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Sporting Turkish Values

By Preston Price

    Although Istanbul is surprisingly modern and westernized, I did not expect there to be a very established culture of sports.  For instance, grease wrestling is a national sport that is unique to Turkey.  This, along with other unique aspects of the their culture, led me to believe that Turkey is more culturally unique and homogenous than I had originally imagined.  Body building also holds great value, and I read an article while I was there that said that Turkey won more medals in body building during the last Olympic games than any other country.  The book Doing Cultural Anthropology was useful in my experience in Istanbul.  In the introduction of the book, Michael Angrosino emphasizes the importance of data-collection techniques, and specifies that interviewing and observing are fundamental to such techniques.  Through these methods I was able to successfully acquire sufficient data about the world of sports and particularly the global impact of soccer.  I focused more on taking important observations via reading advertisements and newspaper articles, watching television in various public places, and even wandering the streets aimlessly and taking notice of specific sports-related things I saw.

     Soccer is the world's most popular sport, so it was no surprise to find out that soccer was Turkey’s most popular sport.  Although, I had been surprised to find out in a previous port the lack of popularity that soccer holds in India.  I guess one shouldn’t make the assumption that soccer is the number one sport everywhere else outside of the United States.  I was astonished to find out how crazy the city of Istanbul is about soccer.  Every individual that I spoke with admitted to soccer being their favorite sport.  It was just as amazing to discover the level of popularity as well as the degree of infrastructure that the city of Istanbul has for the game of soccer.  The most significant piece of evidence that I gathered for this, is the fact that Istanbul has three professional soccer teams within the city.  This is a huge deal because with the exception of London, England, I have never known of any city to house three major league teams of the same sport.  All three of the teams in Istanbul have their own stadium, indicating the financial support from the Turkish economy.  One of the teams by the name of “Galatasaray,” has recently obtained an international reputation after winning an annual tournament a couple years ago which that consists of all of the top European clubs.  While in Istanbul, I bought a Galatasaray scarf.  This resulted in me receiving numerous comments throughout the rest of the day.  Some people went out of their way just to tell me that they don’t like Galatasaray.  I can only imagine the competitive nature of the differing fans that share one common city. 

    At the 2002 World Cup, the Turkish national team shocked the world when they reached the semifinals.  I had even assumed that it was only a lucky run.  However, after my brief stay in Istanbul, I now have a better understanding of the severity of value that the nation ascribes to sports.  I now consider Turkey an equal competitor to the rest of the world when it comes to sports, and specifically soccer.

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