For decades, Turkish club football has been dominated by Lions, Eagles and Canaries, all of which are resident in the country's largest city, Istanbul. Of course the three animals represent the nicknames of Turkey's top three clubs; Galatasaray, Besiktas and Fenerbahce, who have won all but seven national titles between them.
The latter of the trio, Fenerbahce, boast more titles than either of their rivals with 18, despite the Yellow-Blues also being the youngest of the big three. Indeed, Besiktas were founded in 1903, Gala in 1905 and Fener in 1907.
Birth of an institution
Even back then, Istanbul was the only city in the world to stretch across two continents, making it the ideal melting pot for football rivalries to simmer. It is impossible to imagine a metropolis of over 13 million inhabitants all supporting the same side, with Fenerbahce and Galatasaray located on opposite sides of the Bosporus.
Apart from the geographical difference between the sides, there is also a social history behind the rivalry. Fenerbahce was considered a club for the working classes, while Galatasaray were seen as aristocratic.
Fenerbahce's initial formation took place in secrecy and for the first few years they were forced to operate underground due to the dim view Sultan Habdullamid II took of congregations of young people at the time. Until a new law was passed in 1908, the club continued its activities in the dark before finally becoming the first Turkish club to be recognised by the government.
The club's first crest featured the lighthouse which stands upon the headlands of the city, with the original colours those of daffodils, white and yellow. In 1910 the emblem and colours were altered by former player Topuz Hikmet, who incorporated three new colours: red for Turkey, marine for nobility and green for eternal success, along with the existing white for purity and yellow for wonder. The oak leaf symbolized Fenerbahce's power and strength. These days, however, the team play in yellow and blue.
The making of a legend
Fener first took part in the Istanbul Liga in 1909 and celebrated their first title in 1912, remaining unbeaten throughout their maiden championship-winning campaign. The club continued to play during the war years (1918-1921), contesting matches with English and French teams. And the fact that Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, was a Fenerbahce fan certainly did no harm to the club's popularity in those early years.
Prior to the formation of the official Turkish League in 1959, Fener collected eight more unofficial titles before continuing to dominate their city rivals. Indeed, five or the first ten league trophies were claimed by the Yellow Canaries.
Similar success on the continent proved more difficult to come by, although the club did manage to lift the 1967 Balkan Cup and also reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA European Cup Winners' Cup in 1963/64.
Fenerbahce's fortunes took a considerable downturn with the dawn of the new millennium. They could only watch as eternal rivals Galatasaray racked up one success after another, including victory in both the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup in 2000.
In order to close the gap, Fenerbahce began an aggressive transfer policy seldom seen in the country previously. Stars such as Nicolas Anelka, Diego Lugano, Stephen Appiah, Pierre van Hooijdonk and Roberto Carlos all arrived as they attempted to quieten their noisy neighbours.
Parity between the two clubs was largely restored by 2007/08 as former Brazil icon Zico led the team into the UEFA Champions League, where they impressed observers across the continent. The Yellow Canaries remained unbeaten at their Sukru Saracoglu stadium in that season's group stage, putting the likes of Inter Milan, PSV Eindhoven, Sevilla and Chelsea to the sword on home turf.
Eventually the wheels came off their European foray in the quarter-final second leg against the Blues, but further triumphs would follow. Fenerbahce finally took over as Turkey's record champions in their centenary year of 2007, taking the mantle from Galatasaray and rewarding themselves for 50 years of continued achievement.
It has almost become a cliche to say that football is like a religion in Turkey. That passion is not likely to dwindle any time soon, either, as Fenerbahce continue in their quest for domestic and European success.
While several clubs have built new arenas over the years, Fenerbahce have stayed true to their Sukru Saracoglu stadium. Opened in 1907, the Yellow Canaries' abode was modernised extensively between 1999 and 2008.
Nowadays the stadium, which has increased its capacity from around 25,000 to over 50,000, enjoys a five-star rating from UEFA and hosted the 2009 UEFA Cup final between Werder Bremen and Shakhtar Donetsk.