Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Bayern Munich FC

Bayern Munich 3 AC Milan 0 - Audi Cup (Pre-Season tournament)

Munich is the capital and largest city of the German state of Bavaria, on the banks of River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps. Munich is the third largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg. The name of the city is derived from the Old/Middle High German term Munichen, meaning "by the monks". It derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who ran a monastery at the place that was later to become the Old Town of Munich; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat of arms. In 1175, Munich was officially granted city status and received fortification. The city was heavily damaged by allied bombing during World War II and was hit by 71 air raids over a period of five years. Munich is famous for its breweries and the Weissbier (or Weizenbier, wheat beer) is a speciality from Bavaria. Helles with its translucent gold colour is the most popular Munich beer today, although it's not old (only introduced in 1895) and is the result of a change in beer tastes. Helles has largely replaced the Munich Dark Beer (Dunkles), which gets its dark colour from burnt malt. It was the typical beer in Munich in the 19th century, but today it is more of a speciality. Starkbier is the strongest Munich beer, containing 6–9 percent alcohol. It is dark amber in colour and has a heavy malty taste. It is available and popular during the Lenten Starkbierzeit (strong beer season), which begins on or before St. Joseph's Day (19 March). The beer served at Oktoberfest is a special type of Märzen beer with a higher alcohol content than regular Helles. 

FC Bayern was founded in 1900 winning its first national championship in 1932. They won the European Cup three times in a row from (1974–76) and have reached ten European Cup/UEFA Champions League finals, most recently winning their fifth title in 2013 as part of a continental treble. Bayern has also won one UEFA Cup, one European Cup Winners' Cup, one UEFA Super Cup, one FIFA Club World Cup and two Intercontinental Cups, making it one of the most successful European clubs internationally. Since the formation of the Bundesliga, Bayern has been the dominant club in German football with 25 titles and has won 7 of the last 11 titles. After much discussion, the city of Munich, the state of Bavaria, FC Bayern, and TSV 1860 jointly decided at the end of 2000 to build a new stadium. While Bayern had wanted a purpose-built football stadium for several years, the awarding of the 2006 FIFA World Cup to Germany stimulated the discussion as the Olympiastadion no longer met the FIFA criteria to host a World Cup game. Located on the northern outskirts of Munich, the Allianz Arena has been in use since the beginning of the 2005–06 season. Its initial capacity was 66,000 fully covered seats, but this was increased 71,000 in 2012 and again to 75,000 after receiving approval by the city council in January 2015. The most prominent feature of the stadium is the translucent outer layer, which can be illuminated in different colours for impressive effects. Usually, red lighting is used for Bayern home games, blue for TSV 1860 München games and white for German national team home games.

On arrival at Munich Airport, a three day tourist ticket  for two people (can cover up to five) was purchased for less than £40:00. This covered the train to and from the airport/city centre. It also covered us for all other train, metro, tram and bus journeys within the extended Munich region. This proved to be extremely good value and was also used to get us to and from the stadium on both match days. To reach the Allianz Arena from the centre of Munich, Line U6 (blue) from Marienplatz is direct. On alighting at Fröttmanning it is less than a 10 minute walk to the stadium.

Throughout the three days spent in Munich it was extremely hot. Accordingly, large glasses of cold beer became a requirement and were most welcome. The Audi Cup is a biennial two-day pre-season tournament that features four teams. The first Audi Cup in 2009 was organised and promoted by car manufacturer Audi AG to celebrate their 100th year of trading. Bayern Munich and AC Milan have taken part in all tournaments to date. This year Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur made up the quartet of participants.

Bayern Munich defeated AC Milan 3-0 to reach the final of the Audi Cup. The highlight for me being the third goal, Robert Lewandowski's volley, having been set up by Thomas Muller. Real Madrid defeated Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the earlier match.

The following day saw Tottenham Hotspur ease to victory over AC Milan. The highlight being Nacer Chadli's first half strike, curled into the net. The final was won by the host club, defeating their Spanish rivals by the only goal of the game, scored at the death by Lewandowski.

