Sports in Turkey- Trophies and Big Events

Sports in Turkey- Trophies and Big Events

Sports in Istanbul and Turkey

We all know that Istanbul has many options. If you are also interested in sports, you can find many sports activities in Istanbul.

Sports are irreplaceable for Turkish people. Also, we can say that this is pretty popular in Turkey- every kind of sport but generally “watching” rather than “performing” 🙂 And, as expected, this is one of the posts that we enjoyed while we were writing. We follow many sports activities both team and individual ones since it is also deep in our culture.

Just a quick memory to talk about the importance of sports…When I was at college, I remember that one of my foreign colleagues told me that he noticed Turkish people always talked about three topics- football, politics, and girls 🙂 So, I assume you already recognized that this department is male dominant which was about engineering. He was right, Turkish people like to talk about politics and football.

This post intends to explain how much we like sports in Turkey and describe which of them are popular including popular clubs etc. You know Istanbul is the center of these activities and you may be lucky to catch one of them and enjoy it when you are in Istanbul. Besides, you may be interested in sports activities in or regarding Turkey, so you are more than welcome even if you are not planning to visit this fantastic city!

Additionally, Turkey hosted many big events. We will cover them too. Moreover, the biggest trophies are won by the teams or individuals based in Turkey.


You can see the list of sports (A to Z) from these links [1,2].  It is almost impossible to talk about everything, however, we will start with soccer (or football) which can be the most popular among all, but please note that Turkey is pretty good at basketball and volleyball and has bigger achievements (considering the trophies, we still think that football is more competitive) compared to football. Also, we will be covering popular individual sports and well-known figures as well.


Just a quick reminder… If we say football, this is basically soccer. As Europeans, we call soccer football and American Football is not very popular in the European continent 🙂

For sure, we will start with the Big Three. There are many leagues also consisting of regional ones. Top league- Turkish Super League has 18 clubs all around Turkey.

The Big Three is the nickname of the biggest soccer/football clubs- Besiktas, Fenerbahce, and Galatasaray located in Istanbul. It is sometimes extended and calls the Big Four and Trabzonspor which has also many domestic trophies and that club is located in the Black Sea region of Turkey. The teams in the Anatolia of Turkey are trying to ramp up and there are also surprises like the Bursaspor championship in 2010 passing Fenerbahce in the final week of the season and Istanbul Basaksehir championship in 2020.

The rivalries between these clubs- Besiktas (1903), Fenerbahce (1907), and Galatasaray (1905) are crazy, and especially Fenerbahce-Galatasaray derby is always listed in the top derbies list all around the world. If you ask our opinion, we mostly like Fenerbahce-Besiktas games because of having more football and interesting games compared to the Fenerbahce-Galatasaray derby having tension a lot.

In addition, please also note that these clubs focus on soccer but they are basically sports clubs.

OK, what about the national team? Turkey has great generations especially after the 90s, but the team’s history does not consist of big trophies, however, listed in Top10 national football teams in the world after the big achievements such as the 2002 World Cup semi-finalist and finishing the tournament at 3rd place.

In summary, there is a phrase in Turkey, “we sleep with football and we wake up with football”. You can think about the importance of soccer in Turkey 🙂

Achievements/trophies of Turkish football

Club level

Galatasaray (GS)

You know, the formats in European competitions changed many times in the past. Galatasaray had great games in European cups like Neuchatel Xamax and Manchester United and has been part of quarter and semi-finals in the previous formats.

However, Galatasaray showed a great performance at the end of the 90s and the beginning of the 2000s in Europe which can be named as the club’s golden ages. And, the club won the UEFA Cup (current Uefa Europa League) in 2000 beating Arsenal at the final, still, the biggest trophy that any club won in Turkey considering football. Moreover, the same year, the club beat Real Madrid at Super Final.

Galatasaray-Arsenal 2000 UEFA final penalties (Video credit: Galatasaray SK Youtube Channel)

After that year, the team changed its shape a little bit, some big players left the team and new players came but the organization kept on getting successes. In 2001, Galatasaray was able to appear at the quarter-final in UEFA Champions League but lost against Real Madrid. Everybody in Turkey interested in football remembers Galatasaray’s big come-back from 0-2 at the first leg and winning the game 3-2. You know Real Madrid “Los Galacticos” had many stars and they were very dominant in Europe in those days.

