Driving lesson

Go Turkey! What drives our sports revolution

The government’s ‘catch them young’ mantra is starting to show results; interests grow in non-football events as teams and individuals win medals and accolades.

A few hard facts first: Turkey has about 12.89 million people in the 15-24 age bracket, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK), or 15.4% of the total population. And this makes Turkey the youngest country in Europe, a nation full of vigor and vigor.

No wonder Turkey has witnessed a sports revolution in recent years as the country channels its youth into athletics, the boxing ring, the soccer field, volleyball courts and anything that stimulates the competition.

What also helped was the government’s decision to mainstream sports education, helping young people to receive sports education from an early age. To this end, sports high schools have been created in 72 cities while 20 new sports high schools will be opened in the future.

Invest in the future

Turkey’s rich dividends in international competitions in recent times are invariably the result of its heavy investment in sport.

The number of football pitches, which was 595 before 2002, increased to 1,365 in 2011. Between 2002 and 2022, the number of sports venues increased from 372 to 904.

And the total number of medals won by Turkish athletes in international tournaments, including the Olympics, rose to 8,808 in 2019 from 1,117 in 2000.

From January to June 2022, Turkish athletes won a total of 2079 medals including 569 gold, 644 silver and 866 bronze in 34 different branches of international competitions.

With the contribution of the new facilities, the number of licensed athletes and sports clubs has also increased significantly. Between 2002 and 2021, the number of licensed athletes increased from 278,046 to 10,116,401. In 2021, Turkey had 1,665,969 active athletes. The number of sports clubs, which was 6,035 in 2002, has tripled in 20 years to reach 18,977.

One of the country’s biggest sporting successes of late came when the women’s national volleyball team came third to clinch a podium at the 2021 European Championship.

The tournament had seen sports fans in Türkiye glued to their TV screens during live match coverage. Throughout the tournament, matches were viewed on large screens in public places which were set up by local authorities in response to the enthusiasm of volleyball fans across the country.

So much so that the Türkiye match against Poland in the tournament attracted double the viewership of the most popular Turkish national football team match taking place on the same day.

The reason for the difference was not only the recent failures of the national football team, but also a growing interest in volleyball. All of these are important symbolic indicators of the start of a new era for Turkey, which is generally known as a country of football lovers.

The volleyball team’s success had sparked celebrations online, sparking memes and becoming a trending topic on game days.

Peak of interest

Of all sports, volleyball has undoubtedly become the most successful team sport in Turkey, leading to growing popularity among young people.

Talented and well-known volleyball players from different countries have joined Turkish teams while big companies and state-owned banks such as Vakifbank, Halkbank and Eczacibasi have invested in volleyball creating competitive teams to win trophies at international tournaments.

In May 2022, VakifBank won the CEV Women’s Champions League Volley 2022 after beating Italian team Imoco Volley 3-1 in the final. It was their fifth CEV Women’s Champions League title.

Interest in women’s volleyball increased during the 2020 Olympics when the national team reached the quarter-finals, beating defending champions China along the way.

According to the survey conducted in the summer of 2021 (June 10-September 10, 2021), there was a 170% increase in media coverage of volleyball compared to the same period in 2020.

According to data from Armut.com, people requested 123% more private volleyball lessons in August 2021, compared to August 2020.

Moreover, it is possible to observe the increase in the love of volleyball from the number of spectators in sports halls and YouTube ratings. For example, the finals match between Fenerbahce Opet and VakifBank, which aired on YouTube in May, was watched by almost 600,000 users.

Other sports

But it is not just the teams that are behind Turkey’s sporting achievements.

In December 2021, Emre Sakci became one of Turkey’s most successful swimmers by breaking the world record with a time of 24.95 seconds in the men’s 50-meter breaststroke short course.

In recent years, significant successes have also been achieved in gymnastics. Turkish gymnasts won six medals including two gold, two silver and two bronze at the 2022 Artistic Gymnastics World Cup held in Croatia.

Turkey now also has talented athletes in boxing as one of them won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics when Busenaz Surmeneli defeated Chinese opponent Hong Gu in the women’s 69kg final.

Mete Gazoz, 23, is also one of the most successful Olympians to have played for Türkiye, winning individual gold in men’s archery at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. World-renowned writer Paulo Coelho dedicated his latest book to Mete Gazoz and announced it in a Twitter post.

Although football remains the country’s most popular sport, Turkey is today on the cusp of a revolution as young people seek glory in other sports, seeking motivation and inspiration from those who preceded them.

The drumbeat of honor will only get louder. And more frequent.

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Source: World TRT