I was impressed with the speed with which we were able to access the station after the second match on both days of the tournament. Bayern Munich featured in the second match on both occasions and the majority of the 70,000 crowd were leaving the stadium at the same time. To be able to continuously walk from the ground on to the platform and on to a train was not something I had anticipated.

Attendance: 70,000
Admission: 35 Euros (40 Euros day two)
Programme: Free (Different edition issue each day)


Other matches attended at Allianz Arena

4 August 2015 – Real Madrid 2 Tottenham Hotspur 0 – Audi Cup
5 August 2015 – Tottenham Hotspur 2 AC Milan 0 - Audi Cup
5 August 2015 – Bayern Munich 1 Real Madrid 0 - Audi Cup

Friday, May 29, 2015

Camelon Juniors FC

Camelon Juniors 5 Bo'ness United 2 - Fife & Lothians Cup Semi-Final

Camelon is a large village within the Falkirk council area, Scotland. It is in the Forth Valley, 1.3 miles west of Falkirk, 1.3 miles south of Larbert and 2.6 miles east of Bonnybridge. The main road through Camelon is the A803 road which links the village to Falkirk. Camelon was the site of a flight of locks, which joined the Union Canal with the Forth and Clyde Canal; this was replaced in 2002 with the Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift. Camelon is the site of a series of Roman fortifications on the Antonine Wall. Mariners Day is an annual children fayre held on the second Saturday in June. It includes a parade, crowning ceremony of the Queen along with fun and games for the children of the area. Camelon has good access for a village of its size with Camelon railway station lying on the Cumbernauld Line and the Edinburgh to Dunblane line. Next to the station there are amenities including the Mariner Leisure Centre.

Outside of the three 'senior' leagues in the non-league grade in Scotland, are the 'junior' leagues. Although called junior, this refers to the level of football played, not the age of the participants. The junior leagues are organised by the Scottish Junior Football Association and are regionalised into three areas, North, East and West. There is a Scottish Junior Cup, which all members of the association participate in, having done so since the Nineteenth Century. Camelon Juniors FC is a Scottish Junior football club based in Camelon. The club, founded in 1920, currently play in the Scottish Junior Football Association's East Region Super League after winning the Lothians League Division 1 in 2005–06. Prior to this match, this Pieman had never seen a Scottish non-league match let alone a match within the 'Juniors' structure.

This Pieman had already booked an excursion to Glasgow in order to attend the Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park and was delighted to find that Camelon Juniors was scheduled to host Bo'ness United in the semi-final of the Fife & Lothians Cup on the Friday evening. The journey from Glasgow Queen Street to Camelon takes around 40 minutes. Whilst awaiting for the last train before peak services commenced, an opportunity was taken to visit The Vale public house opposite the station. At this establishment I enjoyed a pint of  Drop (a pale, hoppy session ale 4.2%) from the local Jaw Brew brewery.

On reaching Camelon and in search of solid refreshment, it was good to be able to enjoy the buffet at a local Chinese restaurant. Many of the local shops were displaying Falkirk flags and scarves in support of the local team’s participation in the Scottish Cup Final the following day. Carmuirs Park is relatively close to the railway station, taking around ten minutes to walk.

We were the first spectators to arrive at the ground and having paid admission and purchased raffle tickets, there was a good opportunity to wander around taking photographs. There is covered terracing on both sides of the pitch and further terracing behind one of the goals. The other end of the ground backs on to houses. In the garden of one house, an occupant has built his own covered grandstand from where he can watch the matches.

Grandstand in the Garden
This match started with visitors Bo'ness United (second from top of the East Region Super League) forcing the play. When they took the lead they could easily have already been a couple of goals ahead. Therefore, it was a surprise, shortly before the break, that Camelon (closer to the bottom of the same league), levelled the score with a scrambled goal.

This uplift in fortunes galvanised the home side and some fine attacking play and determined tackling contributed to an entertaining second period where Bo'ness were blown away. The final result of 5-2 is a testament to the fine standard of football in this match and if typical is a tribute to the Scottish Junior scene. As the match had commenced at 19:15 it was just possible to catch the 21:17 service back to Glasgow.

