Traditionally the most popular club in Turkey, 2014 champions Fenerbahce are based on the Asian side of Istanbul in Kadiköy. Barred from Europe from 2013 to 2015 due the corruption scandal of 2011, Fenerbahce have bounced back to snatch wins over Ajax and Molde in the Europa League of 2015-16 and looked like repeating the 2013 run to the semi-final before the ban was imposed. A late rally by Braga dumped the Turks out of the competition in the round of 16.
Formed around French college St Joseph’s, Fenerbahce (‘Lighthouse Garden’) famously won games against representative teams of occupying British forces after World War I and were regular winners of the fledgling Istanbul League.
Under captain Naci Erdem, a veteran of the 1954 World Cup, Fenerbahce won the inaugural national league in 1959, and maintained a winning streak during the 1960s thanks to international midfielder Seref Has.
The ‘Yellow Canaries’ sealed their nationwide popularity as regular representatives of Turkey in European competition. Games with equally successful rivals Galatasaray, the so-called Intercontinental Derby, were often marred by violence and incident. Most famously, Galatasaray manager Graeme Souness planted his club’s flag in the centre-circle at Fenerbahce in the fiery aftermath of the Turkish Cup Final of 1996.
Fenerbahce came back strongly under Christoph Daum and later Zico to win the league in 2004, 2005 and 2007. Thanks to hatfuls of goals by Brazilian captain Alex, Fenerbahce kept up their title challenge in 2010-11. A long unbeaten streak saw them pip Trabzonspor for the title on the teams’ head-to-head record, though some of these matches were later found to be fixed.
Long-term chairman Aziz Yildirim, who had overseen the impressive modernisation of the club’s Sükrü Saracoglu stadium, served jail terms for his involvement and fans took to the streets in numbers in protest. Thrown out of the Champions League, Fenerbahce were allowed into Europe in 2012-13 thanks to a second-place league finish the previous May.
It was just as well. Winning a tricky Europa League group that included Marseille and Borussia Mönchengladbach, Fenerbahce overcame Lazio before meeting Benfica in the semi-final. After a 1-0 win at home, a Dirk Kuyt equalising penalty in Lisbon wasn’t enough to stem the Portuguese tide.
Despite a 3-1 defeat, Fenerbahce could reflect on the best campaign by a Turkish club in Europe since Galatasaray’s UEFA Cup win of 2000.
For 2012-13, Kuyt remained in place, partnered by the prolific Senagalese Moussa Sow – whose vital goals helped towards Fenerbahce regaining the title in 2014. Providing the chances was former Liverpool and Chelsea midfielder Raul Meireles – with left-back Caner Erkin another important element.
Failing to defend the title in 2014-15, and bidding farewell to former Inter and Newcastle star Emre Belozoglu, Fenerbahce faced the 2015-16 campaign with former Premier League stars Nani and Robin van Persie in their ranks.
Few stadium visits are as magical as the ferry crossing over the Bosphorus to the Sükrü Saracoglu, on the Asian side of Istanbul in Kadiköy. With a current capacity of 50,500 and named after a pre-war club president, the former Priest’s Field is now enjoying the benefits of a decade-long renovation project initiated in 1999.
Venue for the last UEFA Cup Final ten years later, this four-star arena is a regular host to Turkey’s national side. Reconstruction has brought each of the four stands closer to the pitch: the Migros Tribün and Türk Telecom Tribün behind each goal, and the Maraton Tribün and VIP Fenerium Tribün on the sidelines. Each has two tiers.
Away fans are seated in G, H, O and P-Blok in the Migros. Neutrals should get here early – the Sükrü Saracoglu is in a dense residential area and surrounded by bars, restaurants and kebab shops.
Football by ferry – what could be better? Boats leave for Kadiköy Harbour every 15-20 minutes from Karaköy and Eminönu, convenient for Sultanahmet, on the European side.
From Kadiköy the stadium is a 15-minute walk from the harbour, up Sögütlü Cesme cad, veering right up Kusdili cad at the junction. If traffic is not too bad, take a taxi (TL5-TL10).
For all games in Turkey, you need a Passolig card before you can be admitted. Here’s an English-language guide on how to do this. Once you’ve done this, you can buy a ticket for specific matches on a week by week basis online through Passo.
The days of turning up before kick-off and hoping to get in are sadly no longer with us.
The club shop, Fenerium (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Fri-Sat 10am-6pm, match days), is opposite the row of kebab shops on Recep Peker cad.
As well as replica shirts and training tops, you’ll find pint glasses and sunglasses.
Cafés and kebab shops surround Kadiköy Harbour, including the hopefully reopening Olimpiyat 2 with its five-ring sign and beautiful wooden interior filled with Fenerbahce line-up shots from the 1940s onwards.
Approaching the stadium, you’ll find a small stream trickling from the narrow street Sefik Bey sok. Here, the Mackolik sports bar is the best pre-match option, a two-storey operation with an enclosed terrace. The Fenerbahce game is projected onto a big screen while regulars sip draught Efes and snack on kebabs, hamburgers and hot dogs.
On the same stretch on the quietest side of the stadium is club members’ bar Vakfi Ada, worth a look-in out of curiosity even if you’ll probably only be able to join the old guys playing cards on quieter midweek afternoons.
Opposite the Fenerium club shop on Recep Peker cad is a row of kebab shops and Efes bars flying the yellow and blue of Fenerbahce: Fener Büfe; Stad Büfe; Görkem, and the Köse Burger. In the ground, behind B-Blok, the Café Crown serves hot drinks and juices.