Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The American Fenerbahce Fan: My Story

The American Fenerbahce Fan: My Story
By Nathan L. Redd

I've been receiving a lot of e-mails lately after the Sabah, Zaman, FB TV, Hurriyet, etc. appearances asking how I became a Fenerbahce fan. Because of this, I've decided to re-publish this article from May 2007. This is my story, and this article appeared on Fenerbahce Worldwide after the first media appearance in Hurriyet on May 19, 2007. Here you go:

There is an old saying that says everyone has their 15 minutes of fame. I guess I am in the midst of mine right now, as I am amazed by the e-mails, messages here, on facebook.com, and antu.com, etc. that I have received after the article was published about me in Hurriyet on Saturday. I am flattered beyond belief, but I'm also honored. Fenerbahce is more than just a team I support; it has become an innate part of me. Some of the closest friends in my life I have met because of my support of Fenerbahce and my travels to Turkiye. I am proud to say that I've met many new ones in the last few days as a result of the article. The messages I have received have only confirmed what I previously believed - Turks are the greatest people in the world. I am more sure of that today than ever before. Ofcourse, as I meet supporters from the around the world, people ask the same question - "why?" How did an American graduate student with little connection to Turkiye come to love Fenerbahce? This article will likely be quite lengthy, but hopefully it will answer this question.

I grew up in a small midwestern American town. Futbol (or soccer as it is called here) was not a part of my vernacular. I grew up the all-American kid, playing baseball all day, every day. I had one friend who played futbol, but he couldn't convince me of it. (NOTE: I refuse to call it "soccer" when 99.9% of the world calls it some variation of "football." It is and always will be "football" or "futbol" to me). In high school, I dated a girl for four years who played futbol. Her sisters played futbol. Her father is one of the most successful futbol coaches in my state. I attended many, many futbol games during these four years. However, it never clicked with me. I didn't understand it, nor did I want to. I was enthralled with baseball, basketball, and American football. I was ignorant about futbol, and too stubborn to learn about it.

I went to college, studied business, and after graduation, moved to Nashville, Tennessee to work in music business. While there, I met a girl named Kristen who captured my heart. As we got to know each other, I learned that she had lived in Italy, Taiwan, and Izmir, Turkiye growing up while her dad was in the military. She spoke highly of each place, but it was obvious that Turkiye had a special place in her heart. I married that girl, and we later moved to Louisville, Kentucky so she and I could attend graduate school at the University of Louisville (I had also received my Bachelor's degree from this university). We talked a lot about traveling, and she had an aunt and uncle who had moved to Turkiye to start a business. We also had met some wonderful Turkish people in Louisville who became very close to us. The first one was a girl named Esen, from Ankara, who became like a sister to us. The second was a guy named Abdullah, who was passionate about a Turkish futbol team named Fenerbahce.

A few years after moving to Louisville, Kristen and I decided to take a trip to Istanbul to see her aunt and uncle and visit the country that she loved so much as a child. In April of 2005, I took my first trip to Turkiye.

In our lives, we tend to overuse the phrase "it changed my life." "Diet Coke changed my life." "The Subaru Outback changed my life." We overuse the phrase all the time for meaningless experiences. However, I can say without a doubt, my first trip to Turkiye changed my life. As soon as I arrived, I was home. I fell in love with Turkiye. The food, the culture, the scenery all enthralled me. Most of all, however, I fell in love with the people. I honestly felt like I was home when I was hanging out with other Turks. Everyone I met felt like family.

During my trip, I was near Beyazit and the Grand Bazaar and wandered into a place called "Fenerium." I knew it was a fan shop for a Turkish futbol team, but I didn't know much else. When I got back to my apartment, I e-mailed my friend Abdullah to ask if this yellow and blue team was "his" team and he said yes. A few days later, I was visiting a market with Kristen and her aunt and we drove past a huge stadium. The cab driver said "that is Sukru Saracoglu" with a proud smile. I quickly snapped a photo to show my friend Abdullah when I got home.

After a couple of weeks, we were ready to leave Turkiye, but instead of being homesick, I felt like I was leaving my home. Istanbul was amazingly comfortable for a city so large. I felt like Turkiye was a part of me when I left. I felt like I was leaving my home for another place, despite the fact that I had lived my entire life in America. Around this time, I started making a lot of friends (Turks and other nationalities) who were futbol fans. I had spent time traveling to Mexico, Turkiye, and Italy, and made friends from around the globe. Regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or nationality, I realized they all had one thing in common - futbol. It seemed that everyone with the exception of Americans loved this game. This must mean that the rest of the world saw something that I did not.

I started watching the small amount of futbol that was on television in America, and decided to find out some information about this Fenerbahce team. I also started working on my Master's degree in Sport Management, and my first class was "International Sport." Our first guest speaker was an English former pro futbol player who talked about "the beautiful game." I found Fenerbahce's website and the schedule/fikstur, and began keeping up with them to see how they were. My friend Abdullah, the Fenerbahce fan, also invited me to his apartment in Louisville to watch THE Derby - Fenerbahce vs. Galatasaray. I was hooked. I fell in love with futbol around the same time that I fell in love with Fenerbahce. I started realizing that most Americans supported teams like Chelsea, Arsenal, Barcelona, Real Madrid, or Manchester United. I watched a little of those teams and read about them, but none of them compared to what I was learning about Fenerbahce. It was like something clicked when I saw Fenerbahce. No other team mattered. I felt like a drug addict who couldn't get a fix, because I started looking for anything Fenerbahce I could find - DVDs, books, magazines, etc. I even bought an old Fener shirt on ebay. It was probably ten years old, but I didn't care - I wore it with pride.

