Now they got the stadium at Beşiktaş.
Whoever they is.
It sat right below our window on the hill near Taksim Square, during our visit.
Turkey is one of the most fantastic (in the Orhan Pamuk sense) places in the world.
I’m glad we got there in 2012, just before all hell broke loose.
Of course, that goes for a lot of places these days. We have seen familiar streets, places we have recently walked, get blown up by nihilists of one persuasion or another. Boston. London. Paris. Nice. Istanbul. The world we knew. The world where people still try to live.
The sun comes up over Asia, lights up the Bosporus, shines on Beşiktaş Stadium and our hotel, diligently guarded.
The window from which this photo was taken had a little round arrow, pointing south and east, toward Mecca, so tourists could say their prayers.
Sitting at my laptop in the mornings, I prayed for people, for cities, for the collective impulse for life that made the streets throb with life, the pungent odors of coffee and kebabs, in all directions off Taksim Square.
Now somebody has blown up police officers, there to guard humanity, that is to say, us – to keep fans from rioting, from hurting the innocent. Now blown up.
We walked past that stadium every day, downhill, toward the tram that glided to a terrific art museum, to ferries to Uskadar – Asia! – to mosques and cafés and bazaars, the staples of life.
Even football is part of life, with its rivalries, its ballet and speed and power and fakery and thuggery.
Somebody got Beşiktaş. Struck life itself.
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.