Narratives of Doing Home, Belonging and Kinship

Many interview partners used the performance and construction of (shifting) loyalties and rivalries in their football fandom narratives and practices to negotiate concepts of home, belonging and kinship within and beyond the football context. In the following example, I will discuss how rivalries and loyalties can shift even though they are narrated as if they were inflexible. In order to maintain the antagonism and thus also the excitement of being a fan, permanent negotiation is required. In this subsection, I will look into these negotiations with a particular focus on the role of a diasporic or migratory context in this process.

The exemplary analysis focuses on the Galatasaray fan Metin and his family and how Metin ‘handles’ the rivalry with Fenerbahqe. I met Metin during an away trip to Salzburg in July 2013 when Fenerbahqe tried to qualify for the Champions League. Metin is married and 45 years old. He has a teenage daughter and a teenage son and has been living in Vienna for more than twenty years. His daughter and son are also very passionate Galatasaray supporters. His wife also supports Galatasaray but does not consider herself a football fan. When Metin and I met, he often mentioned that he planned to move back to Istanbul when his children graduate from high school.

Metin goes to Istanbul a couple of times a year to visit friends and relatives, and also in order to go to the stadium to attend Galatasaray matches. In addition, he attends Galatasaray and Fenerbahqe matches in Austria and in neighbouring countries on a regular basis. When I told him that I was confused when I saw a Galatasaray fan riding on a Fenerbahqe fan bus, he responded simply that Fenerbahqe is a Turkish team and that this is why fans of both clubs have to mutually support each other.[1] In an interview several weeks later, he elaborated further on his support for Fenerbahqe. He showed me pictures of himself on his mobile phone wearing a Galatasaray jersey during a friendly match between Fenerbahqe and Newcastle in Sopron in Hungary.

Nina: So you really like to watch Fenerbahpe matches, like in Salzburg?

Metin: Well, yes. But if Fenerbahpe loses I am not that sad. But-

Nina: But anyhow you are supporting Fenerbahpe-

Metin: Fenerbahpe is still a Turkish team. If I go to work the next day, I tease the Austrians, if Fenerbahpe won. (Nina and Metins wife start laughing). Once, Bejiktaj was playing Rapid [Wien]. About three years ago. I said, if a Turkish team comes I’ll always support them. [...] I was, but before I was also wearing a Bejiktaj shirt.

Nina: Really?

Metin: But I wouldn’t wear a Fenerbahpe shirt.

Nina: Okay. And why is Bejiktaj okay and Fenerbahpe isn’t?

Metin: Yes, Fenerbahpe is like an enemy. Do you understand?

Nina: And Bejiktaj?

Metin: Bejiktaj not so much, not so bad, but Fenerbahpe is different.

Nina: So if Fenerbahpe is playing Bejiktaj-

Metin: Well, if you hand me a Fenerbahpe shirt, for example, and you tell me that you would pay me a hundred Euros if I wore it, I wouldn’t do it. I swear.

Nina: Okay. (Laughs). But Bejiktaj is okay?

Metin: Bejiktaj is okay. Well, not to wear it always, but for one match. [...]

Nina: And what do Fenerbahpe fans say if you go to a Fenerbahpe match

wearing a Galatasaray jersey?

Metin: Ah, there [in Sopron, Hungary] people were looking at me but didn’t say anything. But in the Fenerbahpe stadium — you cannot do it there. They would cut it off. In Vienna, people are also fanatic, wearing scarves and so on, but nobody told me I should take it off or anything like that.[2]

The logic of my research field would usually exclude the idea of supporting the ‘arch enemy’.[3] [4] Therefore, Metin applies a certain strategy to justify his shifting support. He claims that it is self-evident for him to support another team from Turkey apart from Galatasaray. Whereas some fans that I interviewed would never agree to that, others share this practice. The Fenerbah^e fan Mesut, for example, wanted to accompany me to a Galatasaray match in the Champions League. He said that on an international level he would always also support Galatasaray because he supports everybody who is wearing a Turkish flag on his chest. He elaborated further that Galatasaray fans have done likewise when Fenerbahce was successful on an international level a few years back.11

