Off-Pitch Focus: Times football fans have come together

Following the recent Ankara attacks, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe fans requested to watch derby game together. Ciarán Breen looks at other occasions when football fans have joined forces in tragedy or protest in order to create a change for the better.

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In the aftermath of the suicide bombings in Ankara last Sunday night, which killed at least 37 people and injured 125, Galatasaray announced that the father of Turkish international Umut Bulut had been killed in the attacks.

Shortly after, Turkish-Football.com reported on Twitter that Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe fans had requested to watch this weekend’s derby game between the sides together in a mixed stadium.

Given the fractious nature of the rivalry in the Turkish capital, the symbolism of this gesture cannot be underestimated.

Some argue a saturation of tributes and symbolic gestures in football have lessened their meaning in recent years, but the pattern of football fans coming together in both tragic and trying times is a rich one. Here, we look back at a short selection.

Istanbul United

Turkish football fans are known the world over for their ultras and intense rivalries. Its three foremost clubs, Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş, all play in Istanbul, often leading to violent clashes in and out of the stadium.

When the Gezi-Park protests, which began in May 2013, resulted in police brutality against peaceful protesters, the movement against the government spread nationwide.

In the face of the repression, fans of the three clubs united to help protesters in their clashes with police, drawing on their experience of clashes with security forces at football games. The events were turned in a documentary, Istanbul United.

Everton stand by Liverpool following Hillsborough Disaster

Aside of the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park in February 2015, Everton unveiled a new permanent commemorative plaque in memory of the 96 Liverpool fans who died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster in Sheffield in 1989.

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Everton have been a strong shoulder of support for Liverpool fans over the years, as families who lost loved ones fought for justice. On the 24th anniversary in 2013, Toffees chairman Bill Kenwright said, “They took on the wrong city – and they took on the wrong mums.” At the Merseyside derby shortly after, Liverpool fans acknowledged the gesture and support with a thank you mosaic on the Kop.

Premier League fans force clubs to adopt an away ticket price cap

Earlier this month, Premier League clubs agreed to cap away ticket prices at £30 for the next three seasons. This small victory for supporters would not have happened without sustained campaigning from fans.

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The Football Supporters’ Federation have been running #TwentysPlenty since 2013, and grassroots organizing around the issue of ticket prices hit the mainstream on February 6 this year at Anfield, when an estimated 10,000 Liverpool fans staged a walkout on the 77th minute mark.

A-League Boycott

In late 2015, a Sydney newspaper ran a sensationalized story about crowd trouble in the Australian A-League, publishing names and photographs of fans, including minors, who had never been charged or identified as having committed any crime.

Knowing they could not count on Football Federation Australia for support, football fans fought back. Melbourne Victory and Western City Wanderers staged a mass walkout to protest FFA’s lack of appeals process for banned fans, and the following weekend, supporters boycotted all games league-wide. This forced the hand of the federation, who introduced a new banning and appeals process after direction consultation with supporters groups.

Magpies and Black Cats united after airline tragedy

The Malaysia Airlines disaster in July 2014 took the lives of Newcastle United fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney. Sunderland fanatic Gary Ferguson set up a fundraising page with the goal of raising enough money for a bouquet of flowers to be laid at St James’ Park on behalf of Black Cats supporters, as a mark of respect.

The page raised over £30,000 and the huge surplus was donated to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Marie Curie Hospice in Elswick.

Read more from Ciarán here!

You can follow Ciarán on Twitter @keep_score

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