As many as 43,000 mostly female fans watch Fenerbahce play Manisaspor in Istanbul
Male fans had been banned because of a pitch invasion last July
Turkish football has been mired in a match fixing scandal
Club vice-president Ali Koc tells CNN's Pedro Pinto the match was "historic"
The football world hadn’t seen anything quite like it before.
On Tuesday night the Turkish giants of Fenerbahce took on Manisaspor in Istanbul in what should have been an empty stadium.
A pitch invasion by Fenerbahce’s notoriously boisterous fans during a friendly in July had forced the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) to ban the male supporters from attending two games as punishment.
Instead as many as 43,000 women and children took advantage of free tickets to fill the stands with songs, banners and passion every bit as intense as their male compatriots.
“This atmosphere was one of the kind and historic in the sense of Turkish football as well as international football,” Fenerbahce’s vice-president Ali Koc told CNN’s Pedro Pinto.
“The women of Fenerbahce sports club have shown us what they can do for their club, what they can do for Turkish football and I think this was an event that was exemplary for sports.”
Fenerbahce won last year’s Turkish championship but a cloud has hung over the club since allegations of match fixing came to light during the summer.
Several of Turkey’s highest profile football figures have been arrested during the investigations which lead to the TFF withdrawing Fenerbahce from this year’s UEFA Champions League group stage draw.
Tuesday night’s match was going to be another night of shame for Turkish football, until the TFF allowed children under 12 and an accompanying adult to attend 24 hours before kick off.
By the next morning thousands of women in Fenerbahce shirts lined up for tickets and images were beamed across the globe of what was surely the highest female attendance at a men’s match in world football. It was a good news story for Fenerbahce just when Turkish football needed it.
“Tuesday night we had 43,000 fans in the stadium,” Koc told CNN.
“As you know the club is going through some troubled times with allegations of match fixing…The fans have gone beyond the call of duty to embrace the club and fight for the rights of the club.”
According to Koc Fenerbahce has long pursued a more family-friendly approach and regularly attract up to 8,000 women, around 20 per cent of the crowd.
“Lot of songs, a lot of chanting and solidarity,” Koc replied when asked how the atmosphere differed to a typical match day.
“A man has less patience waiting in line for tickets. Coming to the stadium of course men are lot more loud and more synchronized but the women were a lot more passionate and a lot more encouraging.”
But the crowd was not rewarded with the victory that their efforts demanded. The match ended 1-1 but for Koc the effects will last long after the final whistle.
“I think it’s important for Turkey because we [were] a candidate to host the World Cup, Olympics, European Championships and these committees are all sensitive to the abilities of the organizing host country to fill the stadiums [and] in this direction it was a big positive.”
“We’re disappointed we couldn’t send the ladies home with a victory.”