In his research, Anthony King has dealt with the question of how in Europeanisation processes club rivalries can become more important than the nationality of a club or a national team in general (King 2000, 2003). On that matter, Galatasaray and Fenerbahqe fans were quite split. How they acted in these shifting contexts often reflected their attitude towards national identification generally and towards Turkey in particular. Somewhat leftist fans would never cheer for the arch enemy for a reason like national affiliation, whereas others identified with Turkey or via Turkey with different concepts of home and belonging and occasionally supported the rival. Nevertheless, it becomes clear that ‘[t]he mental maps of football fandom are not restricted to local and national rivalries but run transversal and cross, sometimes also unexpectedly, national boundaries.’ (Alpan and Schwell 2015, p. 5)

The temporary support of Fenerbahqe, however, is not without limits or rules. Metin, for example, emphasises that he would never wear a Fenerbahqe jersey. Instead, he wears the jersey of the national team when he attends Fenerbahqe matches. The football shirt becomes an important symbol of his limited loyalty to the opposite team. Thereby, he expresses his loyalty to Turkey and maintains the rivalry to Fenerbahqe. Likewise, it becomes visible that Metin experiences the rivalry between Galatasaray and Fenerbahqe in Vienna as softer than he would in Istanbul. Assuming that other fans of Turkish football in Central Europe are of the same opinion on this matter, he decides to wear a Galatasaray jersey at a Fenerbahqe match.

Metin is able to use his fandom of Turkish teams to apply a strategy of ‘doing home’ (Beheimatung) and belonging (Binder 2010, p. 190). Binder writes that migrants are often confronted with the prejudice that migration equals rootlessness, which means having no home and being foreign, before people even have the chance to say what being home means to them (2010, p. 194). Metin has several places where he feels at home depending on the perspective and situation. Asking him from a football perspective, he would mention Istanbul as a reference point and a place of yearning, whereas Vienna is his reference point when it comes to talking about his family, work and his colleagues. Therefore, he uses football as a tool to close the geographical gap between his two constructed homes. Additionally, every football match becomes a homelike place.

In his case, fandom can be considered as a ‘tool’ that helps to create ‘strategies of action’ (Swidler 1986, p. 273). Ann Swidler defines strategies less as a conscious plan, but as ‘a general way of organizing action’ (1986, p. 277). Applying this theoretical concept to the underlying case, we can consider football fandom as part of a ‘“tool kit” of symbols, stories, rituals, and world-views, which people may use in varying configurations to solve different kinds of problems’ (Swidler 1986, p. 273). For Metin, football fandom is that part of culture that he uses as his ‘tool kit’ to create homelike emotional spaces in which he feels comfortable.

Furthermore, Metin mentions his joy in playfully teasing his Austrian colleagues at work the next day if a Turkish team has won. Therefore, he expresses not only his loyalty to Turkey but also differentiates himself from Austrians in the football context by emphasising the superiority of Turkish teams. At the same time, by ‘teasing’, he applies a type of humorous communicational interaction, thereby stressing both his difference and also his sameness (cf. Klingenberg 2013).

The biographies of my interviewees are quite different in terms of where they grew up, their educational background and their political views. One aspect that all of the interviewees who grew up in Turkey have in common is that football for them constructs a space where it is possible to (re)tell concepts of home and belonging and likewise spaces where the distance to the geographically distant home can be minimised for ninety minutes and beyond. For those fans that grew up in Vienna, their fandom often has a different connotation. For many of them, it is a strategy to maintain family links as well as to share and create a link to the former home country of a family member, very often the father. Ayhan Kaya, who researched the Turkish hip-hop youth in Berlin-Kreuzberg, talks about a ‘symbolic bridge between country of settlement and the homeland’ (Kaya 2001, p. 156). For others of the same group the family ties and links to a sense of ‘Turkish belonging’ are less important because being a Galatasaray or Fenerbahqe fan for them is mainly a Viennese habit of socialising with friends and peer-groups.