Attendance: 571
Admission: £5:00
Programme: Not issued
Tea: £1:00


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Stocksbridge Park Steels FC

Stocksbridge Park Steels 4 Brigg Town 0 - Northern Premier League, Division One South

Stocksbridge is a town in the metropolitan borough of the City of Sheffield. In 2007 the population of the town including Deepcar and Bolsterstone was nearly 14,000. Deepcar is a village adjoining the eastern end of Stocksbridge. To the south are the villages of Bolsterstone, site of a manor house; and further south is Ewden Village, a navvy village established in the early 20th century during the construction of the Sheffield reservoirs. Oughtibridge is a village to the south east, on the main road to Sheffield, in the Upper Don Valley. The village of Wharncliffe Side is located on the main road between Deepcar and Oughtibridge. Midhopestones (or Nether Midhope), and Upper Midhope (or Over Midhope) are small villages in the western half of the ward, close to the northern border, and near to Midhope and Langsett reservoirs. A handful of Stocksbridge families can claim descent from those named in such documents as the Poll Tax Returns of 1379 and Hearth Tax Returns of 1672 in Bolsterstone, Bradfield, Hunshelf and Midhope. Of the family names recorded in the 1779 Waldershelf Valuation, some descendants can probably trace an unbroken line through more than 200 years. Hundreds more can certainly claim to have descended from those who were drawn to this area by the prospect of work in the new industries of the last 150 years. The Censuses of 1851 to 1891 show that they came from every part of the British Isles and from almost every County in England.

Stocksbridge Park Steels FC was formed in 1986 as the result of the merger of Stocksbridge Works, the works team of the local British Steel plant, with another local club, Oxley Park Sports F.C. The new club was immediately admitted to the Northern Counties East League Division Two, the works club having previously played in Division Three of the same league. The Steels spent five seasons in Division Two before being placed in Division One when the lower division was discontinued upon league re-organisation in 1991. In the same year Mick Horne was appointed as the club's manager, and he led the team to the championship of Division One in the 1991–92 season. In Stocksbridge's first season in the Premier Division the team finished near the bottom of the table, but in the 1993–94 season the Steels became Northern Counties East League champions. The club failed to gain promotion to the Northern Premier League, however, as their stadium did not meet the required standard. The club finished second in the division two seasons later, losing the championship on goal difference to Hatfield Main, and on this occasion were admitted to the Northern Premier League Division One. In the 2008–09 season, the club once again qualified for the play-offs and defeated Belper Town in the final to gain promotion to the Northern Premier League Premier Division for the first time. The Steels spent five years in the Premier Division, never finishing out of the bottom half of the table and were relegated at the end of the 2013–14 season.

From the centre of Sheffield there are regular bus services to Stocksbridge. In daylight as I experienced, there is some wonderful scenery to view as the bus winds its way through the South Yorkshire countryside. The journey takes around an hour. The 57 bus service drops you off just a few minutes away from Bracken Moor.

On arrival at the ground I was greeted by a friendly club official, who then invited me into the ground, showing me where all the facilities were. After taking my initial batch of photographs I adjourned to the clubhouse. The licenced bar upstairs offers a good view of the ground and I was delighted to find real ale on sale. A good pint of Ye Olde English Ale (4.6%) from the local Bradfield Brewery was enjoyed. This seasonal beer from the brewery’s selection offers a light copper coloured traditional English ale. Full bodied with a citrus and spice aroma leaving a long dry aftertaste. I later bumped into the same official who was surprised to learn of the real ale as he “only drank wine”. I expect that he will include this fact the next time he welcomes a visitor to the club. Solid refreshment in the form of pie, peas and gravy was also enjoyed along with mint sauce which is often standard at clubs in this particular part of the country.

