As someone who has lived with a Turkish father who is a huge Galatasaray fan, its been almost impossible to not grow some sort of affiliation with them. From hearing celebrations on some days and the odd Turkish expletive thrown in the direction of an innocent TV, it was hard not to be aware of what was going on. As a result, I have become a viewer of Galatasaray matches and a Turkish Super Lig game ever now and again. So after yesterday, it was safe to say there was a lot of joy and relief after an incredibly dramatic match.
Galatasaray and Istanbul Basaksehir were locked level on points going into the penultimate game of the season after a title race that looked certain to go Basaksehir's way. At one point, they stood comfortably ELEVEN points at the summit. Galatasaray clawed back that lead after a series of come backs and dropped points from Basaksehir towards the end of the season. In Turkey it goes to head to head record and not goal difference, and Galatasaray had drawn 1-1 at their home. So this was effectively: whoever wins... Wins the league.
I'm sure I don't need to tell you about Turkish football culture. The crowd, the atmosphere was something to behold. After an early Basaksehir goal, it led to crowd troubles as items were thrown onto the pitch and at opposition players. It was the first time for a while the crowd noise had wilted. Galatasaray were playing well though, with wingers Feghouli (ex-West Ham and Valencia) and Henry Onyekuru causing havoc. 21 year old Onyekuru is one of the biggest African talents in world football, on loan from Everton, who can't in fact play for them right now due to work permit problems.
The second half came and a brilliant overhead kick from Feghouli gave Galatasaray a crucial equaliser. Then came some VAR drama. 2 goals scored by Belhanda and Onyekuru in quick succession, ruled out by VAR in quick succession. I never understood how City fans felt when their goal was ruled out against Spurs, but this gave me a small taste of sudden change of emotions. The crowd mood subdued a bit, but this was soon to change after Onyekuru headed home from close range with 30 minutes to go. Istanbul had a few chances, but nothing significant from then on, and Galatasaray defended well, particularly the full backs Nagatomo and Mariano. Jubilation at the full time whistle, as Galatasaray claimed their 22nd league title.
Galatasaray are the biggest club in Turkey and it'll be a long time before someone surpasses their achievements. This year was another scintillating campaign and will only add to their dominance. Another European campaign awaits.