Trabzonspor, one of the most successful sports clubs in Turkish history, decided to suspend its women’s football operations. The “Black Sea Storm”, which is the only club to become champions in both men’s and women’s football league, took this decision due to lack of funds.
The club, which has been unable to reach the title in the men’s Süper Lig for 27 years, this season went into another spending spree and acquired a dozen of new players. Trabzonspor spent more than 10 million Euros for transfers this season, while the yearly fees for these new players add up another 4 millions to the total. Undoubtedly one of the most spendthrift Turkish teams, Trabzonspor is one of the 50 wealthiest football clubs in Europe. And what they need to run a women’s team is around 80-100 thousand Euros per year.
On the other hand, the womens’ team is a whole different story. According to Mrs.Zeynepgül Ene Onay, the vice director of Turkish Football Federation’s (TFF) Football General Directorate, last year the club unofficialy informed the board about shutting down the women’s team, they only could stay in the league after they received funds from the TFF. Normally, these funds are available for newly founded clubs or for clubs which do not have financial means. However, the federation did not hesitate to fund Trabzonspor, just to keep the team in the league, as it stands as an example for other men’s Super Lig teams. Nevertheless, some players, who could not bare the uncertainly that they were dragged into, decided to leave the team even though initially they did not intend to. The club, which was crowned as champions in 2009, finished the league in fifth place, which was a major disappointment for the board. Ene Onay explains this situation as, “the big clubs see it as ‘all or nothing’. Whatever they are involved in, they want to win. If they can’t, they lose their interest in it. They don’t see the social benefits of their activities to their fans, many of which are women and children.”
After Trabzonspor’s withdrawal, the only men’s Süper Lig team that also has a women’s team is Antalyaspor. The “big three” of Turkish football; Beşiktaş, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe have little interest in women’s game. Fenerbahçe once had a short-lived attempt which even did not see any competitive game. Now Galatasaray opened up a girls’ football school but it’s unknown if it will lead to a proper women’s football branch.
Women’s football in Turkey could be a lifeline for football fans who are stuck into this big corruption scandal which shakes all the big clubs all over the country. While men’s game lost all its credibility because of fixed games, illegal player trades and shady political ties, women’s football tries to rise up, even with the little funds, always curbed down by the TFF’s financial departments for the sake of professional men’s football. The “football villages” that the TFF has been organizing initiated many schoolgirls to the game, the World Cup was broadcast by both Eurosport and the state channel TRT and at least now it’s recognized that football is a legitimate women’s sport and “sometimes they can score really good goals”.
However, when taking a look at the disinterest of “the big ones” in the women with football boots, football is still “a men’s world” in Turkey.
Sport sociology lecturer with a PhD degree in sport and social issues, and a women’s football commentator in Turkey.