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|Photos by Burcu Göknar, Text by Simon Kuper & Kıvanç Koçak...
24x28 cm. 128 pages, glossy
Turkish - English
Foreword : " A forbidden love story"
Vâlâ Nurettin after attending a Fenerbahçe-Vefa match in 1946 considering the other team’s disciplined game declares Vefa to have played “romantically”.
In 1953, İstanbul Haber Gazetesi writer Z. Işık Üstün remembers “Vefa lads who were doing it for sport itself, for the love of their club” saying, “It is our duty to remember in reverence those noble souls who went on foot to games in other districts, having no money and wary of asking the club, playing with empty stomachs, shouldering the equipment trunks themselves.”
By the 60s, unpredictable Turkish modernization starts to mess with everything in its way. Those same years are also the start of Vefa Football Team’s descent. The team, after playing for years in the national group and the professional league falls into the lower league in 1962-63 season. This demise reflects somehow the initial impact of the first rural migration wave to the big cities. Unplanned urbanization gradually absorbs first the Vefa District then the Vefa Football Team. Since a rural team from the country and a “big” team from the city are supported by the migrants, Vefa is not “enough” for these newcomers from the country to feel belonging in the city. Even if they have become the Second League champion in the 1964-65 season, in the 1973-74 season the team once again falls victim to relegation and drops from the group to the 3rd league in 1986-87 season and in 1993-94 season to the amateur league. Playing in the 3rd League in 1998-2000 they haven’t been able to get back from the Istanbul Super Amateur League to the professional leagues.
Established in 1908, Vefa Club couldn’t celebrate its centenary like the big clubs. Times have changed and those days when Vefa stood alongside Beşiktaş, Galatasaray, and Fenerbahçe as one of “ the big 4 ” were forgotten a long time ago.
In spite of the crudeness of football turning into an industry, Vefa Club is sustained in a pathological “romanticism” by a hope to re-discover at the old accomplishments together with the legacy of the past… Today’s youngsters who have grown up with the current values, nevertheless play ball at Vefa shrouded in this legacy. So if during the season the team feels that money is driving the club then the morals and attitudes change accordingly. The young footballers from Vefa are reminded from time to time to carry themselves like gentlemen, and to nurture the souls of the past generation of players.
And we salute the old generation of players in Ozan Öztepe’s lines:
“Ahh…/ the lost mariners / on the high seas / should know /how free they are…”
Given the current economic system - that giant beast who wants to swallow everything in its way- we can recognize clearly that sincere wish of Vefa “stay inpoverty” so that it can stay pure. Never wishing the team to end up in the hands of the big bosses….
Classwise, the humble beginnings of football are rapidly forgotten. Living inside the system means turning to consumption, responding to middle and upper class demands, increasing in the number of boxes above the supporters’ heads in the stadiums, emphasizing the power “even in areas belonging to us”.
When the ground under our feet is moving, those things deemed “valuable” from the past and present are differentiated. To love a team devoid of the usual successes is, knowingly or unknowingly, a kind of personal action taken to avoid surrendering to this dark system.
Following a dream, the handful of supporters that hurries to each game moves like they are acting out a forbidden love affair. Different from those “big” team supporters, they are expected to pay for their “sins” and carry their joys and sorrows in a graceful manner. While the others are yelling and hollering on the streets, vefa supporters are the mutes of this universe. You can only recognize them by the secret sparkle of love that shines in their eyes.
Taken over the course of two seasons- in 2008 and 2009- these photographes search the soul of Vefa, a legacy spanning from the past to the present day. The essential thing tracked here is not football – as far as it is carried out- but through football, the crestfallenness, the mourning, the love and the resistance of those who row against the currents.