Alhan Gençay on Galatasaray, The Greatest Club Story Ever Told & Turkish Culture
Photography: Jack Orton / Styling: Jay Hines / Interview & Words: Tom Everest
Alhan is about to start philosophising. He doesn’t pause, he doesn’t prep, he doesn’t need to furrow his brow to think about what he’s about to say. Everything, as we’ve all grown to know and love, is sharp, reverent and refreshing. It’s the precise recipe, the exacting talent, that has seen him prove time and time again while he’s the man of the hour. We’ve just asked him what is the greatest thing about being a Galatasaray fan.
“Listen. I am not a football fan and I’ve said that time and time again but I am a massive, massive Galatasaray fan,” he explains. “As a young guy, it reminds you that you can be proud to be Turkish. The country you’re living in, you might not be from here and you might not be English. But, fam, it doesn’t matter. People know your team and they understand. In school, when people were talking about football or Galatasaray it always made me think ‘Rah, people know about us.’ Which is sick. It’s a massive sense of pride. Being a Galatasaray fan means you can be a proud Turk in London.”
Alhan is known as the man to discuss the topics you’ve always wondered about; the man who regularly picks the brains of a number of big names, personalities and experts to investigate some of life’s big questions. To extend the thread of authenticity even further and to turn the tables on him, we sat down with Alhan to discuss all things Galatasaray; from the greatest club story ever told to first memories, Turkish culture and what the club gives to him and his Dad.
Do you remember the first time your Dad introduced you to Galatasaray?
Yes. I was young. Very young. He probably introduced the club to me the minute I was born but the first time I remember was a birthday present one year where he came back from Turkey and he got me a wicked scarf. It was a hard Galatasaray scarf that I still have to this day. I’ve got a box at home full of all my Turkish and Galatasaray stuff and it’s in there. It was the very first piece of Galatasaray memorabilia I ever had and from that moment I knew that it was my team. My Dad knew from day one that it was going to be my team too. I knew I never really had a choice.
What does the mutual love of Galatasaray give to you and your Dad?
It brings us together, innit. You know, fathers and sons, we’re used to not always seeing eye to eye. Different generations have different opinions. Galatasarary is just like home. Although we’re not home and we’re not in Turkey the club represents the love for our culture and our community.
What part of your club’s culture inspires you the most?
The one thing about Galatasaray fans is the way they stick together as a pack. It’s so hard. It’s wicked. It doesn’t matter what country, or where, they stick together. When I went to the Bernabéu in Madrid, although we lost 6-0 in the UEFA Champions League, and the fans were up there in the top, top corner of the stadium it didn’t matter. There was like 1000 Galatasaray and I shit you not, they were so much louder than the Real fans. Gala is a little community, man. It’s sick.
How does the Galatasaray fire burn bright in London?
The thing is all Turkish clubs burn bright in London. When it was the European Championships Semi-Final in 2008 all I remember was driving in my Mum’s car around North London and we were honking our horns until it actually went bust. The horn of the car broke and that was all because Turkey was playing. However, the Galatasaray fire always burns bright. If you’re ever in a shop in North London or in the Turkish community you’ll feel or see the club somewhere. If you’re in a shop and you mention Gala, you never know you might get a little discount. Actually, just tell the boss cimbombom and you’ll get a discount.
The greatest Galatasaray story ever told is….
Graeme Souness and the flag. Galatasaray at Fenerbahce. It is the ultimate derby. You see that one, it’s war. When these two teams come together it’s war. Arsenal and Spurs, that’s nothing. These two teams are so serious. One game away to Fenerbahce, Graeme Souness ran into the middle of the pitch and stuck the Gala flag into their ground. He started a mad ting.
If you got the call to take over as the owner of Galatasaray, what would be the first thing you’d do?
You know, what? I would create a UK team. It is about time to really introduce Turkish culture into the UK. As the owner of Galatasaray it would be my duty to introduce a UK team that plays here all the time.
How special was it to have your Dad down on the shoot to experience the new Galatasaray jersey with you?
It’s the best thing ever. Even though he had to adapt to this life and understand that his son isn’t going to be a mad academic and will just take the piss out of people online for his whole career. For him to come down to the studio and see the entire workings, the camera, the crew and everything it really reminded him that his little son is a boss (laughs). It’s nice. It’s always a pleasure to show your parents what you do. The fact that he had the opportunity to experience it with me is bad boy.
What is the greatest thing about being a Galatasaray fan?
Listen. I am not a football fan and I’ve said that time and time again but I am a massive Galatasaray fan. As a young guy, it reminds you that you can be proud to be Turkish. The country you’re living in, you might not be from here and you might not be English, but, fam, it doesn’t matter. People know your team and they understand. In school, when people were talking about football or Galatasaray it always made me thinking ‘Rah, people know about us.’ Which is sick. It’s a massive sense of pride. Being a Galatasaray fan means you can be a proud Turk in London.