Besiktas, the oldest sports club in Turkey, traces its origins to the autumn of 1902, when a group of 22 young men began gathering for physical exercise on certain days of the week in the Istanbul suburb which gives the club its name. Football was not part of the equation to start with. The young men kept their bodies and souls in shape through gymnastics, wrestling and weight-lifting.
In spite of a general ban on sports clubs and severe restrictions on freedom of association under Sultan Abdulhamit the Second, Besiktas Jimnastik Kulübü - Besiktas Gymnastics Club – was officially founded under a special permit just a year later. The membership roll increased dramatically and rapidly, until the club was officially re-founded on 13 January 1910 as Besiktas Osmanli Jimnastik Kulubü on the repeal of the laws prohibiting clubs.
A few months later, football clubs Validecesme and Basiret merged with Besiktas, making football the most important discipline at the club in just a few short weeks. A curiosity dating from the early years is that Besiktas, as the only sports club in the country at the time, occasionally played as the Turkish national team, and are thus the only club to incorporate the national flag on their emblem.
* The history of the Black Eagles*
In the 1940s, Besiktas dominated the Turkish footballing scene. After back-to-back domestic league triumphs at the beginning of the decade, the club went into the 1940-41 campaign with a largely new and young team. The brilliantly skilled men in black and white were to become legends that year, after a series of breathtaking displays which also earned them their nickname, the Black Eagles.
The term first came into use on 19 January 1941, as the men from Istanbul took on Suleymaniye and ran up a crushing 6-0 victory. Midway through the second half, a fisherman by the name of Mehmet Galin struck up a previously unheard chant, which – so the legend goes – was rapidly taken up by the entire stadium. "Come on Black Eagles, attack Black Eagles!" was the cry from thousands of throats, and Besiktas had the nickname that persists to this day.
Success in the 90s
The period from 1957 to 1986 brought seven title triumphs, but that was merely the prelude to the 1990s, the truly golden age in Besiktas’ history. Under English coach Gordon Milne, the oldest club in Turkey recorded a title hat-trick from 1990 to 1992. Milne’s team featured an attacking trio of Metin Tekin, Ali Gultiken and Feyyaz Ucar, still considered by fans as the best forward line ever to represent the club.
The 1991-2 campaign brought not only the title but also a record, as Besiktas became the only club to win the Turkish championship without losing a match. Other records include a 10-0 victory over Adana Demirspor in 1989-90, the biggest margin of victory in Turkish league history, a run of 48 consecutive league matches without defeat, and a 13-game winning streak in the 1959-60 season. The same campaign brought a record total of 29 league wins.
Compared to the glories of the past, Besiktas’ recent record in the Turkish championship has been patchy. Their twelfth and most recent Super Lig title came in 2003. This was followed by domestic knockout cup success in 2006 and 2007, but the championship trophy proved elusive. However, the current team under new coach Mustafa Denizli is undefeated so far this term and tops the Turkish standings eight games into the campaign.
Besiktas’ home ground is the BJK Inonu stadium, located in the suburb of Besiktas and boasting a panoramic view over the Bosporus. The Black Eagles moved into their newly-constructed home in 1947, when the stadium was named after the second president of the Republic of Turkey, Ismet Inonu. The most recent renovation took place four years ago, with the removal of the running track and lowering of the pitch. The only stadium in the world offering a view of two continents (Europe and Asia) currently boasts a capacity of 32,086.