Football intellectuals want to sit down and dissect a match, analyzing pass completion rates and debating whether a midfield pivot works with a false nine when the coach is putting out a 3-2-1-4 formation. Football hipsters would love to tell you the merits of watching AZ Alkmaar eke out a 1-0 victory over Shakhter (No, not that Shakhtar. They're so two seasons ago). And football fans ... well, sometimes they just want to slap on their side's colors and scream a lot. And perhaps throw some fire around.
That statement isn't meant to demean supporters. Unless they're setting a stadium on fire, like Partizan fans did last week in their derby against Red Star. In this day and age, surrounded by constant twittering, various blogs looking to explore tactics, and instant access to fantastic goals from Peru's second division, many lovers of football seem rather disconnected from fandom.
And that's what the Kıtalar Arası Derbi is all about: fandom. Fenerbahçe, from the Asian side of Istanbul, and Galatasaray, from the European side, have met in the Intercontinental Derby some 375 times. The most recent was in the Turkish Super Cup in August, which Galatasaray won 1-0 thanks to a fantastic goal by Didier Drogba. But kicking off the season with a win didn't foretell good things for Cim Bom, who are currently seventh in the SuperLig, with just four wins. Their rivals, meanwhile, have eight wins to their name, and have yet to lose at home.
Of course, it doesn't help that Galatasaray are having to reserve some of their strength for the Champions League, where they're currently second in Group B. But don't let Fener's strong league record, or Gala's European standings, fool you: this probably won't be a fantastic game of football. Derbies rarely are. And with Turkish football's reputation continuing to slip, the actual games are rarely outstanding -- although a lack of attention to defense does make for some fun.
Again, though, that's not the point. The Intercontinental Derby is a time to don your side's colors and be a fan. It's time to arrange enormous pageantry around the stadium and rehearse insults to throw at the opposition. Sunday is a day for incredible noise and lots of smoke and some feisty behavior, both on and off the pitch. And while "feisty" behavior sometimes involves walking a bit of a tightrope -- for instance, throwing beer bottles at babies isn't cool, in case you weren't aware -- sometimes it's nice to get lost in that common experience of choosing a side and screaming your heart out.
It's not intellectual. It's probably not even cool. But derbies like Fenerbahçe - Galatasaray serve to remind us all that football doesn't need to be broken down into its component parts and rationally analyzed. Sometimes it's ok to just be a fan. And if you've forgotten how to do that, why not tune in on Sunday to try and remember?
Sunday, November 10 at 7 p.m. local, 12 p.m. ET
Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadyumu, Istanbul