Turkish football giant Galatasaray’s long-awaited ultramodern stadium, the Ali Sami Yen Sports Complex Türk Telekom Arena, was finally inaugurated with a festive multimedia and dance show and a friendly against Dutch side Ajax on Saturday.
The result of the game was a 0-0 draw, with both teams failing to kick the ball into the opposite posts despite glaring chances. Anıl Dilaver and Ayhan Akman missed golden opportunities for the host team while Luis Suarez missed a chance for Ajax towards the end of the game.
But the event was marred by the rebellious actions of fans, who jeered Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) President Erdoğan Bayraktar, Galatasaray Chairman Adnan Polat and even the visiting team, Ajax, which is unusual in the case of friendly matches. Speaking at an inauguration on Sunday, Erdoğan said Galatasaray did not spend a single dime of their budget on the stadium. “Yesterday’s [Saturday’s] incidents belong to their owners. I exclude the world of Galatasaray. The cost of the investment in Seyrantepe -- where the stadium is located -- is TL 600 million and their response should not be like this,” he said.
Galatasaray coach Gheorghe Hagi said he was happy about the team’s football. “It was a friendly after all and good football was played on the pitch tonight. I wanted to see all the players we have got. You got the chance to see the players who are the future of Galatasaray,” he said in a press conference after the match. The Galatasaray Lions are suffering in the domestic league, standing in ninth place with 23 points in 17 matches, trailing leader Trabzonspor by as many as 19 points. Hagi said the team will get better in the season’s second half and called on the fans to continue supporting them.
Galatasaray fans did not abandon their team at the stadium’s grand opening and they began to fill the stands at 2 p.m., when the festivities got started. Only a few seats were empty in the 52,000-seat stadium when Turkish pop singer Kenan Doğulu’s concert began at about 6:30 p.m. A multimedia show followed the concert and 90 dancers were on the pitch at this time. Fireworks, lights and images reflected on the pitch, the middle parts of which were covered in white, presenting a breathtaking scene for the thousands of spectators.
Fans were observed leaving the stadium at halftime in order to avoid the crowds and most of the stands were empty before the match ended.
Fun was spoiled by fans’ jeering
While the stadium proved to be ultramodern and spectacular, the surrounding structures were still largely unfinished. Fans were told to use mass transportation instead of driving their cars. After they left the stadium, they were made to wait outside the metro station under the surveillance of police officers, who said the metro could not handle such large crowds.
The behavior of Galatasaray fans towards the visitors humiliated Polat. The chairman apologized to Prime Minister Erdoğan and said: “For the stadium’s construction, Mr. Prime Minister exerted much effort. He mobilized all the resources of the state and I know that he did so voluntarily. In the end, he helped us obtain a magnificent stadium. He accepted our invitation and honored the inauguration. But he felt the obligation to leave the stadium, naturally, as a result of the reactions of people whom I cannot even call Galatasaray fans, and he left.”
Polat said they needed to host their guests in the best way possible but their goodwill was abused by some people.
State authorities and other guests also reacted to the behavior of the fans during the event. After Erdoğan’s departure, Turkish Football Federation (TFF) managers, club chairmen, Youth and Sports General Director Yunus Akgül, TFF President Mahmut Özgener and UEFA Vice President Şenes Erzik also left the stadium.
Akgül said he did not think that the incidents were caused by Galatasaray fans, saying the hostile actions were organized. “Because they cannot be that ungrateful; they proved the opposite many times before,” he added.
TFF President Özgener said Erdoğan played the most important role in the completion of the stadium while State Minister for Sports Faruk Özak and Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker labeled the incidents “disrespectful.”