The games behind the game : the process of democratic deepening and identity formation in Turkey as seen through football clubs



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The history of football clubs in Turkey is entwined with the political and economic development of Turkey in the twentieth century. This thesis focuses on the history of soccer clubs and the close involvement of the sport with the formation of modern Turkish identity during the late Ottoman period, the early republican period, the multi-party period, and finally the Cold War era. As this study also argues, in addition to their role in identity formation, football clubs were the building blocks of associational life in Turkish democracy and thus represent a major force in the process of democratic deepening in the country. The thesis addresses both the complex political functions and uses of soccer clubs and their economic relationship to the development of Turkish business. Through the twentieth century, the politics behind soccer clubs evolved from an affirmation of national identity to a reassertion of local identity as a challenge to the centralized state system. Increased localization—as evidenced by the rising fortunes of soccer clubs and businesses from Central Anatolia, Turkey’s Muslim heartland—also indicates the increased Islamicization of Turkish society accompanying the advent of the AKP (Justice and Development Party). The changing character of Turkish society and the challenge to traditional secular elites by a rising class of Islamic businessmen from outside of the metropolitan areas—developing businesses concentrated mainly in Central Anatolia—are presented through an analysis of Parliamentary election results since 1962 along with the concurrent change in the geographical transformation of the landscape of Turkish soccer through this period. The study examines the complex, multifaceted interrelationships and lines of mutual determinations between the changing conceptions of Turkish identity, democratic deepening, Islamicization, and the economic development of modern Turkey. This thesis demonstrates how these forces that shape social, political, and economic life are played out on the soccer field.