After these successes, Galatasaray didn’t show a stable performance for a long time. But 2012-13 and 2013-14 were big years for the club and appeared at quarter-final and 2nd-round, respectively in Champions League. However, Real Madrid and Chelsea were better at these rounds.

Fenerbahce (FB)

Fenerbahce’s expectation in Europe was always high because of the quality of the players. There were some big games in the old good times. One of the team’s best games is definitely in 1996, away win against Manchester United which was not losing any home games over 40 years in Europe. That year, FB grabbed 7 points, but it was not enough to qualify for the next round in such a tough group consisting of Juventus, Man Utd. and Rapid Wien.

There were some instances and appearances which were surprisingly disappointed at the beginning of the 2000s. But after the mid-2000s, Fenerbahce was definitely “Rising star over Europe”. That is how it was called by Fenerbahce fans. The biggest achievement is the 2007-08 quarter-final in the Champions League. That year, the club played fantastic games against Inter Milan, PSV, CSKA at the group stages, but nobody will forget the games against Sevilla. In 2nd round, the games were both ended with 3-2 at Istanbul and 2-3 at Sevilla which couldn’t be resolved in overtime and Fenerbahce eliminated Sevilla after penalties with Volkan Demirel’s fantastic performance even he was very bad during the game 🙂 However, the team couldn’t eliminate Chelsea in the quarter-final.

Fenerbahce- Inter Champions League 2007 (Video Credit: Fenerbahce SK Youtube Channel)

PS: I was at the stadium watching this fantastic game 🙂

The other one is the 2013 semi-final at UEFA Europe League. Fenerbahce had a great year and played many good games, especially against Lazio, but lost the tour against Benfica after the 1-0 and 1-3 series. But, the team suffered because of a lot of injuries.

After these years, Fenerbahce was not bad. But surprisingly lost many games against relatively lower quality teams compared to the team’s quality at different stages of the UEFA Europa League.

Besiktas (BJK)

Besiktas had good games in Europe, especially people will always remember home win against Barcelona and away win against Chelsea. (You can watch the game against Barcelona via this link).

The team surprisingly lost many rounds in Europe and they were pretty disappointing. But 2002-03 was a good year for the team and the team was able to go till the quarter-final at the UEFA cup. But, Lazio was better and eliminated Besiktas.

Besiktas’ biggest achievement can be named as 2017-18 Champions League performance. The team got 14 points (a team can get a max of 18 points) which was the best group performance of any Turkish club in CL at group stages. And, this group was not so easy having Porto, Leipzig, and Monaco. In 2nd round, Bayern Munich was better and that was not a fortunate round for Besiktas.

Trabzonspor (TS)

You know the team is based in Trabzon, not in Istanbul. Except for the famous Istanbul clubs, Trabzonspor has attended many tournaments as well.

Trabzonspor’s best years are the 2011-12 Champions League where the team got 7 points and was at the edge of qualifying for the 2nd round. And, Uefa Europa League 2013-14 where they were eliminated by Juventus at the final 32 after the group stage.

National team level

Considering Turkish football’s long history, Turkey didn’t attend many tournaments which is also surprising. But generally played at least a good football when they appeared. Here are the best results.

2002 FIFA World Cup- semi-finalist & 3rd-place

This can be one of the greatest achievements of Turkish sports. After a challenging qualification period, Turkey finally got the chance to attend a big tournament after eliminating Ireland after the group stage in European qualifications. In the World Cup group stages, Turkey played against Brasil, Costa Rica, and China. You may remember Turkey’s great performance against Brasil, but Brasil won the game 2-1 by forcing a lot with the big stars Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos. Luckily, Turkey got 4 points after three games and qualified for the 2nd round.

Turkey won the game against Japan and moved to the quarter-final. The quarter-final game was fantastic against Senegal and won game 1-0 with Ilhan Mansiz’s golden goal. Again, it was time to play against Brazil in the semi-final, however, Brasil deserved the final and the cup right after eliminating Turkey despite goalkeeper Rustu’s fantastic performance (You can watch this game via this link).

Turkey played the final game against South Korea for the 3rd place and won the game 3-2.

Other than this, Turkey attended the 1954 World Cup. But couldn’t show a great performance against Germany and the team was eliminated.

2008 UEFA European Championship- semi-finalist

I like this tournament more than the 2002 world cup. You are curious? Because the team was scoring always at the final minutes. The ends of the games were always surprising. Again after a challenging qualification period, Turkey had games against Portugal, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. After losing the first match against Portugal which was not a good start, Turkey passed Switzerland 2-1 with a final minute goal. And then, the match with the Czech Republic was unbelievable. Turkey came back from 2-0 and won the game 3-2 by scoring 3 goals in the final 20 minutes.