The Bracken Moor ground is unusual in its layout. There is terracing behind the goal at the Bracken Moor Lane end of the ground. This includes a substantial covered area. Along the side of the ground available to spectators, there is a covered seated stand. The other end of the ground hosts a flat standing area with steep grass banking behind. The remaining side of the ground is fenced off with a training facility behind. This was once where the football ground and cricket pitch merged and the old scoreboard is still visible.

Both sides had endured a difficult season, particularly Brigg Town who were rooted to the bottom of the table with only three wins all season. One of these victories was against Stocksbridge Park Steels! There was to be no repeat of this though, as the home side steadily grew in confidence as the match progressed. A fine lobbed goal in the first period was supplemented by three further strikes in the second half. In the covered area behind the goal, Roxy the dog intently studied every movement of the ball, barking in delight at every shot on the Bracken Moor Lane end goal.

The match ended at 21:36 which was precisely the time of the SL bus for which the stop is outside the turnstile. The bus was on time and was just pulling away when I flagged it down. I and a couple of others from the match were grateful to the driver for stopping and saving us a further 20 minute wait. However, I soon realised that if another spectator had not left the ground earlier to catch this bus, it may not have stopped and we might not have been as fortunate! Stocksbridge Park Steels is a very friendly club and visitors are sure to receive a warm welcome.

Attendance: 102
Admission: £7:00
Programme: £1:50
Tea: £1:00
Pie, Peas & Gravy: £3:00
Real Ale: £2:70


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Annan Athletic FC

Annan Athletic 0 Clyde 1 - Scottish League 2

Annan stands on the River Annan nearly 2 miles from its mouth, 15 miles from Dumfries, in the region of Dumfries and Galloway on the Solway Firth in the south of Scotland. Eastriggs is about 3 miles to the east and Gretna is about 8 miles to the east. Annan Bridge, a stone bridge of three arches, built between 1824 and 1827, carries road traffic over the River Annan. It was designed by Robert Stevenson and built by John Lowry. There is also a railway bridge and a nearby pedestrian bridge over the River Annan and the town is served by Annan railway station. The train turntable was designed and developed in Annan; it can be seen today in the York Railway Museum. Annan Castle formed the original home of the 'de Brus' family, later known as the "Bruces", lords of Annandale, which most famously produced Robert the Bruce. It was at Annan in December 1332 that Bruce supporters overwhelmed Balliol's forces to bring about the end of the first invasion of Scotland in the Second War of Scottish Independence.

Upon formation in 1942, Annan Athletic FC entered the Dumfries and District Youth League, but this competition lasted only throughout the war years, and in 1945 they joined the Dumfries and District Junior League instead. They had a fairly successful time as a junior club, reaching the fifth round of the Scottish Junior Cup on one occasion (losing 2–1 to Perth side Jeanfield Swifts). In 1950–51 the Dumfries and District Junior League had to be wound up due to lack of officials, and the following season (1951–52) the club had to go into abeyance as the Junior Association would not release them from their membership. For the following season (1952–1953) Annan Athletic joined the Carlisle and District League and the Cumberland Football Association. This proved an astute move when Annan Athletic won every competition they entered bar one in their first season in membership. Annan remained members of the Carlisle and District League until they moved back to Scottish football in the 1977–78 season when they joined the South of Scotland Football League. This switch, along with some upgrade work to their Galabank ground also allowed the club to compete in the qualifying stages of the Scottish Cup as well. The club proved very successful in the South League, winning every competition that was available to them. In an attempt to get more competitive football, they joined the East of Scotland Football League in season 1987–88, although they maintained their commitment to the South League by running a reserve side. They won promotion in their first season in the East League, and two years later won the Premier Division. They became one of the league's top sides and qualified for the Scottish Cup's early rounds on various occasions. Annan applied to join the Scottish Football League in 2000, when two new clubs were admitted, but lost out to Peterhead and Elgin City. Following the demise of local rivals Gretna in 2008, Annan applied along with four other clubs to replace them in the Third Division. Annan Athletic was the successful candidate, being chosen due to the standard of their facilities. The Club’s first league match as a professional team ended in a 4–1 win over Cowdenbeath in the 2008/09 season.