Doing kinship in the football context means constructing families on two different levels. First of all it is a vehicle to strengthen the community feeling and sentiments of belonging, mostly between fathers and their daughters and sons. Non-related fans also consider themselves as a ‘fan family’. An important part of the family feeling is that new people are often immediately welcome. This is also why there is no question that women are welcome in many environments, even though they are often not accepted as ‘real’ fans (Sulzle 2011, p. 241). Almut Sulzle elaborates on the ‘fan family’:

The fan family serves as a surface to project a great number of needs on that are associated with an “ideal world” and emotional security; it is characterised as a space free of commerce and competition and stands for values that are at the same time assumed to be eroding in society: loyalty, selfless love, willingness to help, trust. (Sulzle 2011, p. 239 [author’s translation][5])

Sulzle refers to cases and people that are not necessarily related but the same also applies to family members. Within families football fandom can also be a strategy to bond with family members. Sibel describes the many different layers of doing community and belonging that football fandom contains for her. In Sibel’s case doing kinship and doing home are both reflected in her fan narratives.

Sibel: This is because I watch Turkish TV and it is, I can somehow [compensate] my longing for Turkey, it’s not only about that, I guess, but it is something Turkish like Turkish food. A certain dose of Turkish football is really good. I feel at home. Of course, it has also to do with my father and my childhood. I used to swim in [the Galatasaray Sports] Club. But if I were in Turkey right know, I would also watch [football] I guess. It’s not only because I am here now. I wouldn’t say that I watch football only because of my longing. But because I watch it now it is nice and that’s maybe also the reason why I watch Turkish football instead of Austrian football, because I need more Turkish relationships than Austrian, German or English ones. [...] Yes and I also think that it is important that all my friends, they also want, you know, to have these relationships and when we watch together, when we see each other, then we have the feeling that the distance does not exist. As if we were in Turkey and it is exactly like Turkish food, when you live abroad, then you know, sometimes you have the urge. I really have to eat Pide and Lahmacun then. And when I eat it I can stay for two months here, I don’t have an urge then.[6]

For Sibel her football fandom is part of many different strategies that she summarises in this short interview section. It is part of doing home which she describes as minimising the distance to Turkey and as an emotional place where she feels at home and therefore comfortable. Likewise, her fandom is related to establishing and maintaining a football community of friends that regularly meet. She creates an environment where her football fandom is not only legitimate but part of the entrance ticket to be Turkish or to be somehow connected to Turkey. Additionally in Sibel’s case it becomes obvious how family bonds and conflicts can be negotiated via football experiences and fandom practices:

Sibel: Yes, well, football and Galatasaray have always been kind of a symbol that I shared with my father. Because my mother hates football, my sister has no idea but I was somehow like the son that he always wanted to have. You know, we somehow shared this and it was something we had in common. Especially for me. [...] I would have never thought that I now can have really passionate discussions with my father (laughs). But it is sort of funny, well, now I can talk about it with men, it is always fun. I realise now that some [female] friends [Freundinnen] of mine, they want to talk to a man, you know, or with a [male] friend [Freund] that they already know and sometimes you don’t know what to talk about and I just, like men, start talking about football immediately and everything goes quickly. It is kind of a bonus, I suppose. In society. No matter whether you know the guy it is better than asking “where are you from?”[6]

In the second excerpt of the interview section, Sibel describes more precisely with whom she can connect via her football fandom. For her it is less a general way to build a community with friends but more importantly it is a strategy to connect to men. Via football she feels able to establish an emotional relationship to her father. She considers football to be a ‘bonus’ that makes it easier for her to connect with him. This does not only apply to her father but also to men in general. She regards her own football fandom as both cultural and social capital in a male- dominated environment. Even more, football is the joker in the pack for her, putting her ahead of the competition compared to other women. Thereby she makes clear that in her perception football is a world of male hegemony. She can take advantage of this (male) football knowledge in conversations with men to establish a community feeling with them. In her description, she enters a male-dominated environment and by proving her football knowledge she earns respect and recognition. This respect and recognition can only come from male football fans because she considers them the ‘legitimate’ preservers of football knowledge.