In the quarter-final, Turkey passed Croatia with penalties. This was one of the most interesting games in football history. Croatia scored a goal at the end of the second overtime and then Turkey scored just 1 minute later at the final attack of the game (Check this link out, Credit: UEFA Youtube channel)

In the semi-final, Turkey lost 3-2 against Germany and the team had many injuries which were very unfortunate. This time Germany scored a goal at the end of the game. What an ironic situation 🙂

Other than this, Turkey attended the same tournament in 1996, 2000, and 2016 as well. The team was not good in 1996 and 2016 compared to other appearances. In 2000, the team was one of the quarter-finalists. However, lost the game against Portugal after missing a penalty at the critical minutes.

Football players played in Europe

This list can also be extended. But, Arda Turan, Tugay Kerimoglu, Emre Belozoglu, Cengiz Under, Merih Demiral, Caglar Soyuncu, Cenk Tosun, Tuncay Sanli; they are/were all great players have accomplished many things in Europe.

Looking at all these individuals, Arda Turan might be the most successful player. He played in Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. Especially, his Atletico years were fascinating succeeding league championship, Europa league championships, and finalist at Champions League. However, his career slowed down after Barcelona and he found himself back in Turkey.

Caglar Soyuncu, Merih Demiral, Cengiz Under, and Hakan Calhanoglu are the rising stars and they are currently playing in Leicester City, Atalanta, Olympique Marseille, and Inter Milan respectively.

Best coaches

There are many great coaches up to date but our favorites are Fatih Terim and Senol Gunes.

Famous international players/coaches worked in Turkey

The list is huge, but these are our favorites.

  • Roberto Carlos, Alex de Souza, Nicolas Anelka, Jay Jay Okocha, Pierre van Hooijdonk and Mesut Ozil (still playing) played for Fenerbahce.
  • Gheorghe Hagi, Claudio Taffarel, Ribery, Drogba, Muslera, Sneijder, and Radamel Falcao (still playing) played for Galatasaray.
  • Guti, Quaresma and Daniel Amokachi played for Besiktas.
  • Malouda played for Trabzonspor and Robinho played for Sivasspor and Istanbul Basaksehir.
  • Here are the famous coaches who managed a club in Turkey. Vicente Del Bosque, Aragonez, Mancini, Hiddink, Lucescu, and Daum.

Domestic league performance

Turkish Super League Championships:

  • Galatasaray: 22
  • Fenerbahce: 19
  • Besiktas: 16
  • Trabzonspor: 6
  • Bursaspor: 1, the team was the only one which won championship except for the Big Four above till Basaksehir’s championship in 2020.
  • Basaksehir: 1, the team won the title in 2020.

Bonus: Amputee Football National Team

We will talk about this for sure. Especially, the tournament in 2017 was a time of pride for Turkey. The tournament was held in Turkey with a lot of fans and the team beat England at the final with a 2-1 score. So, that game was fantastic, full of positions, Turkey missed a lot, but found a chance to handle it.

In 2018, the team went thru tough games and was a finalist at World Championship. After an unfortunate penalty shoot-out, the team finalized the cup as runner-up.


Men’s basketball

Basketball is the 2nd favorite team sport in Turkey. Compared to football, there are bigger achievements which we will be covering as well.

In Europe, Turkey is one of the best leagues other than the leagues in Spain, Russia, and Israel.

Fenerbahce, Anadolu Efes, Besiktas, and Galatasaray are dominant teams in Turkey. Please note that Ulkerspor was one of the most dominant teams until merging with Fenerbahce.

Achievements/trophies of Turkish basketball

Club level


Fenerbahce really ramped up recently and right now, the club is one of the best teams in Europe. Especially, Mr. Obradovic- the best coach ever in Europe (this is not a personal view :)) created a great organization. The team was pretty dominant considering the last decade and has also sent a couple of players to the NBA.

Of course, the biggest club-level performance was finalized with the Euroleague championship in 2017. Bogdan Bogdanovic was the star of that them who is playing in the NBA right now (What about this buzzer-beater vs. Lakers, check this link, Credit: Sacramento Kings Youtube channel).

Fenerbahce appeared in the Final Four five times in a row.

