Turkey and the Europe of football

Senyuva O., TUNC S.

SPORT IN HISTORY, vol.35, no.4, pp.567-579, 2015 (ESCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 35 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/17460263.2015.1071086
  • Journal Name: SPORT IN HISTORY
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.567-579
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


This article examines the parallels between the trajectory of international sporting contacts of Turkish football, at both national and club levels, and Turkish foreign and diplomatic policy since the 1920s. This convergence of international football and foreign policy is particularly true for the 1930s and the 1950s. During the 1930s, although the ruling elite was not fond of football as a spectator sport, its potential for international recognition and as a tool for diplomacy was not ignored. Turkey's rivals on the pitch were mainly countries from the Eastern Bloc, e.g. a series of friendly matches against the USSR, which was suffering from a lack of international experience due to the footballing 'embargo' imposed by the West. In contrast, the years following the Second World War saw Turkey's efforts to keep the USSR and other communist states at bay both politically and culturally. In the post-war international conjuncture, Turkey preferred to build up closer relations with the West and gave western European teams priority in its footballing contacts. Finally, Turkey's bid for membership of UEFA - a tortuous tale involving individual influence, FIFA and the 'Europe-Asia question' of Turkish identity was also in line with Turkey's changed foreign policy strategy and priorities.