We visited Beşiktaş fish market because this was the origin for the Çarşı, an unofficial supporters club of Beşiktaş FC. At each match, they chant and show huge banners responding to current or political affairs with witty, anarchistic slogans like, “We are against everything, except Ataturk” that are picked up by TV, and beamed across the world.
Çarşi literally means Market, and we wanted to find out what the relationship was between the market and the Çarşi now. Everyone of the fish sellers we spoke to was ‘Beşiktaş’, and proud they’d just won the league [again]. We learnt, that yes indeed, the Çarşi, are named after here, and the head Çarşi guy buys his fish from here for his restaurant. The fish sellers also pointed us in the direction of the Çarşi shop, in the nearby Grand Beşiktaş precinct.
The shop has official merchandise, but they also design their own gear which reflects the Çarşi slogans, which are admired by many and appropriated by supporters of other teams! On match days, the shop opens at 6-7am and has a queue of 300 people outside. The owner said he rarely goes to the matches now (he’s in his 40s), but the president gives him signed shirts as gifts, he knows all the players, transfer gossip and news about the club, and gets called all the time for his point of view.
The owner told us that he and his brother are part of the inner core Çarşi, which meets weekly. We heard the core have a powerful influence, coordinating banners, chants and deciding if support or protests are needed. For instance, after the Izmit earthquake, the Çarşi mobilized and donated hundreds of thousands of units of blood to the Red Crescent (the Turkish Red Cross). Or when TV pundits repeatedly said Beşiktaş was only winning the league because Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe were ‘actively losing’, the Çarşi protested, sending 1 million set-top boxes back to the TV company.