  • 2015, lost against Real Madrid in the semi-final.
  • 2016, the team lost against CSKA Moscow at the final after overtime. There was a big come back by Fenerbahce during the game and the team was ahead 2 points at the end of the game, however, they couldn’t take the final rebound and CSKA scored 2 points and the game extended to OT. We didn’t like the management by referees especially they didn’t call the foul to Sloukas which we always get angry when we remember 🙂
  • 2017, the final was in Istanbul and it was time to be the champion. The team played dominant games against Real Madrid and Olympiakos.

Fenerbahce- Olympiakos Euroleague Final 2017 (Video Credit: Fenerbahce SK Youtube Channel)

  • 2018, FB lost against Real Madrid at the final and that was a close game. But Doncic was pretty good who was playing for Madrid. You know he is the star of the Mavs in NBA right now.
  • 2019, FB lost against Anadolu Efes- the other big team in Turkey at the semi-final and was really suffering because of important players’ injuries.

Anadolu Efes

Anadolu Efes (old name is Efes Pilsen) was the locomotive of Turkish basketball in the 1990s and 2000s, but the last decade was not really good for the team. However, they finally showed a good performance Here are the team’s successes.

  • After showing up in finals many consequent years in Korac Cup and Euroleague, the team won the Korac Cup in 1995-96. That was a pretty challenging final against Stefanel Milano and with only 1 point advantage in both legs, the team won the cup.
  • In 97,98 and 99, the team consequently was one of the quarter-finalists in Euroleague.
  • In 99-00 and 00-01 seasons, Anadolu Efes appeared in Final Four twice and grabbed the 3rd places after losing the semi-final games against Panathinaikos and then defeating Barcelona and CSKA Moscow, respectively.
  • Right after these golden ages, the team showed up in quarter-finals 04-05, 05-06, 12-13, 14-15, and 16-17.
  • The team’s best performance is definitely the 2018-19 Euroleague season where the team was runner-up. Unfortunately lost the final against CSKA Moscow. In the quarter-final, the team defeated Barcelona and in Final Four, defeated Fenerbahce.
  • Anadolu Efes was the best team for sure in 2020 Euroleague till the virus impact. Unfortunately, the league has been canceled which really affected the possible championship of Efes, and Shane Larkin is our favorite 🙂
  • Finally, the team won the championship in 2021 after beating Barcelona in the final game.

Shane Larkin’s performance against Olympiakos 2020 (Video Credit: Anadolu Efes Spor Kulubu Youtube Channel)


Galatasaray’s performance is always spotty in Europe.

  • In Euroleague, Galatasaray’s best performance was in 2013-14 as one of the quarter-finalists.
  • In Eurocup, the team got the cup in 2015-16.


Like Galatasaray, Besiktas’ performance is always spotty in Europe. Just a quick note, Allen Iverson also played in Besiktas which was a great period for Turkish basketball 🙂

  • The team’s best achievement is to have the FIBA Eurochallenge cup in 2012. That was important for Turkish basketball because this is the first cup after Efes’ Korac cup.

Domestic league performance

Here is the list of Turkish league champions [3]:

  • Anadolu Efes: 15
  • Fenerbahce: 9
  • Eczacibasi: 8
  • Galatasaray: 5
  • ITU: 4
  • Ulkerspor: 4
  • Besiktas: 2
  • Tofas: 2
  • Pinar Karsiyaka, Altinordu and Muhafizgucu: 1

National team level

Turkish men’s basketball national team had great years after the 1990s. Especially, this generation was reflecting Efes’ golden years. However, there were many great players in the team from different teams such as Harun Erdenay and Ibrahim Kutluay (he also played for Efes in a period).


The national team first showed a good performance in the 1999 Eurobasket (or European Championship) held in France. Even there were some tournaments Turkey got the same place, however, they played good basketball and qualified for the quarter-final after challenging games against Italy, Bosnia, Croatia in the first round, and Lithuania, Germany, and the Czech Republic in the second round. However, Turkey lost against France in a close game and got 8th place after losing Germany and Lithuania in classification games.

Right after, in 2001 Eurobasket, Turkey was one of the finalists. That tournament was held in Turkey. The team played against Croatia in the quarter-final and then Germany in the semi-final (Dirk Nowitzki was also in this team :)). These rounds were very challenging, however, the team pulled off and became the opponent of the best team in Europe- Yugoslavia in this period. Yugoslavia was better in the final and Turkey finished the tournament as 2nd.

