed through the police, Harun and Yankee bought us köfte sandwiches and ayran. Food in hand we went to find seats.

The atmosphere inside was wild. Fans were already chanting at the top of their lungs. We chanted Bursa songs, they chanted ours. Having been to away matches in Kayseri, where we were expelled from the stadium as both sides hurled plastic shards and chunks of concrete at each other (see the best of The Round Ball for more on this match), and Sivas, this seemed like an episode of the Twilight Zone. There was absolutely no hate or even antagonism, only playful good will—like the dogs in Mudanya.

In addition to singing each other’s praises, a good number of chants emanating from the Bursa fans had to do with their displeasure with their club’s management (seems to be a recurring theme in Turkish football). Besiktas was also the target of some not so friendly chants. But as tradition now dictates, these more hot blooded chants died down as the Bursa Spor fans cheered us at the six minute mark to symbolize the number on Ankara license plates and ten minutes later we did likewise for them.

A mere four minutes later, however, things weren’t looking so positive as Volkan crossed the ball from the right wing straight to Veli who was entering the penalty area. Veli then passed to the Macedonian player Sumulikoski who heeled it into the goal. We had been scored against, but to my surprise the Gücü fans cheered and the Bursa fans chanted “Ankargücü” as if they had been us. Things did not get much better, however, for our boys in gold and blue as Bursa took two more shots on goal (one missing by a smidge and the other ably snatched by Zafer who is still in for the injured Serkan) before the first half ended.

In the second half, Bursa were again on the attack. It only took them six minutes in to launch a scorcher towards Zafer. But Zafer was ready and snagged it. Three minutes later it was our turn. Murat Erdoðan passed the ball right in front of an incoming Jaba who sent it flying into the goal. Again both teams gave each other a long distance clap on the back with Bursa fans applauding the goal and the Gücü supporters yelling out “Bursa Spor.”

It would have been nice if the match could have ended there for it would have been more fitting given the atmosphere of brotherhood in the stadium, but twas not to be. In the sixty-fourth minute Tum headed in a cross from Volkan and the score became 2-1. The two sections where the Ankara fans were seated began shouting back and forth at each other

Her zaman, her yere gider
Ne yaðmur ne caðmur dinler
Severse gönülden sever
Bu alemde Ankaragüçlüler

in an attempt to give the team a shot in the arm. Now we are all used to such chanting, but I was in for a surprise. Normally, these chants go on for a few rounds and then die off, but this one was so heart felt that it continued for a good fifteen minutes (no exaggeration) continuing to increase in volume with each passing minute. But I also learned why I sit in marathon and not in the Gecekondu section. These guys were so intent on screaming as loud as they could that they were missing the match. They were watching each other and not our boys on the field. This to me misses the whole point. But if that’s their thing, who I am to question them.

I also got to experience first hand the running down and across in the seats that Gecekondu has become so famous for. Now that was pretty fun, I must say. But the fun did not end there. Soon, what must be the biggest Ankaragücü banner in existence came unrolling down from the top row. As it reached us we helped unroll it further until the whole section was under this massive yellow and blue sheet. But now there really was no way of watching the match. Turned out it really didn’t matter because nothing of any importance happened while we were under there. That was it: 2-1.

We didn’t win, but I did meet some really friendly people. The kid sitting next to me who I had thought was from Ankara turned out to be one of Bursa’s Texas group. We had a nice chat which was overheard by a Gücü fan who joined in our conversation. He quickly asked where I was from, and his jaw nearly hit the ground when he found out Gücü had an American supporter. I do believe he nearly shed tears of joy. He said, “It’s hard enough to find an American who gets into football, let alone one who supports Ankaragücü. Once again I learned that Ankaragücü helps smash stereotypes and break down borders. Hopefully I’ll meet these guys again.

Now we had a bus to catch. But first we had to get the bag. So it was back to the bar. On our way we had to walk through the crowd of Bursa supporters who were exiting the stadium. As we walked through someone gave me a slap on the back and I shook a few hands.

As we entered the bar I noticed that Hasan, Murat, Murat and Süleyman were still there. They had been watching the match on TV. They gave us their condolences, but it was clear that they were happy with the result. Who can blame them. We all had another beer. Then Harun, Yankee and I retrieved the bag, grabbed a taxi and headed back to the bus station. At the station, we got our tickets and made for the bus, Harun picking up some candied chestnuts, a Bursa specialty, for his daughter Hazal on the way.
Apart from almost getting left behind in Eskiþehir, that was the end of our Bursa adventure. I got home around eleven o’clock with my bag full of cognac and a whole lot of great memories. Can’t wait to do it again.

Fantastic report from Battle Damaged. He is becoming a real Footie (Soccer in his lingo) Pro reporter and I think we have found another jewel for futher reports !!!

As I post this, ANKARAGUCU are playing Gaziantep and so let's hope we have something positive to say about this week's match result later ?!!

All the best from Eski Kanka Jim


  1. An epic story Battle-Hardened Kanka, but a damn good one.

  2. Thanks, Oz Kanka. If you look at the second photo (the one after the one of the little Bursa boy) you can see the banner that we were under for part of the match.

  3. Hey Battle Damaged, that's worth a letter home to `mummy` just to tell her that you touched it !!!