An early start facilitated being able to catch the 07:30 train from London Euston, reaching Carlisle in around 3 hours 15 minutes. Clearly that investment in the West Coast Main line is paying off with journey times like this. The onward connection to Annan was half an hour later which meant there was time to visit the Griffin (100 yards away) and enjoy a pint of Magic Number (4.5%) from the Carlisle Brewing Co. This ale has a gorgeous copper colour, is very smooth with caramel undertones and is full of malty flavours. From Carlisle the journey to Annan takes around 20 minutes.

On arrival at Annan, a good lunch was enjoyed at one of the establishments in the High Street before this Pieman set off in search of a butchers shop in the quest for locally produced haggis. This operation was successful with the haggis travelling just eight miles from Gretna (that’s local enough for me). The butcher asked where I was taking it back to in the same way a caring kennel might seek assurance about a dog being homed for the first time – such a nice touch! At the Blue Bell Inn, I took delight in a pint of the Red Macgregor (4.0%) from the Orkney Brewery. Crystal and chocolate malt give this beer its distinctive ruby-red colour, and its backbone of toasted malt flavour; Cascade hops, rarely found in darker beers, give a floral, perfumed fruitiness.

From the High Street it takes a little over 5 minutes to reach Galabank. The stadium backs tightly on to the road and for this reason this is a three-sided ground. Behind one goal is a covered terrace for the home support. The opposite end of the ground is uncovered and has a shallow terracing. The seated stand is covered and segregated with a small area designated for the away support that also uses the uncovered end of the ground. The view afforded from the seated stand is very good. Immediately behind the stand is the river.

There is a social club bar at the main entrance to the ground and it is possible for visitors to sign and use these facilities (unsurprising no real ale though). The usual in ground catering is available at both ends of the ground. A 3G playing surface was installed at the ground in 2012. This particular match can be politely described as not the best I have witnessed this season. Visitors Clyde were better than their hosts and took the points courtesy of substitute Jammie Pollocks’s strike after 87 minutes. Although the quality of the football may not have matched expectations, Annan (the place and the football club) is very welcoming.

An easy stroll enabled me to reach the station at 17:00, in plenty of time for the connection to Carlisle at 17:22. There is a pub at the station, which is a decent option (again no real ale). My train from Carlisle enabled a return to London Euston at 21:38. Lots of miles covered, a great day in Scotland and some very friendly folk encountered. Annan will not always play that poorly; perhaps you will catch them on a better day?

Attendance: 485
Admission: £10:00
Programme: £2:50 (24 pages monthly magazine covering 3 home matches)
Team Sheet: 10p
Tea: £1:00

Thursday, February 26, 2015

ACF Fiorentina

ACF Fiorentina 2 Tottenham Hotspur 0 - UEFA Europa League, Round of 32 2nd Leg

Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It originated as a Roman city, and later, after a long period as a flourishing trading and banking medieval commune, it was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Starting from the late Middle Ages, Florentine money, in the form of the gold florin, financed the development of industry all over Europe, from Britain to Bruges, to Lyon and Hungary. Florentine bankers financed the English kings during the Hundred Years War, as well as the papacy, including the construction of their provisional capital of Avignon and, after their return to Rome, the reconstruction and Renaissance embellishment of the latter. Florence was home to the Medici, one of history's most important noble families. Lorenzo de' Medici was considered a political and cultural mastermind of Italy in the late 15th century. Two members of the family were popes in the early 16th century: Leo X and Clement VII. Catherine de Medici married King Henry II of France and, after his death in 1559, reigned as regent in France. The Medici reigned as Grand Dukes of Tuscany, starting with Cosimo I de' Medici in 1569 and ending with the death of Gian Gastone de' Medici in 1737. During World War II the city experienced a yearlong German occupation (1943–1944) and was declared an open city. The Allied soldiers who died driving the Germans from Tuscany are buried in cemeteries outside the city. In 1944, the retreating Germans demolished the bridges along the Arno linking the district of Oltrarno to the rest of the city, making it difficult for the British troops to cross. However, at the last moment Charle Steinhauslin, at the time consulate of 26 countries in Florence, convinced the German general in Italy that the Ponte Vecchio was not to be destroyed due to its historical value.

