Monday, June 23, 2008

Soccer Everywhere in Turkey

With the Euro football (soccer) competition going on right now and Turkey doing so well, I'm reminded about all the football I saw while I was in Turkey.

Soccer seems to be played everywhere in Turkey! Our first stop on the tour was in Ankara, and one of the first things I saw from our hotel balcony was a soccer stadium. It had another soccer field next to it, and I saw teams playing there as we went past. There is quite a crowd watching the game, too.

The wonderful thing about soccer, and part of what makes it so popular around the world, is that you don't need any specialized equipment to play it other than a ball. Anyone can play it, even the poorest slum dwellers. And they do! I saw kids playing on a bit of street in a slum full of shanty shacks as it was starting to get dark. Kids were playing soccer in most of the schoolyards I saw.

I even saw boys and men playing on grassy areas on a 30-degree slope across from a ancient ruin. The first picture shows the grassy slope that is just to the left of the Temple of Artemis, shown in the second picture. That slope just adds to the challenge of playing!

There was almost always a soccer game on TV. Our tour guide, Bora, excused himself early one night so he could go watch a Turkish championship game. Who could blame him? Another night, when I was feeling restless, I wandered around our hotel and found a roomful of Turks enthusiastically watching a Galatasaray game. Since I've been well tutored by one of my football-loving friends so that I can actually follow a game, I stayed and watched.

Go Turkey!