For many Europeans, Antalya is mainly known as a travel destination, a gateway to the beautiful beaches and luxurious resorts of the Turkish Riviera. As a result, it comes as no surprise that the city’s international airport finds itself amongst the 30 busiest of the world on a regular basis. Home to just over one million people, Antalya’s sports scene is dominated by football, although a number of international sports competitions, including golf and archery, are held in the city.
Antalyaspor were founded in 1966 after local clubs Yenikapi SuSpor, Ilk Isikspor and Ferrokromspor decided to unite and form a football club for the city. The club started out in the lower divisions of the football pyramid and earned promotion to the Turkish top flight, the Super Lig, for the first time in 1982. Since then, the Antalyaspor faithful were not treated to great success, but were rather subject to the club’s constant up and down between the top two divisions. In terms of honours, there is not much to report, as the club are yet to win a trophy, domestic or otherwise. The biggest success came in 2000 Turkish cup final, when they were beaten by Galatasaray, with a scoreline of 5-3 after extra time.
The club’s rather insignificant past seems to play no meaningful role anymore, with a new stadium ready-to-go and players of international reputation on the way. New Antalya Stadium comes with a capacity of around 41,000, significantly more than the 7,000 the previously used Akdeniz University Stadium catered for. Known for some of Turkey’s most passionate fans, the Scorpions will finally become a grateful host to their crazy supporters. There is no doubt that a stadium of such standard will be a platform for success for Antalyaspor, as well as Turkish football in general.
In addition to the facilities, club president Gultekin Gencer’s ambitions are reflected in the club’s most recent purchases. Some might argue that a 34-year old Samuel Eto’o and a 35-year old Ronaldinho might be past it and nothing to look forward to. However, it is important to note that the standard of the Turkish league is not yet comparable to La Liga or the Premier League. As such, recruiting multiple Champions League winners should be seen as immensely valuable, even if one was to look at the sporting aspects only. Furthermore, getting these two superstars to come to Antalya is a coup in itself. In other words, Antalya could even recruit Michael Jordan in midfield and the club would ultimately benefit from this.
Antalyaspor were only promoted to the Super Lig last season and this will be their first campaign since the return to the top flight, but it does not look like anyone will settle for a relegation battle. Some might label the club and its president delusional, but the reality is that more and more people seem to be willing to take on the Istanbul clubs. This can only be good for Turkey’s general football scene and we look forward to the likes of Antalyaspor, Bursaspor or Konyaspor gracing their new stadiums with great football and challenging the bigger clubs.