Galatasaray - Manchester United: 1993-2012 Whats Changed?
Galatasaray welcome Manchester United to hell... well not quite, the famous chants and Welcome To Hell banners may be the same but the city has gone through a major transformation since the early 90's when the giants of English football met the titans of the Turkish game.
United fans looking around for the Ali Sami Yen Stadium will probably be glad to know it doesn't exist anymore. The stadium renowned for unbelievably passionate supporters and an atmosphere which was off the richter scale has been reduced to the history books.
The ramshackle stadium in Mecidiyeköy, right in the middle of one of the busiest urban residential areas of the city has moved uptown and upscale to the beautiful surroundings of the Belgrade forest in the northern suburbs of the city.
The all-seater stadium has the capacity to host 52,652 adorning Galatasaray fans was nominated for Venue of the Year and New Venue as part of the Stadium Business Awards when it first opened.
New, huge, state of the art stadiums, as beautiful and impressive as they are have also been criticised for ruining the atmosphere of football.
The industrialisation of football has received a lot of bad press for taking the sport away from the real fans, pricing out the traditional fan base and replacing the core supporters with what a Manchester United legend by the name of Roy Keane famously called, Prawn Cocktail Fans.
However, Galatasaray fans have managed to avoid being crushed by big business and if anything arae now stronger and more organised.
The relationship between supporters and the club has always been close in Turkey, Galatasaray is a great example of this. When the club faced financial hardships in the early 2000's loyal supporters under the banner of UltrAslan helped raise funds and even gave Galatasaray the rights to sell their merchandise.
The supporters benevolent donations helped soften the impact of the Lions economic difficulties and paved the way for a close relationship between the fans and the club.
Those of you who remember Galatasaray in European competition during the late 90’s will remember the red flares, Welcome to Hell banners and intimidating atmosphere.
If you’re not familiar with Turkish supporter culture you may find it interesting to know that Ultra group leaders are often well known and respected members of the community who enjoy direct contact and influence with their clubs.
The UltrAslan founder Alpaslan Dikmen has been venerated as a hero with cult like status since his unfortunate death in 2008. The current leader Oğuz Altay also enjoys close relations with Galatasaray, perhaps best elaborated during UltrAslan’s recent brilliantly choreographed 3D display unveiled before kick-off in the Istanbul derby against Beşiktaş.
In an interview with Turkish newspaper AKŞAM, following the display he told readers; "I called Terim before the game and told him that I can't go into detail but we have organized something special that we really want him to see and that this was going to be a first. I asked him to come out onto the field 5 minutes before the game.
"Terim didn't let us down and being on the pitch with the manager was an incredible moment. Having my arm around Fatih Terim's shoulder was an emotional experience, it represented ultrAslan and the Galatasaray's supporters united with their manager" Altay said.
On March 18, 2011, Galatasaray fans also broke the Guiness World Record for the loudest crowd road at a sport stadium when the crowd reached 131.76 decibels.
United fans will also notice vast improvements in the transportation system, the traditional Dolmuş minibuses and yellow cabs are still in use however, there is now a modern tram and Metro system.
In fact the quickest way to get to the new stadium is via the Metro, especially if staying around the touristic Old City. The new stadium has it's very own Metro station called Seyrantepe, the carriages are spacious, air conditioned and run on time, it's the best way to beat the rush hour traffic.
United fans feeling a little daring and wanting to venture into traditional Galatasaray turf will hardly recognise what they see, the area of Taksim, Galata, İstiklâl Caddesi and its surroundings have all been gentrified and are now a vibrant hub of culture, arts and entertainment.
The famous Nevizade street, a favorite of football fans has also been transformed however, still retains it's charms.
United fans won't be millionaires anymore, back then £1 could feth you around 2-3 million Turkish lira, the Turkish economy which was in ruin back in the early 90's with 70 per-cent inflation.
Twenty years on £1 will get you just 2.8 TL, Turkey is an emerging economic power, bordering Europe and literally bridging East and West. Currently the 16th largest economy in the world and on course to enter the top 10 by 2013 Turkey has seen an economic transformation over the last two decades.
The population of Turkey is the youngest in Europe (UEFA) 40 per-cent of the 75 million population is under the age of 22 and the most popular sport in the country is football which enjoys a fanatical following.
In terms of football, Turkey is the sixth largest footballing economy in the world however, while it's a multi-billion pound industry that success has yet to show itself in European competition yet.
Turkey's recent economic success has resonated its way to Manchester United FC as well, Turkish Airlines is a partner of United and the club recently struck a deal with Turkish bank DenizBank.
Turkey has come a long way since 1993, for any United fans who haven't made a trip to Istanbul in the last twenty years hopefully this time round their stay will be more heaven than hell.