Du Malone writes: John McManus first went to live in Turkey in order to teach at a high school in Ankara. As soon as he arrived, students were asking him which team he supported, Fenerbahce or Galatasaray? It took him a while to work out his answer, which turned out to be Besiktas. Part of Welcome to hell? In search of the real Turkish football (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018) is an account of the author’s experiences following Besiktas.
After his high school teaching experience. McManus moved into academia, becoming an anthropologist. He wrote a doctoral thesis about Besiktas fandom and returned to Turkey to work at the British Institute at Ankara.
But, though he occasionally quotes academic sources, Welcome to hell? isn’t an academic book. It’s written in everyday English, published by a trade (rather than academic) publisher, and aimed at the general reader.
One can think of this book as a piece of fabric. The warp yarns consist of constant themes in the book: Turkish football now; Turkish football in history; football (especially fan) culture in Turkey; and Turkish culture more generally.
The weft yarns consist of chapters, each focusing on a distinct topic. The topics are diverse. They include match-fixing, women’s football, Erdogan (the Turkish president), the 1922 humanitarian disaster of Smyrna, Lefter Kucukandonyadis (Fenerbahce’s Greek-speaking star of the ’50s), football amongst diasporas (notably Syrians in Turkey), and nationalism and ethnicity (notably in relation to the Kurds).
One learns as McManus learns: each expedition he makes across Turkey enables him to understand more of the pattern that makes up his subject.
Focusing on the culture that surrounds a sport, rather than purely on the sport itself, can be a source of entertaining, engrossing, writing and I found this to be true here. Welcome to hell? takes its place on my bookshelves amongst my favourite books on sport.