Turkish Futbol Watch Party and the Achievement of Wifi

Galatasaray Fans are Serious Business. …And Griffindor.

The 4 Fulbrighters of Erzurum decided to find somewhere to watch the Galatasaray/Manchester United game last night. We walked down the main street and at game time, the local’s pace picked up. There was anticipation in the air. We wandered a bit as people seemed to rush up and down apartment block stairs. We sited a poster advertising tonight’s game, it said it was on the 3rd floor of somewhere. An old man walked up and asked if we wanted to watch the game. Yes. He beckoned for us to follow him. After 50 meters he stopped a young guy and told him something to the effect of, “My sisters want to watch the game, take them up to such and such.” Young guy beckons and we follow him another half block, into what looks like an apartment building and up 3 flights of stairs, on each floor is a cheering crowd. We make it to the 3rd floor, (which is ostensibly a skiiing/snowboarding school) and the young guy passes us off to the owner/employees, in a huge room of 200 intent Turkish guys. We’re pointed to padded tables to sit on in the back.

About a minute later we’re ushered across the hall to a darkened room that was at least 10 degrees warmer. It had TV’s in 2 corners and was incredibly densely packed rows of chairs. We’re talking about 300 men and 12 women in a room with a US fire code of about 70. After a couple minutes of the workers in depth searching (/setting up?), somehow 4 chairs were found. We slipped into the center of this row, and a 10-year-old boy asked me in Turkish if there were 4 people. Yeah. Then he said something else. No clue. It is loud in this room, cheering, clapping, whooping. He gave me that 10 year-old-boy what’s-wrong-with-you-? look. A couple minutes later a phrase was carefully passed down the row, “the price is 5 lira a person”. Oooh. Pass money back down the line.

The fervor spreads easily and we cheer and boo with the home team. Our co-worker, Gükhan, had given us Galatasaray as our team and taught us the cheer of “Gym Bom Bom”. Every close call is punctuated by Turks standing, hands starting to rise, and then covering their heads with their arms. Every replay of the same close call, produces a similarly strong effect on the crowd. There’s a song or two and cheers but it was 1-0 when we got there, and 1-0 at half time.

The other two girls leave to get water, (“It is ok if you don’t have money, you can still have water.”) I’ll take this time to remind you readers that Erzurum is as close as I’ve seen to a dry city: meaning, not a beer in sight amongst 500 men watching sports. Your drink choices are hot tea or water. While the girls are gone:

The guy behind me asks, “Are you English?”
“No, no, American.”
“Manchester United?”
“No, no, no. Galatasaray”
Strange look from him. “It is okay if you support Manchester United, we respect all people here.”
“No. Galatasaray! Gym Bom Bom!” With slight fist pump.
Comic grin from him. “Okay. Okay. Why are you in Erzurum?”
“To teach English. Ataturk University.”
“Oh Ataturk University!! Which faculty?”
“Foreign Languages…Yabanci Diller.”
“Oh!!! You speak Turkish!!!!!”
“çok az.” (very little.)
“Oh you are so good at Turkish! How long are you in Erzurum? When did you get here?”
“A year. A week ago.”
“How do you find it?”
“Huh? Great, I like it a lot.”
“Oh wow!”

At which point I turned to ask the kid next to me in pidgin Turkish who his favorite player was, though all I knew how to say was: “Which man do you like?” He had me repeat it, figured it out, and told me, “Mamat” which gave me something to listen for in the Turkish broadcast. Though during this interaction, I could hear the guy behind me describing our conversation to his friends, and all of them laughing and echoing back and forth “Gym Bom Bom!”

The 2nd half got going and there was one small shoving match between two guys in the room, that more than anything just got a bunch of people to stand up and pull them apart. More yelling at refs and us foreigners making fun of the douchy looking Man U goalie. The game ended at 1-0 with a grim but quiet crowd.

Everyone files out of the room, many waving us girls forward and employees giving us an extra smile with the good night in Turkish. For a building full of at least 1000 Turkish men (3 full floors) watching the game we got a couple quizzical questions but zero dirty or uninviting looks. As everyone poured down the stairway, many lit cigarettes in the stairway, mourning their loss. Like 100’s of guys lit cigarettes. By the time I made it to the ground floor, there was a visible haze of cigarette smoke.

The four of us walked home and on the way there were stopped by 2 college aged boys and 1 of their little brothers all decked out in Galatasaray gear. One asked if he could take a picture with Korey, the guy of the group. Afterward, the other wanted a picture with the 3 girls. Probably thought we were English. Can’t help but wonder if they’ll be of my students…

Turks have this wonderful/horrible habit of thinking that if you speak a couple words in Turkish, you must be nearly fluent. Which either means, like tonight they congratulate you on speaking wonderful Turkish if you say a single word. Or, like earlier that day, they start speaking lots of Turkish at you after you say one word and are super surprised when you look blankly back. Whereby they repeat it again at the same pace.

The four of us went back to the internet guy yesterday, since ours wasn’t working. This guy, even with a translator, talks to you assuming you understand every word he says. Even if I know exactly the Turkish phrase he should be saying, I can barely pick the words out, herunsthemalltogether.

Yesterday we went without a translator. We figured all we needed to say was. “It doesn’t work. There is no internet. There is no DSL light.” Which is in my Turkish vocabulary. However, once we got passed that, he asked something and looked intently in turn at each of us, with a “You don’t understand me either!” look. He mumbled something about friends and went to the hall and came back with three guys, one of whom helped translate, though some of the time he forgot to translate and just talked clearly in Turkish which was surprisingly understandable.

Internet guy decided the phone number of our flat was wrong and told us we could borrow a landline phone to figure it out. The crowd of guys walked us toward the door of the building, into the little security office and with barely a word, unplugged the security guy’s phone and handed it to us taking great care to tell us how to plug in a phone. We walked it back across campus with the security guy’s phone, and long story short: after a phone call, discovering something we did wrong, I now have wi-fi in my apartment!

However, headed to Kars for the weekend!