Friday, March 2, 2007

Istanbul or bust - Ebren

I have a problem. It's called football.

You think you have it beat - you head overseas in the middle of the run-in, to a country filled with culture, more history than the average Liverpool fan can shake a wad of dollars at, and a couple of mates.

But, like a not-forgotten lover you meet after midnight in a Stockwell sweat-pit, football finds a way to lure you back to a morning of regret.

In this case, it was less than 24-hours between me arriving in Istanbul and finding a Fenerbahce pub in Sultanahmet to watch the Yellow Canaries throw away a two-goal lead to crash out of the Uefa Cup. I don't care about the Uefa Cup.

The next day, I bother the tour guide to find out whether Istanbulspor are still in the Turkish top flight (they're not) and missed the entrance of the Dolmabahce Palace because it was opposite the Besiktas ground.

Heading to the spice market - where there are full sacks filled with saffron selling at £55 a gram wholesale - I seriously considered buying a Fenerbahce shirt for £18. I miss the saffron.

But second-rate European trophies, stadiums and shirts will only do for so long.

Fortunately, the splendid work done by Richard Scudamore over at the Premiership means that I can now sit in a bar by the Bosphorus and watch Fulham lose to a deflected goal and see Watford and Everton compete for the attention of the French couple and their overweight son on the table next to me.

But that isn't enough, even live football on the shores of Asia isn't enough any more.

The world has changed.

It used to be the case that you would watch a game every other week at home for eight months of the year, with newspaper reports, radio commentary and monthly magazines coming on later.

These days we need rolling 24-hour news to tell us every hour that the major stories haven't changed since the last bulletin, internet sites so we can talk to like-minded addicts, emails to mates, support groups run by newspapers we can disguise as work, text-message alerts, and much much more.

I end up in a bar watching Palermo-Atalanta, trying to find out if Palermo are good enough to justify their position third in Serie A while the owner tells me he supports Liverpool and refers to everyone as "my brother from another mother". I find a new bar to see the Madrid derby.

I think the nadir came when touring Hagia Sophia.

This wonder of the ancient world was built by Emperor Justinian between 532 and 537 AD. It is the world's oldest working temple, with a dome that stands 56 metres high and 36 metres across.

And all I can think is "this took less time to build than Wembley".

But it could be worse. One of the two people I travelled with flew back a day early to catch the Carling cup final.


pipita said...

Congrats again ebren. Really enjoyed this. Thought it was far more original than the only big bloger I bothered to read, the one on the mexico 86 film which was well written, but doesnt really add much to one's own recollections of that film.

Tony Ellis said...

I enjoyed it too, ebren, and feel it won't be long before you make it.

I got an hon. men. for my second piece. I'd like to thank that Hunter Davies vetoed my piece 'cos he didn't want his on the same subject to be overshadowed...

tony ellis said...

bah! not like to thank, like to THINK

Ebren said...

Mr Ellis - can we get a look at yours?

email to

I'll put my other - less funny but better written - one up later.

andrewm said...

Ebren, get the rugby one up - that's the one the swine really should have printed.

I very much enjoyed this. Reminded me of an excellent book called "Far Foreign Land" where the writer (Tony Evans I think) travels to Istanbul for the 2005 final and reminisces on decades of following Liverpool around Europe, and more generally on the fan culture.

olivier said...



you're sick. I bet when you come visit in Tahiti you'll stay up all night to watch the games and highlights on satellite, then sleep all day and miss the wonders of the lagoon and all the rest of it.

(*whisper*) pssssst, if it's world cup time or the euro, I'll stay up all night with you, shhhhhh)

50KaWeekSub said...

Excellent stuff Ebren - especially liked the saffron ref. Find that the pure range and diversity on this site means that us "trolls" can become more positive by finding something we like and commenting. On the GU site often it's the opposite.

MotM said...

Best yet Ebren - great payoff too.

I spent a whole Sunday in a bar in Marbella drinking draught Tetleys and watching the TV showing Lancashire playing Sussex at Horsham, even spying my brother in the crowd and feeling envious.

Re going back for the Carling Cup Final, I remember a mate of mine leaving the pub early to "get home for the Eurovision result".

Ebren said...

I still think the oddest sporting memory I have was me and dogfacedboy finding an Aussie Bar in Barcelona and watching the ICC champions trophy semi when we beat Australia. Then caliing an Aussie mate in London to get us tickets to the final. He was less than impressed.

I enjoyed writing this - but in terms of quality felt my Cornish one was better, but I hapily take praise.

Cheers guys.

As a side note - I actually said the wembley line out loud as I gazed up at the splendour of the Byzantine dome. At his point an Aussie chick stopped and said "Oi! I don't work for Multiplex but loads of my mates do, that's not on"

I pointed out it was actually true, and she decided that rather than have a go at me, she would use it as a stick to beat her mates with.

MotM said...

The Wembley line in print is good, but out loud is excellent and within the hearing of an Aussie - well, genius.

In so many buildings in the UK the temperature is either 10C or 30C and I usually spectulate that the Romans could do a better job with their central heating, but I'm going to start using that Wembley comparator now too.

olivier said...

offsideintahiti said...

This is exactly the type of article that would generate plenty of anecdotes on GU, and I love it when the blogs get personal.

My memory is of ruining a perfectly good, actually make that dazzling, june evening on the Isle of Skye to watch the Euro 96 semi-finals. First the nil-nil damp squid that was France - Czech Rep. (great result too in the end, urgh)then, as light faded I couldn't tear myself away from England - Germany. All that while Mrs Offside (who was still Miss Herself back then) was sitting outside the pub with a book.

Just how many times in a day can you say "sorry love, it's gone into overtime"? Then penalties.

It was dark when we left that pub, and it gets dark late in Scotland in june.

MotM said...

Offside - That's it. The Big Blogger needs pieces that are funny, from a non-journo's perspective and lead to a story swapping like this.

It seems amazing that the guys who invented the SportsBlog at the GU don't seem to get it.

bluedaddy said...

Absolutely agree re the positive nature of this article, and how it could 'seed' a thread without using provocation.

Ebren really captures the 'madness' of being a sporthead.
And OiT, there's definitely a article to be had re dealing with/being the long suffering Mrs Sporthead.

Ebren said...

Re-reading this - it's over-written. But I had fun writing it (which I did in front of the TV in the holiday after-glow of Sunday night).

I think the grauniad might have been put off by its "this is what I did on my hols" nature, it's over-written prose, and the fact it doesn't really have a point.

"Selection is an imprecise science, but the best articles contain a mixture of excellent writing, analysis, interesting subject matter and humour."

I reckon I get humour (maybe) and an outside shout at interesting. No analysis. Writing questionable (I was trying too hard). A decent sub could have dealt with that, but they are not touching them.

MotM said...

Ebren - too harsh surely?

So much is subjective, but I think it's excellently written. There's a bit of analysis (after "the world has changed") and analysis is over-valued in journalism (it has its place, but it's usually dull). The biggies are the interesting subject matter and the humour - this piece has plenty of both.

Where is the humour amongst the nine winners?

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