In Aylas case, the family and particularly the father are also important factors to her football fandom. When growing up in Vienna, the first experiences with football and as a fan are less connected to a built football environment like a stadium. Instead, they are linked to family narratives about a former home of a parent or grandparent or the broader family:

Ayla: Well, it is like this, my interest came from my father, let’s say it that

way. (Both start laughing.) It’s how, how can I say that, I am a Fenerbahpe fan, okay? And this is one of the most popular football clubs in Turkey. Or from Turkey, let’s put it that way, and my father, he is also a huge fan and he became like that because of Grandpa. It is passed down from one to the other in our family. The whole family are Fenerbahpe fans, it’s because of the family. My father is a huge fan of the team because when he was little and was still living in Turkey, it used to be a thing between him and his father. They went to watch matches together, used to play together. It was the team both of them stood for. Let’s put it that way. It was his memory of his past and when he came to Europe he retained this. And this is how I picked up this interest. It means every time we are in Turkey the first thing we always do is buy football shirts, hats and everything that goes with it. Because they have a shop where only Fenerbahpe fans buy things. You can buy key chains, shoes, slippers, bed clothes, everything and we really spend a lot of money there, yes. (Ayla and Nina laugh). But not my whole family is included of course. My mum for example she often tells us off when we spend so much money.[8]

Ayla likes the thought of continuing the family history of Fenerbah^e fans and thereby emphasises the family aspect of her fandom. Using the expression that fandom can be ‘passed down’ she identifies herself with this constructed family history. It is a strategy of doing kinship to continue a constructed family history and nostalgia about a former home. This also includes current practices such as buying Fenerbah^e merchandise when in Turkey. For Ayla, it is a way to connect to the former home of the father and grandfather. Before, this ‘passing down’ happened only from one male family member to another male family member and is now also ‘passed down’ to female family members. Regarding gender, football fandom is changing with the current generation from a male-dominated environment to a place that women inhabit more and more. In this matter, Turkish football is comparable to many other European leagues that become more and more attractive for women. But, it is still a male-dominated environment where women are confronted with manifold problems of male hegemony (Erhart 2011; Dietze 2012; Rapoport and Regev 2016, see also Chap. 5).

  • [1] Fieldnote from 31 July 2013, fan bus from Vienna to Salzburg stadium, with Metin and hisfriends, Fan Club, Young Fenerbah^e Fan Club, more than 14 hours.
  • [2] Interview Metin, 45 years old, male, Galatasaray fan, Metin and his family’s apartment, Viennesesuburb, afternoon; together with his daughter Derya, 15 years old, Galatasaray fan and his wifeNevin, in her forties.
  • [3] This shifting support is to some extent comparable to fan practices that evolve around BayernMunchen. Even though many football enthusiasts in Germany would claim to hate everythingabout Bayern Munchen, it is interesting how many people will then support the team on aEuropean level and even find ‘good’ reasons for it, such as ‘they have such a good youth programme’(cf. for example fieldnote from 25 May 2013, Viennese Coffee House, Vienna, with friends, colleagues and students from Istanbul, Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munchen (Champions League,final)).
  • [4] Fieldnote from 14 February 2013, Fan Club and Fenerbah^e Pub, Vienna, with Mesut andpeople in pub, BATE Borissow vs. Fenerbah^e (Europa League).
  • [5] ‘Die Fanfamilie dient als Projektionsflache fur alle moglichen Bedurfnisse, die mit ,heile Welt‘und Geborgenheit assoziiert werden; sie wird als kommerz- und konkurrenzfreie Zone charakter-isiert und steht fur Werte, von denen zugleich angenommen wird, dass sie gesellschaftlich erodie-ren: Treue, selbstlose Liebe, Hilfsbereitschaft, Vertrauen.’
  • [6] Interview Sibel, 26 years old, female, Galatasaray fan, 3 December 2012, hipster cafe, Vienna,late afternoon/evening.
  • [7] Interview Sibel, 26 years old, female, Galatasaray fan, 3 December 2012, hipster cafe, Vienna,late afternoon/evening.
  • [8] Interview Ayla, 25 years old, female, Fenerbah^e fan, 30 April 2015, her work place, Vienna,afternoon.
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