Kristen thought I was living some sort of double life. My Saturday and Sunday afternoons were spent following this Turkish futbol team online. I met some other Fener fans and one even sent me a kit from Fenerium in Istanbul. I started getting a group of people together to play futbol each week, and I wore my Fener shorts each week. I couldn't get enough of Fenerbahce. I was reading about the team, but realized that very little content on Fener was in English. Through my travels and some language books, I was starting to learn a little Turkish. Finally I thought "there must be some other non-Turkish-speaking person out there who likes this team," so I started a blog - in English - about this team that I had grown to love so much. Fenerbahce Worldwide (http://www.fenerbahceworldwide.blogspot.com/) was launched in the summer of 2006.

I finally talked Kristen into letting me subscribe to Fox Soccer Channel last summer. Even though I knew I wouldn't likely see Fenerbahce, I couldn't get enough futbol. I had finally learned about this game and was absolutely in love with it. Each weekend I would watch Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, AC Milan, etc. I loved what I was seeing, but this wasn't Fenerbahce. None of these players or teams excited me like Tuncay Sanli, Stephen Appiah, or my beloved Fenerbahce. I started wondering why Americans were fans of these teams. As I learned about Fenerbahce, I realized the past successes of the club, the amazing facilities of Sukru Saracoglu, the leadership and charisma of Aziz Yildirim, and what I believe is the most passionate fan base of any club in the world. Americans would ask "why not support Arsenal or an English team?" My answer was simple: they aren't Fenerbahce. Don't get me wrong, the afore-mentioned clubs are fantastic. They are popular for many reasons. However, after studying why these clubs are so popular and successful (I am a graduate student, after all), I came to one hypothesis: One day, Fenerbahce will mentioned in the same sentence as all of those clubs. In fact, I believe one day Fenerbahce will be the world's greatest club.

The few American futbol fans I knew scoffed at me. They thought (and still think) I was crazy. But I knew something they did not. I had been to Turkiye, and we had something they didn't. We have the most incredible fans in the world. I can say this because I've been around fans of other teams. I've been to an Italian Serie A game. We have money, resources, facilities, and many other things those teams have. However, I saw pictures of Fenerbahce fans when we played in the tiny Faroe Islands last summer. I saw photos of Fener fans when we played in Syria early this season. I've seen Fener fans take to the streets of New York City, Holland, England, and around the globe. That is something that most clubs can only dream about.

So, here I am, nearly one year after starting this website. I've received attention for this site that I never dreamed of. I am so honored, but more earnestly, I am thrilled to see Fenerbahce receive the attention. I am only one member of the Fenerbahce Cumhuriyeti and no more important than any other fan. I am proud of my little blog and the attention it has received, but I am more proud to consider myself a Fenerbahceli, a supporter of this great team that has changed my life. As I finish my Master's degree in Sport Management next year, Kristen and I hope to move to Europe and eventually, to Turkiye. My dream is to one day work for this club that has changed my life, but that matters little. Regardless of where I live, I will be a Fenerli for life. One day, I will look back to my early days of being a Fenerbahce fan and remember what it was like to miss out on European glory. One day, it will seem strange that Fenerbahce had not won the UEFA Champions League. One day, it will seem strange that there were so few non-Turks who were Fenerbahce fans. One day I will remember when I used to say "bir gun herkes Fenerbahceli olacak." Then I will realize that one day...is now.


Blogger kilic-f said...

what a great story :)
or supporters are believing in this theam i can give examples...
likte the match in 1988 against Galatasaray first half score was 0-3 for galatasaray the second half
fener supporters where still believe to win the match
the coach says after first half : go , go and play , if they can score 3 gols against us in one half we can score 5 goals in one half..
after 90.minutes the score was 4-3

and another match in 2001
against Gaziantepspor , if Fener win they could be sampion but if gaizantepspor win they could be champion for the first time in the history of the club
the first half was 0-3 for gaziantepspor the supporters where still yelling and supporting Fenerbahçe...
in the second half .. fener made 4 goals and win 4-3 and became champion..

i have the short videos of those 2 matches..

1:54 PM  
Blogger Nathan L. Redd said...

Thanks, Kilic!

1:58 PM  
Blogger Ahmet Bahadir said...

Nathan, thanks you for your support.
I meet your blog today and i am very happy now.
I hope all of Fenerbahce fans will see great championships in future.

En büyük Fenerbahçe. Şampiyon Fenerbahçe.

(Sorry for my bad English)

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

laylaylaylayllaaaa llaaaaa (uazatarak soyleyin) Feeeneeeerbahhhhhccccee

sonra dur devam et :)

Fenerbahcem benim
biricik sevgilim
soyle senden baska
kimim var benim

Great history
Great Team
Great fans
Welcome to the Republic of Fenerbahce

peace man :P


6:13 PM  
Blogger Nathan L. Redd said...

Cok tessekurler! Ahmet, thank you so much for your note. That really means a lot to me, arkadasim.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Abs said...

Today is "World Fenerbahce Fans Day" 19.07

I send my regards to all Fenerbahce fans.

10:33 PM  
Blogger kilic-f said...

yes it is 19.07
and we are new 100 years :)

1:58 PM  
Blogger aykut ibrişim said...

Man you should have seen Fenerbahçe's celebrations of the 100. years of its foundation. 19.07.07 today Fenerbahçe prepared amazing celebration party in İstanbul Bağdat Street ( where most of FB fans are lived and usually made all celebrations like championship etc. ) It was amazing night. Little childs families old people walkin around singin loud Fenerbahçe songs amazing dance shows on the street. Hope ull had a chance to watch its videos or else. Take care

6:47 PM  
Blogger Nathan L. Redd said...

Thanks, everyone!

10:20 PM  

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