Ponte Vecchio

Associazione Calcio Fiorentina was founded in the autumn of 1926 by local noble and National Fascist Party member Luigi Ridolfi, who initiated the merger of two older Florentine clubs, CS Firenze and PG Libertas. The aim of the merger was to give Florence a strong club to rival those of the more dominant Italian Football Championship sides of the time from Northwest Italy. After a rough start and three seasons in lower leagues, Fiorentina reached the Serie A in 1931. That same year saw the opening of the new stadium, originally named Giovanni Berta, after a prominent fascist, but now known as Stadio Artemio Franchi. At the time, the stadium was a masterpiece of engineering, and its inauguration was monumental. To be able to compete with the best teams in Italy, Fiorentina strengthened their team with some new players, notably the Uruguayan Pedro Petrone, nicknamed el Artillero. Despite enjoying a good season and finishing in fourth place, ACF Fiorentina was relegated the following year, although they would return quickly to Serie A. In 1941 they won their first Coppa Italia, but the team were unable to build on their success during the 1940s because of World War II and other troubles. The club won the Italian championship in 1955–56, 12 points ahead of second-place Milan. Milan beat Fiorentina to top spot the following year, but more significantly Fiorentina became the first Italian team to play in a European Cup final, when a disputed penalty led to a 2–0 defeat at the hands of Alfredo Di Stéfano's Real Madrid. The club then won their second, and last, national title in 1968-69. ACF Fiorentina was relegated at the end of the 2001–02 season and went into judicially controlled administration in June 2002. This form of bankruptcy (sports companies cannot exactly fail in this way in Italy, but they can suffer a similar procedure) meant that the club was refused a place in Serie B for the 2002–03 season, and as a result effectively ceased to exist.

A late morning flight from Heathrow to Pisa was followed by a short train journey to Florence. Despite having a map, finding my hotel was not a straightforward experience. My excuse being those roads that appear to run parallel, do not always! However finding myself by the river meant I could get my bearings by working out which bridge was the nearest to where I needed to be.

That evening there was an opportunity to wander the streets and get familiar with the geography of Florence. It also presented the chance to visit Mostodolce. This bar, situated close to the main railway station, has a tremendous selection of ales, all of which are brewed by Mostodolce, but not on the premises. My first selection, as recommended by Dave Price, was Black Doll, a stout (5.2%) which was excellent. This was followed by Fra Bartolomeo (5%) weiss beer, which was in good form too. My last beer for this session was Volpe (6.3%) a pale ale type brew, which helped to round off the evening. Just to ensure consistency, I revisited this establishment the following lunchtime to further check the quality.

On matchday morning after a decent breakfast at the hotel, this Pieman wandered across Ponte Vecchio and ambled around the streets on the other side of the river. Inspired by Matt Smithurst “I’m gonna have a gelato” it was time for an ice cream. On this occasion my choice of vanilla and strawberry was a fitting tribute to our friend from Merton. More walking followed along the ancient narrow streets and I concluded that I prefer Florence to the other cities I have visited in Italy.

I decided to walk to the stadium and this took me around 25 minutes at a leisurely pace. I did not want to catch the special buses from the centre, as it would deny me the opportunity to have a proper look around the outside of the Stadio Artemio Franchi. The stadium first opened in 1931 and you can easily see the art deco influence of that period. Much of this venue is uncovered and a wet day would be a very wet day for spectators. That said, a good view is afforded from all areas. This includes the away section, where if you position yourself sensibly, the whole arena is visible despite the partitions.

Tottenham Hotspur and the UEFA Europa League have a curious relationship. The Group stages of the competition are usually negotiated (Mr Redknapp managed to squirm out once) only for the knockout stages to produce some erratic form and the ability to go out against teams that with slightly better application and professionalism, would be beaten. This was certainly the case over the two legs against a decent but unspectacular Fiorentina side. Spurs could have wrapped up the tie in the first twenty minutes at White Hart Lane but let the Italians of the hook. In this return match, individual errors proved decisive as Spurs went down by two goals.

