Football, the lifeblood of Trabzon
© LOC

The first thing that strikes you upon entering the city of Trabzon is the never- ending sea and the scenic mountain range. And while Trabzon is just one of Turkey’s many beautiful provinces, what sets it apart is the way in which football intertwines with everyday life. For many of Trabzon’s football fans, their love of the game is centred on the city’s biggest club, Trabzonspor, although for the next few weeks they will have an additional reason to celebrate this passion with the arrival of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013.

FIFA.com took a look at how the city has been preparing for the showpiece event and saw first hand just how fanatical the locals are about football. Everyone we spoke to was delighted to have the national team in their midst and welcome the future stars of Turkish football. Indeed many were already speculating on who they would like to see in a Trabzonspor shirt next season. 

It would be something of an understatement to say that Trabzonspor receive fanatical support in the city. The level of fervour is such that even asking somebody if they follow a different team is considered insulting. In general, the big Istanbul clubs command wide support right across Turkey. Trabzon, though, bucks the trend. 

Not merely spectators
For their part, the locals have been extremely welcoming towards the tourists who have flocked to the city for the games. The metropolis has certainly been consumed by tournament fever. Posters, billboards, not to mention images of Kanki, the event’s official mascot, can be seen everywhere, even across the public transportation system. At the time of our visit, the main square was full of people taking pictures of a giant version of the official football. 

One of the people we had the pleasure of meeting was Emrah Kose, a young football-loving barber from the nearby town of Of. Emrah told us he cannot wait for the action to begin and to see the stars of the future. A youth footballer in his day, he explained: “Every man raised in Trabzon has played for a football team at some level." We later discovered that Trabzon has more than 500 amateur clubs, imbuing it a strong sense of pride in the leading role it plays in the development of Turkish football from grassroots to professional level. 

Clearly local businesses and tradesmen are looking forward to the economic impact of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, not least in the many restaurants surrounding Trabzon square that offer tasty local delicacies. There were no shortage of visiting fans either, include two FC Seoul supporters who had come all the way from Korea Republic to see the birthplace of Senol Gunes, the former coach of their team who is now at the helm of Trabzonspor. 

Passionate backing
For his part, Mumtaz Aslanhan, a simit (a type of Turkish bagel) salesman, believes that even the smallest of businesses will feel the positive effects of the tournament. Aslanhan, who has lived in the city for 30 years, told us Trabzon has a unique footballing culture and that he could not think of a city better suited to host games. 

With Turkey set to play their three group games in Trabzonspor’s Huseyin Avni Aker stadium, visiting teams and fans can expect a full house and the most fervent of home supporters. 

Internationally renowned for the Kemence instrument and the Horon folk dance, Trabzon is ready to show the world how passionate it is about the beautiful game. After all, as simit salesman Mumtaz so succintly put it: “Football is Trabzon’s lifeblood.”