World championship

OK, what about the World Championships? Turkey had a great tournament in 2006. After the group games, Turkey played against Slovenia and won the game, but lost in the quarter-final against Argentina. After classification matches, the team finished the tournament as 6th.

And, here is the best achievement up until today. In 2010, the World Championship was held in Turkey. The team finished the group stage by winning all the games against Greece, Puerto Rico, Russia, China, and Cote D’Ivoire. After great games against France and Slovenia in the 2nd round and quarter-final, Turkey passed Serbia with a game-winner and became the opponent of the USA. The USA team was full of stars and was better and won the final.

Turkey vs. USA WC Final 2010 (Video Credit: FIBA Youtube Channel)

After these successful years, Turkey got 8th place in 2014 at the World Championship but didn’t have good tournaments between the 2000-2010 timeframe.

Players in NBA

Former: Mirsad Turkcan, Hedo Turkoglu, Mehmet Okur, Ibrahim Kutluay, Omer Asik, Furkan Aldemir, Semih Erden

People interested in NBA games may remember the dominant and remarkable performances of Hedo (Hidayet) Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur in the Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz years, respectively.

Hedo Turkoglu: He played in Sacramento, San Antonio, Orlando Magic (x2), Toronto Raptors, Phoenix Suns, and LA Clippers. Hedo was unbelievable in Magic years. He was able to pull the team towards the NBA finals with Dwight Howard, however, lost against LA Lakers in the 2008-09 season (do you remember Hedo’s block to Kobe, check this link). He has also been selected as Most Improved Player.

Mehmet (Memo) Okur: The moneyman… He is the only Turkish player having an NBA championship title. He got the ring with Pistons after beating the Lakers in the finals. That team, of course, can’t come closer to Bad Boys, but it was a pretty good defensive team and have also good offensive players. He spent pretty good years in Jazz, especially known with clutch shots and he also played in NBA All-star.

Current: Cedi Osman, Furkan Korkmaz, Ersan Ilyasova, Alperen Sengun

Women’s basketball

Club level

We will not be covering every single team here. But, it is simple to say that Fenerbahce and Galatasaray are the locomotive teams of women basketball. And, please also note that there are/were many famous WNBA players in Turkey.


Fenerbahce can be named one step ahead of Galatasaray considering the last decade’s achievement.

The team finished a couple of seasons as quarter-finalists in the 2000s. Fenerbahce really ramped up in the last decade.  However, they couldn’t win a Euroleague championship even dedicatedly being a member of the Euroleague final four.

Here are the team’s achievements.

  • 2nd place in Euroleague: 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2016-17
  • 3rd place in Euroleague: 2015-16, 2020-21
  • 4th place in Euroleague: 2011-12 and 2014-15
  • In 2020, up to Coronavirus impact, the team was pretty dominant and the best championship candidate of the season.


Galatasaray showed great performances in Europe. Here is the list of the club’s achievements:

  • Champion in Euroleague: 2013-14, beating Fenerbahce in the final. That was one of the fantastic games in Europe.

Galatasaray- Fenerbahce F8 final 2014 (Video Credit: FibaEuropeTV Youtube channel)

  • 3rd place in Euroleague: 1998-99
  • 5th place in Euroleague: 2011-12
  • Champion in Eurocup: 2008-09, 2017-18
  • Semi-finalist in Eurocup: 2007-08, 2016-17

Domestic league performance

Here is the list of Turkish league champions [4]:

  • Fenerbahce: 15
  • Galatasaray: 13
  • Besiktas and ODTU: 3
  • Botas and MTA: 2
  • Istanbul Universitesi and Yakin Dogu Universitesi: 1

National team level

Turkish people are always proud of the national team at women’s basketball.

  • The national team attended the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and spent good days. The team finished the tournaments holding 5th and 6th places, respectively.
  • At world championships, Turkey’s best performance was in 2014. The team was one of the semi-finalists and finished the tournament as 4th.
  • After putting too much effort into the generations, Turkey started attending Eurbasket from 2005. In 2011, Turkey was the finalist and had a great tournament, passed great team France at semi-finalists, but Russia won the game at the final. In 2013, Turkey finished the tournament as 3rd place. And, in 2015 and 2017, the team got 5th place.


Women’s volleyball

This time, we will start with women’s volleyball since Turkey has many trophies in Europe and great achievements at big national tournaments.

