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They went to a match and never came back (Part Three)

Continuing the series that looks at those – thankfully rare -occasions when fans went to a match, but never returned home afterwards.

(For Part One please click here; and Part Two here).

Kayseri Atatürk Stadium Disaster

The cities of Kayseri and Sivas in central Turkey had always enjoyed a friendly rivalry, both competing for regional supremacy in the area of Anatolia. Kayseri is the bigger of the two, but Sivas, some 200 kilometres distant, was a major trade centre in its own right, with a  thriving manufacturing industry.

Each city had their own football teams, but, in the mid-1960s, provincial amateur football teams were encouraged to merge in order to create single bigger teams which were capable of thriving  in the newly created Second Division, a competition designed for the third tier of Turkish professional football.

Three clubs from each city combined respectively to form Kayseri Erciyesspor and Sivasspor respectively, and the first meeting between the two newly formed clubs took place in September 1967.

Around 5,000 Sivasspor fans made the relatively short journey the day before the match, flooding bars and taking over the streets. Fights broke out with the locals, some fans were stabbed, and the police made 50 arrests.

Extra security precautions were taken on the day of the match itself, with the police drafting in reinforcements from other forces. All spectators entering the Atatürk Stadium were searched and a number of weapons and missiles were confiscated.

Nevertheless there was an air of palpable tension among the 21,000 spectators as kick off approached ,and it did not take long for things to boil over. The catalyst was Kayseri Erciyesspor scoring a disputed goal after 20 minutes.

That led to scuffles breaking out among the players, and the unrest soon spread to the stands. Rival fans exchanged a hail of rocks and other missiles which had been missed in the check at the gates, before the Siyassor supporters, who were heavily outnumbered tried to flee.

There was a stampede, somebody stumbled and fell, and in the resulting mayhem, 40 people died (38 of them from Sivas)and more than 300 others were injured.

With rioting in full swing, the referee hastily; abandoned the game and the teams fled to the safety of the dressing rooms where they barricaded themselves in to protect themselves  from the angry mob.

Those Sivasspor fans who emerged from the stadium unscathed smashed windows and torched vehicles as they made their way back to the coaches which would take them home.

However, that was not the end of the matter.  When news filtered back to people in Sivas as to what had happened, the city erupted and full scale rioting erupted which lasted for days. Buildings were set on fire, shops looted, and properties owned by anybody with Kayseri connections were vandalised.

Two more people died in the rampage, in what was Turkey’s worst-ever sports related violence.

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