The process of Westernization also influenced sports culture. While traditional Turkish sports such as wrestling, firemanship in the Pumper unions equipped with pump chest (tulumbacılık), tug of war, labut (wooden rod) tossing, archery, horsemanship and cirit moved from Istanbul to the countryside as their popularity waned, interest in European sports increased. Following this change, the sports news that attracted the reader’s attention also changed. However, as new generations followed the trends in Western sports, they came into conflict with another fashion, that of physical appearance. The body that the new generation viewed as normal is weak, seems anemic, pale, with dark circles under the eyes, the hands shake like butterfly wings… During the years when the disease of tuberculosis was associated with sensibility, love and in which it became fashionable, looking healthy and sportsmanlike was considered shameful. How could it be possible to do physical exercise and yet still look tubercular; at this time girls refrained from using makeup and boys fell into the habit of coughing when they saw their loved ones? When the soul and mind are waiting to be trained, how could body building be admired?

For the first time, physical education classes were included in the curriculum of the Galatasaray Mekteb-i Sultanî and later it spread to schools for both girls and boys. Istanbul youth who only were used to coming together at the fire pump chests now began to become acquainted with sports clubs. In particular, Selim Sırrı (Tarcan) Bey’s introduction of Swedish gymnastics and he encouraged everyone to take up sports; this enterprise influenced several generations. His appointment to the Terbiye-i Bedeniye Müfettişlik (inspectorship of physical training) after the Meşrutiyet accelerated his activities. Seeing the effects of these undertakıngs on Istanbul’s youth, particularly after facilities improved with the establishment of the Republic, periodicals began to appear with sports photographs. Until this time, even though racing news was included in the papers, the appearance of a sports page, complete with photographs, was an innovation. The younger generations were interested in the sportsmen rather than the sports; they saw them with their well-built, bodies, tanned skin, happy faces and self-assured poses in those photographs and they compare these sports idols with their own skinny, pale and weak bodies.

The fact that almost all European sports popular in Istanbul are English in origin has been noticed by sports periodicals. While there were no sports periodicals published during the 19th century, football was consistently featured in sports publications that were active after the founding of the Republic. According to the information we have today, the first sports newspaper published in Istanbul was Futbol, published in Turkish and French on October 11, 1910. This newspaper, published by Mustafa Ziya Bey, not only discussed football, as its name suggests, it also covered sports such as çit yarışı (jumping), av müsabakası (hunting), bicycle or motorcycle races, wrestling, Muhâsenât-ı İctimâiyye (social benefit) of sports and “gymnastics in our schools”. Although the newspaper only published seven issues, due to lack of interest, sports were becoming increasing popular and this paper took the lead in producing a publication that dealt with different branches of sports. Terbiye ve Oyun (August 14, 1911) by Selim Sırrı, İdman (May 28, 1913) by Cem’i Bey, Sipahi Mecmuası (August 27, 1917), which was affiliated with the sipahi ocağı (cavalry), were popular with Istanbul’s young sports fans. Many activities, such as Fenerbahçe’s water-polo team, Galatasaray’s hockey and tennis teams, the city boating club, one-hundred-yard dashes, the İdman Yurdu bicycle team, ice-skating, boxing, and scouting, demonstrate the British influence on sports media. It can be said that this influence was greater in Istanbul when the city was occupied by the British. It is possible to follow traces of the effects of the occupancy years in Spor Âlemi (November 6, 1919), published by Çelebizade Said Tevfik. The periodical, despite a few interruptions, ensured the continuity of sports journalism after the establishment of the Republic.

In the first issue of Türkiye İdman Mecmuası, published by Türkiye İdman Cemiyetleri İttifakı (Confederation of Turkish gymnastics societies), published on November 1, 1922, there was a report that the oldest gymnastics teacher, Fâik Bey, had been declared “sheikh of gymnasts” and announced that a gymnastics festival would be held under the guidance of Refet Pasha. Although the range of the newspaper is clear from its name, football was also included in the periodical. Cut-throat league matches with teams that included Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, Beşiktaş, Darüşşafaka, Hilâl, Altınordu and Anadolu, began to be followed through the pages of the periodical rather than at stadiums. Among all sports, Istanbul’s young residents were most interested in football, thus reinforcing the traditional relationship they had until today.

1- The official opening of the School of Physical Education

During the period between the victory in the War of Independence and the establishment of the Republic, a rediscovery of sports occurred. After the disasters that had been experienced, encouraging youngsters who had suffered from combat fatigue, the reopening of clubs, even winning back resentful fans was now essential. The press took up this duty. The government in Ankara decided that the Istanbul youth should embrace sports with a clean slate, and it focused on two topics in particular; pairing sports with health, physical and spiritual strength and turning it into a daily habit, and spreading the institution of scouting. It seemed that both of these important tasks were taken up by Subhi Bey’s (İleri) Yarın Mecmuası. M. Sami Bey wrote an article about sports, in particular its benefits, in nearly every issue of the periodical and also published the weekly Spor Nüshası, after issue 29 of the periodical; this was first published on May 4, 1922. The first lines of the first issue begins as follows:

When foreigners visiting Istanbul speak of their first impression, they tell us that every youngster they come across has a pale complexion, seems skinny and weak, that every woman has a diseased color, like flowers that have not received enough sunlight, with a weak constitution.

Apparently, contrary to those who were involved in sports, the vast majority still pursued the trend of being sallow sissy. Those who found solace in thinking that they were participating in sports by merely reading about it in the news were still the majority. Yarın tried to change this trend. They worked to spread the message about the benefits of sports to housewives, girls who shut themselves up in their own world, young men who walked around with a violet on their lapels and a book of poems under their arms. Under the supervision of M. Sami Bey, they published İzci Gazetesi (March 5, 1923), which also promoted scouting, stressing that the habit of training the body could only be established at an early age. These publications that talked about the benefits of scouting and distributed Arslan Oymağı –periodical of Galatasaray School- saw their effect following the establishment of the Republic as generations started to follow the scouting tradition.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.

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