Club level


Vakifbank is the best team along with Eczacibasi and Fenerbahce and has the following achievements. Especially, the team is thunder all around the world over the last decade having 3 World Club Championship titles, 4 Champions League titles, Europe Challenge Cup titles, three 2nd place Champions League positions, and two 3rd place Champions League positions (Check this link to see Vakifbank’s 2018 championship).


Eczacibasi has the longest story in Turkey and they were the locomotive of Turkish volleyball in the past. Having 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places in Champions League, the team ended 2015 year with a champion title. Also, the team has a World Club Championship title.


Fenerbahce constructed good teams like basketball and football. The team has titles for Champions League and World Club Championship.

Domestic league performance

Here is the list of Turkish league champions [5]:

  • Eczacibasi: 16
  • Vakifbank: 12
  • Fenerbahce: 5
  • Emlak Bank: 3

National team level

Like basketball, Turkish women’s volleyball is on a positive trend as well.

  • After so many years passing one by one, Turkey finally ramped up and the tournament held in Turkey was the beginning. In the 2003 European Championship, Turkey finished the tournament at 2nd place after losing the game against Poland.
  • After years passed by, in 2011 and 2017, Turkey finished the same tournament as 3rd place.
  • In 2019, Turkey lost at the final after a close game against Serbia.
  • Turkey attended the 2012 Olympics and finished as 9th place in Turkey. The team also attended the 2020 Olympics but eliminated by South Korea in a close game.
  • The team attended the 2003 World Cup and 2006-10-14-18 World Championships holding 6th place as the best position.
  • For World Grand Prix and Nations League, the team holds the 2nd position as the best performance and attended many tournaments.

Men’s volleyball

Club level

Halkbank finished the 2014 Champions League as the finalist. In 2013, the club won the CEV Cup. In 2019, Galatasaray was runner-up in the same cup. Arkas won the challenge cup in 2009. Fenerbahce won the same cup in 2014.

Looking back the history, that is why women’s volleyball is one step ahead of men’s volleyball.

Domestic league performance

Here is the list of Turkish league champions [6]:

  • Eczacibasi: 12
  • Halkbank: 9
  • Fenerbahce: 5
  • Galatasaray, Arkas: 4
  • Arcelik, Erdemir, Netas, IETT: 3
  • Istanbul BSB, Muhafizgucu, Buyukdere Boronkay, Ziraat Bankasi: 1

National team level

Unfortunately, the national team doesn’t have remarkable achievements except for Europe Men’s Volleyball League. However, the team was trying to speed up, and in 2019, and won the CEV Europe Golden League.

Other Team Sports

As we mentioned previously, it is almost impossible to talk about every single achievement. Considering handball, Besiktas and Muratpasa had some achievements in Europe.

Individual Sports

Individual sports are getting more important in Turkey. Other than talking about European championships, we will generally talk about remarkable achievements and key figures considering the Olympics, World Championships, and other big organizations, if necessary. You can check the full list of people having Olympic medals [7].


Turkey is pretty good at wrestling. Up until today, Turkey has 29 gold, 18 silver, and 19 bronze medals at the Olympics [8]. We will not go to old times, but people below definitely will not be forgotten.

  • Hamza Yerlikaya has two gold medals in 1996 and 2000. Watch him via this link. (Credit: N. Fatih Ata Youtube channel)
  • Taha Akgul has 1 gold medal in 2016 and has 1 bronze medal in 2020.
  • Riza Kayaalp has 1 silver medal in 2016 and 2 bronze medals in 2012 and 2020 which is also well known in Turkey.


Turkey’s performance at barbell is at the 2nd place after wrestling.

  • Taner Sagir and Nurcan Taylan has one medal each obtained in 2004


Unfortunately, the expectation was high at the Olympics, but the individuals couldn’t show good performances even they have many achievements in European and World Championships.

  • Esref Apak has silver medal (it was bronze but turned out to be silver after a while) at hammer throw.
  • Yasmani Copello has a bronze medal at 400 m hurdles


Billiards is one of the most popular sports in Turkey. There are many big players in Turkey like Tayfun Tasdemir and Murat Naci Coklu, however, we grew up watching the games with Mr. Magic- Semih Sayginer.

He is the prince of Turkish billiards. Moreover, he is an unbelievable player and we are always proud of having this kind of player in Turkey [9].