Osvaldo Ardiles in Pisa, the morning after the match

Attendance: 29,886
Admission: 27 Euro

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Besiktas FC

Besiktas 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0 - UEFA Europa League, Group Stage

Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, constituting the country's economic, cultural, and historical heart. Its commercial and historical centre lies in the European part of Eurasia, while about a third of its population lives in the Asian part. With a population of 14.1 million, the city forms the largest urban agglomeration in Europe as well as the largest in the Middle East, and the sixth-largest city proper in the world. Founded on the Sarayburnu promontory around 660 BC as Byzantium, the city now known as Istanbul developed to become one of the most significant cities in history. For nearly sixteen centuries following its reestablishment as Constantinople in 330 AD, it served as the capital of four empires: the Roman Empire (330–395), the Byzantine Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). Istanbul is located in north-western Turkey within the Marmara Region on a total area of 5,343 square kilometers. The Bosphorus, which connects the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea, divides the city into a European, Thracian side—comprising the historic and economic centres—and an Asian, Anatolian side. The city is further divided by the Golden Horn, a natural harbour bounding the peninsula where the former Byzantium and Constantinople were founded.

Blue Mosque
Beşiktaş Jimnastik Kulübü (Beşiktaş Gymnastics Club), known as Beşiktaş, is a Turkish sports club. The club's football team is the first and one of the major teams in Turkey, having never been relegated to a lower division. The professional sports club, founded in 1903, is based in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul, Turkey. Beşiktaş Gymnastics Club established the first sport club of Turkey in 1903. The club competes in numerous branches including football, basketball, volleyball, handball, athletics, boxing, wrestling, chess, bridge, gymnastics, rowing, table tennis, paralympic sports and beach football. The home ground of Beşiktaş was the İnönü Stadium with a seating capacity of 32,086, however this has been shut down in order for the Vodafone Arena to be opened on the same land.

In the meantime the club are temporarily based at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium located in İkitelli, a district in the western outskirts of Istanbul. It is the largest-capacity stadium of Turkey. The stadium is named after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey. Its construction began in 1999 and was completed in 2002. It was built for Turkey's failed bid for the 2008 Olympic Games that were ultimately awarded to Beijing. With its 76,092 (all-seater) capacity and Olympic size, it was granted the "5-star sports complex" title by the UEFA in 2004, enabling it to host the finals of UEFA events. The 2005 UEFA Champions League Final between Milan and Liverpool was played at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium on 25 May 2005.

Istanbul appears to have changed a bit since my previous visit (also to watch Spurs play at Besiktas) in 2006 - if anything the place has developed and has a bit more of a western feel to it. The best example I can provide to back up my thoughts on this are the excellent public transport links which are certainly more joined up. That said, the traffic in and around Istanbul is extremely busy day and night!

For the 20:00 kick off, our coaches were scheduled to leave the centre at 16:45. This early departure was necessary to counter the hectic Istanbul rush hour traffic. It took the full duration of a football match to reach the stadium and this was only possible as we had a police escort and made good use of the motorway hard shoulder!

For a relatively new stadium, I found this place rather disappointing. Although there is a modern feel about the venue, it is disjointed and appears to be incomplete. The section allocated to away fans was extremely poor with sub standard catering facilities available through a fence!

There was a fifteen minute delay during the first half when the floodlights failed. I'm not sure if this is a regular occurrence but on 90 minutes it happened again. We therefore had to wait to play out the 3 minutes of time added on at the end of the match. Besiktas won a poor match 1-0 to ensure that they top the group ahead of Spurs. The journey back to the centre also took a while, it being midnight before we arrived back near the Blue Mosque.

Admission: 40 Lira (the home supporters at the opposite end paid 25 Lira)
Attendance: 19,511
Programme: None issued