A stadium of photos: Galatasaray’s fans return as 2D cut-outs
By Ilya U. Topper and Lara Villalón
Istanbul, Jun 19 (efe-epa).- Playing in front of an empty stadium is any footballer’s idea of a nightmare, especially if they’re playing at home, but with the coronavirus it has become obligatory.
Several big football clubs in Turkey have come up with a remedy of sorts — they have filled the stands with life-size cut-out photos of the fans.
Galatasaray launched their version of the initiative before their first home game in the Turkish league since it got underway again following the unscheduled halt due to the pandemic. From far away, the rows of life-sizes photos give the impression of a full stand.
“The campaign will run until the end of the season,” Pinar Argun, the press coordinator at the Istanbul club told Efe.
Although she did not specify just how many photos had been sent in, she insisted that they could fill a portion of the east stand at the Türk Telekom Stadium.
The initiative was first observed at German club Borussia Mönchengladbach as the Bundesliga got back up and running sooner than all other major European leagues.
Galatasaray’s rivals Besiktas and Fenerbahce have their own similar initiatives.
A Galatasaray fan will have to pay $22 for the luxury of having a two-dimensional version of themselves in the stadium on Sunday.
Fans of Fenerbahçe and Besiktas have it slightly cheaper at $19.
Argun said that aside from the psychological significance of seeing a full stadium, the campaign is also a way for the fans to offer economic support to the club in difficult times.
As the coronavirus outbreak took hold in Turkey by mid-March, the government ordered games to be played behind closed doors but just a week later the league was postponed altogether. It returned on 12 June.
There are seven match days left to play and fans are unlikely to be able to return to the pitch before the end of the season although the Turkish football federation has left the door open to the possibility that spectators could return for the final four games if the situation allows.
As a mark of respect, Galatasaray has reserved almost 2,000 seats especially for photographs of medical staff.
Galatasaray is currently fourth in the Turkish Super Lig, six points below Trabzonspor, which sits atop the table.
The other two big Istanbul teams, Besiktas and Fenerbahce are fifth and seventh respectively.EFE-EPA