Turkish Soccer Rises Again, But Can It Maintain its Popularity?

Turkish Soccer Rises Again, But Can It Maintain its Popularity?

Not long ago Turkish soccer was at the top of its game both internationally and domestically. At the turn of the century, Galatasaray became the first to win a European competition on a larger scale as a Turkish team, when they took home the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup in the same year, while their men’s international team came third in the World Cup 2002. Other major teams in Turkey, like Beşiktas and Fenerbahçe, weren’t far behind, always reaching the later stages of European competitions.

Then suddenly the overall quality of Turkish soccer dropped. The national team have now not qualified for the World Cup in 15 years and gave sub-par performances at the Euros, while the domestic teams failed to impress at any European competitions. Naturally, these poor performances led to dwindling fan-bases.

In the last few years, however, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of the game and it looks like Turkish soccer might be making its way back into the limelight.

Higher Quality, Less Predictability, and More Fan Involvement

While on the international stage Turkish teams haven’t performed well, their domestic league has been thriving and becoming more competitive than ever.

For a very long time the league was dominated by what is known as “The Big Three”, Beşiktas, Fenerbahçe, and Galatasaray, who were undecidedly the best teams in Turkey, taking home all the silverware every season. Although when these teams met in competitions interest would rise, interest in the league as a whole was dismal. That was until recently.

Now there are other teams that have started to compete for the top spots in the Turkish soccer world and this has meant interest in the league has been reignited.

The rise of other teams first became apparent when Bursaspor took home the league in 2010, but since then, more and more teams have been challenging the Big Three.

The most prominent example of this at the moment is Istanbul Basaksehir; a previously little-known team who startled everyone last season by coming in at second place. Of the Big Three, Basaksehir only lost to Beşiktas year, who were the eventual champions. Their rising prominence has further opened up the league and contributed to the interest in the national game.

In fact, a total of 5 teams were competing for the title during the 2017/18 season, making the Turkish Super Lig one of the most competitive soccer leagues in the world last year.

This popularity has also been contributed to by the influx of foreign players into the league. As more big names have arrived in the league, fans have become more interested in the teams.

Emmanuel Adebayor for example currently plays at Basaksheir, while Didier Drogba, spent some time at Galatasaray a few seasons back, which has further raised the profile of the league. This has not only attracted more Turkish fans but has also led to fans from other countries acquiring an interest in the goings-on of the Turkish league.

With less predictability and more quality in the sides, it has also meant that it is fertile ground for people looking to bet on soccer in Turkey too. Although betting online in Turkey is highly prohibited, this doesn’t prevent people from outside the country betting on Turkish matches. Online gambling laws are more becoming laxer elsewhere, like sports betting in Canada for example, which has meant people can now benefit from the more varied odds on the Turkish league even if they are thousands of miles away.

What Does This Mean for Turkish Soccer?

With all this considered, it is no surprise that fans have been flocking to games, with the attendance of games for the bigger clubs almost doubling from 2014/15 to the 2017/18. Now that the Turkish soccer competitions have been opened up by more quality in the side, the game is much more competitive and thus, much more worth watching.

Whether or not the upward trend for soccer in the country will continue is sure to be determined by whether or not more and more teams in the league will rise in prominence and compete for the big prizes. Not just in Turkey, but in Europe too. The knock on effect will be more investment in Turkish Clubs which will benefit Turkish soccer as a whole.

Time will tell this season, but if we see a team outside the Big Three win the league this year it could signal the start of a new golden era of Turkish soccer.