Fenerbahçe-Galatasaray: the Moon landing

Turkey stops today, exactly like every time that Galatasaray meets Fenerbahçe. The Sukru Saraçoglu stadium will host one of the most important derbys of recent years as both Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe are competing for the title and they are both currently in the second spot of the chart, behind Beşiktaş.

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Today we are not going to talk about charts though, not even line-ups or statistics. We are going to talk about one of the most interesting stories from this derby’s past: the “Moon landing” from 1996.

As I said it’s 1996; Fenerbahçe are competing with Trabzonspor for the title while Galatasaray are struggling to get some positive results. In the Türkiye Kupası (Turkish Cup) final the Lions (Galatasaray) are set to face the Yellow Canaries (Fenerbahçe). Fenerbahçe’s fans are very happy: Galatasaray was not considered a valid opponent at the time and a victory for the Canaries was almost sure.

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The first match inside Ali Sami Yen (Galatasaray’s past home) proved the supporters wrong: 1-0 for the Lions thanks to a goal by Dean Saunders at the 5′ minute. The whole Turkey was in shock. As you can imagine, the atmosphere before the return match was filled with tension and anger. On the 24th of april in 1996 the two teams clashed inside the Fenerbahçe Stadium (the Canaries’ past home) for the Türkiye Kupası.

Fenerbahçe equalized the first result at the 34′ minute with a goal by Aykut Kocaman; the match was blocked and neither team could find the lead. Finally, at the end of extra time, one player found the decisive goal: it was Dean Saunders again. Galatasaray’s #7 scored the goal that granted his team the “Kupası”; the Lions’ fans literally exploded with joy for what was considered a legendary win.

Galatasaray’s coach Graeme Souness was so excited that he took a Gala’s flag and planted it right in the center of the rivals’ field. An almost suicidal action that caused a lot of rage from the Canaries’s fans and a lot of joy from the Lions’ supporters. That episode is now known with many names and I picked “The Moon landing” because Souness’ gesture reminded me of the astronauts landing on our satellite.

Nineteen years have passed since that match, players have come and gone, stadiums have changed, coaches have won other trophies, but the memory is still livid in everyone’s mind; so much that Galatasaray’s fans created a “tifo” (choreography) inspired by that gesture during the 18th of october 2014 derby inside the Turk Telekom Arena (the Lions’ new home).

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Istanbul’s most famous derby is filled with these stories, as turkish football in general is; and as we approach yet another clash this evening we can only hope that the match will be exciting to watch.

Good derby to everyone.

Giovanni Sala

Classe 1992, malato di calcio e delle sue maglie, ma (soprattutto) di Milan.
Giovanni Sala