A fantastic shot by Semih Sayginer (Video Credit: Semih Sayginer Official Youtube Channel)


Kenan Sofuoglu can be the biggest name. Especially, he is the face of Turkish motorsport in recent years. He won the World Supersport Championship 5 times which is definitely fantastic.


Again, Turkey ramped up in the Paralympics starting from the 2000s. Up until today, Turkey won 6 gold, 7 silver, and 10 bronze medals [10].


Considering boxing, Atagun Yalcinkaya was pretty close to get a gold medal, however, he ended the tournament with silver in 2004 Athens even he was only 17 years old. In 2021, Busenaz Surmeneli won a gold medal and Busenaz Cakiroglu won a single medal.

In total, Turkey has 1 gold, 3 silvers, and 3 bronzes.


After Bahri Tanrikulu’s and Azize Tanrikulu’s achievements, Servet Tazegul won a gold medal in 2012 London. Nur Tatar has also silver and bronze medals. In 2021, Hatice Kubra Ilgun and Hakan Recber won bronze medals.


Judo is not very popular in Turkey, but Huseyin Ozkan has a gold medal in 2000 Sydney which was a good accomplishment and important for the country.


Turkey is not very good at tennis but trying to move faster in the 2000s. In the old times, Nazmi Bari had championships.

Marsel Ilhan, Cagla Buyukakcay, and Ipek Soylu have been in the Grand Slams and they are trying to find good spots in top100.


Turkey finally has a gold medal with Mete Gazoz. His performance was fantastic and his confidence level was inspiring in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.


We believe that we covered many sports, but you know the list is huge. For diving, Sahika Ercuman and Yasemin Dalkilic have remarkable achievements.

Ibrahim Colak has a sequence that is currently in the literature under the name of “Colak” in gymnastics. Ferhat Arican has a bronze medal in the Olympics.

In swimming, there are also good ones even there is no medal in the Olympics.

Big Sports Events held in Turkey


Unfortunately, Turkey didn’t host World and European cups.

  • 2005 Champions League Final: This was one of the unforgettable finals ever happened. Liverpool and Milan were the opponents. Milan started the game so fast and the half-time score was 3-0 which was a disaster for L’pool. But, the team had so much to say and scored 3 goals in the 2nd half and extended the game to OT and then to penalties. And, L’pool won the final after the penalties. This final has been selected as the best final and best game ever in the Champions League by many authorities.
    • What we mostly like regarding this final is Kaka’s assist to Crespo, Gerard’s fantastic header, and Dudek’s save of Shevchenko’s penalty. Kaka’s assist is not a simple football, this is an art 🙂 Gerard’s header is to the point. You can watch this game via this link (Credit: UEFA Youtube channel).
  • 2009 UEFA Cup Final: This game was held in Fenerbahce’s stadium. The game was good and Shaktar Donetsk won the game 2-1 against Werder Bremen.
  • 2019 Super Cup: This final was held in Besiktas’ stadium between Liverpool and Chelsea. You know Liverpool really likes Istanbul 🙂 Who knows, we may see the club again in Istanbul in the future, but it will not happen in 2020. The winner was decided with penalties after 2-2 and L’pool won the game with penalties. (See the highlights via this link, Credit: Liverpool FC Youtube channel).
  • 2021 Champions League Final: We are looking for this event waiting impatiently. This will be in Istanbul Ataturk Olympics Stadium like 2005. And, the stadium is currently under construction trying to be ready for the final. The road to the final is challenging. There are many good teams out there.


  • 1992 Euroleague Final Four: Partizan won the title after beating Badalona.
  • 2001 Eurobasket: This was a great tournament having many good games.
  • 2010 World Championship: Again, this was a great tournament for Turkey and hosting many NBA stars like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Chancey Billups. Stephen Curry. Kevin Durant was very dominant in this tournament leading the USA to the title after beating Turkey at the final.
  • 2012 Euroleague Final Four: This was an unforgettable final and we are sure that Olympiacos fans will never forget. The last-second shot from Printezis and CSKA was beaten.

Olympiacos- CSKA Moscow final 2010 (Video Credit: Euroleague Basketball Youtube channel)

  • 2012 Euroleague Women Final Eight: Galatasaray hosted this event.
  • 2016 Euroleague Women Final Four: Fenerbahce hosted the event, but Ekaterinburg won the title.
  • 2017 Euroleague Final Four: Fenerbahce won the title and it was definitely well deserved.


