Turkish Football League (Süper Lig)

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Published: 08/10/2013

The top-flight of the Turkish football league system is known as Süper Lig, comprising the 18 best teams in the country. Under the management of the Turkish Football Federation (TFF), a double round robin system is employed, so that over the course of a season running from August through May each club plays the others twice—once at home and once away—for a total of 34 games apiece. At the conclusion of the season, the three lowest placed teams are relegated down a tier to the 1.Lig (First League) and the top two teams from the 1.Lig, together with the winner of play-offs involving the third to sixth placed 1.Lig clubs, are promoted in their place.

From Amateurs to Professionals

Football was introduced to Turkey in the late 19th century. Led by a group of English players living in Izmir, an émigré selection played against a side from Istanbul in 1897, marking the first football match ever played on Turkish territory. Four years later, the sport went international as a Turkish team was formed to play against a Greek side. Thereafter, clubs popped up one after another.

In 1903, the original Istanbul Football League was established, and by the 1905-06, a group of grade 10 students studying at Galatasaray High School created a club called Galatasaray SK under the leadership Ali Sami Yen. They would win the league championship in 1907-08, signaling the start of one of the world’s greatest football dynasties.

Numerous amateur leagues began to appear after 1908, but World War One brought the rise of Turkish football to a virtual halt. It was not until 1923 that the Turkish Football Federation got its start, with Yusuf Ziya Öniş elected first President. An application was immediately made to join FIFA, which was accepted making Turkey FIFA’s 26th member. The Turkish National Team met a side from Romania in their first international match at the Istanbul Taksim Stadium in October, just three days before the Republic of Turkey was declared. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.

In 1936, Ankara staged the first Turkish Championship, with Harbiye winning the title. After World War temporarily interrupted the sport’s progress, professional football was recognised by the government in 1954, leading to the formation of the Milli Lig (National League) in 1959, Turkey’s full membership in the UEFA in 1962 and the first Türkiye Kupası (Turkish Cup) qualifications in 1962-63.

Football in the Modern Era

In 1963-64, a second league called 2.Lig was formed and the Milli Lig became 1.Lig. By 2001, a new 2.Lig had been created, so the old 2.Lig became 1.Lig and the original 1.Lig was newly dubbed “Süper Lig,” the top tier of Turkish football. Three of the founding teams from the Milli League have the distinction of never being relegated from the Süper Lig through the 2012–13 season, namely Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Beşiktaş, all from Istanbul.

Remarkable among the elite Süper Lig clubs, however, is Galatasaray. Over the years since they became a professional team, they’ve earned 46 domestic trophies, including a record 19 Süper Lig titles and a record 14 Turkish Cups. They have also won a record 13 Turkish Super Cups, awarded annually since 1966 to the winner of a special match-up between the previous season’s Süper Lig champions and the current Turkish Cup winners. In 2000, Galatasaray also became the first Turkish team ever to win the UEFA Cup, and then they defeated Champions League titleholder Real Madrid to take the UEFA Super Cup later that same year.

For the 2013-14 season, defending champions Galatasaray are still the team to beat. The 17 clubs that will be looking to upend the are Akhisar Belediyespor, Antalyaspor (Medical Park), Beşiktaş, Bursaspor, Çaykur Rizespor, Elazığspor, Eskişehirspor, Fenerbahçe, Gaziantepspor, Gençlerbirliği, Karabükspor, Kasımpaşa, Kayseri Erciyesspor, Kayserispor, Konyaspor, Sivasspor and Trabzonspor.

Published on: 08/10/2013

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