Underdogs Istanbul Başakşehir tame the big boys to win Turkey’s Süper Lig

There were extraordinary scenes after Istanbul Başakşehir were crowned Süper Lig champions on Sunday. It was the first Süper Lig title win in the club’s history.

Istanbul Başakşehir become only the sixth club to win the Turkish league since its inception in 1959, spectacularly breaking the stranglehold of the Big Four: Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Trabzonspor.

The favourites for this season had been Trabzonspor, which has spent much of the season on top, have seen their form desert them in recent weeks. Trabzonspor’s final game of the season, losing 3-4 to lowly Konyaspor having been ahead 3-1, an indication of their current problems.

In their bid to stay up, Konyaspor has found a strong run of form in recent weeks, bizarrely also beating Istanbul Başakşehir by the same score line, 4-3, last week.

However, the Istanbul club has dropped far fewer points than its close and bigger rival since the resumption of the league last month.

Başakşehir, under new manager Okan Buruk this season, secured a 1-0 win over Kayserispor following a 19thminute goal by midfielder Mahmut Tekdemir to clinch the title with 69 points and a game to go, leaving Trabzonspor trailing on 62 points.

Sivasspor are third in the table, with Turkey’s three other big clubs Beşiktaş, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe in fourth, fifth and seventh respectively.

Ankaragücü became the first side to be relegated from the Süper Lig this season. Having been rooted to the bottom for most of the season, their fate was sealed at the weekend after suffering a 1-0 home defeat to Antalyaspor, leaving them on 29 points in a league of 18 teams.

Playing in an empty stadium due to coronavirus-imposed restrictions, Başakşehir players were delirious with joy after the final whistle went. They hugged and cheered knowing Trabzonspor could no longer catch them.

Their fans watching outside on big screens similarly exploded into a frenzy of chanting, the air a sea of flags and scarves in the club’s orange and blue colours.

The game had its own drama, not least because it was interrupted twice by power outages. The game was stopped first for 17 minutes and again for 8 minutes before the problem was fixed.

The club squad boasts a host of former Premier League players, including Gaël Clichy, Robinho, Martin Skrtel and Demba Ba. It was Clichy who created the winning goal with a fine run down the left, before pulling it back for Mahmut Tekdemir to slot into the corner.

It’s a fairy tale ending for a club that was only formed in 1990. Başakşehir were first promoted to the Süper Lig in 2007. They were relegated at the end of the 2012-2013 season, before bouncing back to the top flight in 2014.

There are rumours that Arsenal’s out of favour star player Mesut Özil could be heading to Başakşehir for next season, though Özil’s salary may still put the midfielder out of the title winner’s reach.


Main image top, of Istanbul Başakşehir players after being crowned Super Lig winners, 19 July 2020. Photo © Twitter / Istanbul Başakşehir