  • 2003 and 2019 (with several countries) Women European Championships were held in Turkey. Turkey finished the tournaments as 2nd. Poland and Serbia won the titles, respectively. You can watch this game via this link (Credit: European Volleyball Youtube channel).

Other sports

There were many big organizations except the ones mentioned above.

  • WRC
  • Formula 1: We will never forget the close tours between Schumacher and Alonso 🙂 Watch via this link. And, 2020 F1 was one of the best and it was the race that Hamilton won the title.
  • Presidential Cycling Tour
  • WTA Season-Ending Championships
  • Billiards championships
  • European boxing championship
  • And many more…

Popular Sports Centers

There are many sports centers in Turkey, especially in Istanbul. Please remember that you should have a specific card to enter football games and generally it is not needed for other activities. But if you are planning to come with the teams you supported for international games, good luck in these crazy atmospheres 🙂


  • Galatasaray’s stadium in Seyrantepe: This stadium is not really close to the center. But, the atmosphere is pretty good in Galatasaray’s games.
  • Besiktas’ stadium in Besiktas: The stadium is at the heart of the city. So, it is easy to reach out. And, the atmosphere is the hottest due to Besiktas fans.
  • Fenerbahce’s stadium in Kadikoy: The stadium is in Kadikoy in the Anatolian side of Istanbul. Fenerbahce’s home games are generally good especially if you catch a game between Besiktas or Galatasaray, it will be crazy.
  • Ataturk Olympics stadium: This is the biggest stadium in Istanbul and it is not close to the center. But, the final of 2020 is being planned to be held in this stadium.
  • Basaksehir’s stadium: Istanbul Basaksehir is one of the clubs that represent Turkey at European contests in recent years. So, it is in Basaksehir and it is a modest stadium.

Basketball Arenas

Sinan Erdem Dome and Fenerbahce Ulker Sports Arena and great basketball spots to watch Fenerbahce’s and Anadolu Efes’ games.

Ulker Sports
Fenerbahce Ulker Sports Arena (vs. Barcelona in 2020)

Nice to watch Sports Activities in Istanbul

We will generally define these activities as “nice to have” since the cultural trips are not generally long enough to arrange a time for sports activities. But, don’t skip visiting fantastic cultural spots such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahce Palace, Blue Mosque, Suleymaniye Mosque, and many more when you consider sports activities 🙂

If are planning to visit Istanbul and would like to watch a sports game, we would recommend you to watch any games of Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, or Besiktas’ home games in football. For basketball, both Fenerbahce’s and Efes’ games are good and the atmospheres are satisfactory.

Nice to do Sports Activities in Istanbul

Again, this is nice to have. If you don’t search for professional locations for running, football, basketball, volleyball, cycling, etc., the coasts are generally good places to enjoy these activities.

If you search for watersports, there are some professional companies serving this service around the small islands in the Marmara Sea. But if you are looking for surfing or kitesurfing, you can go to the Sile district on the Black Sea Shore. But, you know the most popular locations regarding these activities are in the Aegean or Mediterranean regions of Turkey (around Antalya, Mugla, and Izmir) we wouldn’t directly recommend you.

If you search for extreme sports, again we really like the regions around Antalya. There are some spots around Polonezkoy and Belgrad Forest in Istanbul you can prefer trying trekking. But, considering the generic trips, it may be hard to find time to do these sports since they are not mainly around the city center.

If you are looking for shopping, the malls generally have good big and small sports shops that may be worth and it may be cheaper due to the current currency levels.

Sports Cafes in Istanbul

u2 Istanbul Irish Pub in Beyoglu, Mackolik Complex in Kadikoy and O’Learys in Atasehir are our favorite locations in Istanbul. So, if you are close to these districts, you can take a look.


It was hard to stop writing regarding sports in Turkey and Istanbul. We talked about all popular sports both team and individual ones, popular clubs, the Olympics, big events held in Istanbul, and more.

If you were careful enough during reading the main body, you would understand that Turkish sports in a positive trend after the 1990s. So, the country took the steps slowly and after the 2000s started living the golden ages for some of them.

Basically, we really like to have this kind of atmosphere in Istanbul living the spirit and enjoy most of the time. So, we are sure that you will be feeling the same spirit if you are really interested in sports.



Note 1: All embedded videos are directly from official Youtube channels of either teams or individuals or organizations and have been put without any alteration, modification or remix and all necessary credits are stated w/I the article.
Note 2: This post has been updated in August 2021.

Istanbul Fantasy