"This is the situation in Turkey: we don't love football. We love our teams. We want our team to be successful, to be champions, nothing more," says the journalist Ugur Turker.
I heard this kind of argument on numerous occasions. Several fans told me they had been slapped at the stadium for trying to watch the match rather than singing for their team.
There is often a poetic intensity to the love expressed in Turkish football songs. Many are suffused with longing and infatuation.
"I saw you on a rainy day/You were wearing your striped jersey" ("Yağmurlu bir günde görmüştüm seni/Üstünde çubuklu formalar vardı") begins one Besiktas song.
O anda tutuldum, aşık oldum ben
I was stricken that moment, I fell in love
Hayatın anlamı siyah beyazdı
The meaning of life was black and white
Ölümle yaşamı ayıran çizgi
The line that separates death from life
Siyahla beyazı ayıramaz ki
Cannot separate black from white
Her yolun sonunda ölüm olsa da
Even if all roads end in death
Sevenleri kimse ayıramaz ki
No one can come between lovers
Of course, many chants are homages, jokes, vulgar comments regarding the opposition's mums, and calling each other "sons of bitches" and suchlike.
But the anthropologist Yagmur Nuhrat (who provides the song translations in this article) has written about how lyrical many of the songs and chants are. They often express what Nuhrat calls "crazy" and "arabesk" love.
Arabesk is a melodic, dramatic, emotional form of music that became popular in the 1960s.
Arabesk's great themes are the yearning and strife of romantic love – sentiments that are often reflected in the lyrics of football songs.
Sen benim her gece efkârım, gözümdeki yaşım, sigara dumanım
You, the melancholy of my every night, the tears in my eyes, the smoke from my cigarette
Sen benim damardaki kanım, alnımdaki yazım, Şanlı Beşiktaşım
You, the blood in my veins, my destiny, my glorious Beşiktaş
Kalbimin en orta yerinde, büyük bir yangın var, alevler içinde
Right in the middle of my heart is a big fire, all in flames
Beşiktaş sana yemin olsun, bitmeyecek sevdan, mezarımda bile
Besiktas, I swear to you, your love will never die, not even in my grave
Often fans inherit the love of a football team from family members, but sometimes they fall in love with a team like they would fall in love with a person; totally, blindingly, maddeningly.
"Somehow, instinctively I saw the colours, I fell in love, there is no other explanation," says the writer Mustafa Hos, while talking about his ardour for Fenerbahce – which was not shared by most of his family.
Some fans sleep in their team's colours the night before a match because they want to wake up and feel the fabric against their skin. Then they get up and hurry to join their fellow sufferers.
Dilimde şarkıların gündüz gece
I sing about you day and night,
deli gibi aşığım Fenerbahçe
I am crazy in love with you Fenerbahce,
bu dünyayı yakarız senin için
we would set this world on fire for you,
when the championship comes
Nuhrat notes that arabesk music was perceived as a threat by the authorities and the urban intelligentsia, particularly because of its wild popularity among the poor and underclasses living in gecekondu squatter settlements that housed rural migrants to the big cities from the 1950's onwards.
"Fatalism" is a defining characteristic of the arabesk genre.
Nuhrat argues that this fatalism is easily carried over into football.
"What is crucial to note is that the arabesk protagonist has lost in the face of life," writes Nuhrat. "He has been dealt a bad hand and he is the ultimate victim. A popular chant which is sung by all fan groups in Turkey begins with the words: 'We are fans/we are used to suffering'."
Their love is often a doomed, sacrificial and unrequited addiction. Agony, destruction and death are always close. Even if bellowed gleefully, there is a heart-broken despair about many of the lyrics.
Sisli bir gece yarısında, Issız bir sokak ortasında
During a foggy night, In a deserted street
Kırık bir lambanın altında, Dalmışız sevdalara
Under a broken street lamp, I wander into loving you
Neler geçti kalbimden bilsen, Yaşlar damladı gözlerimden
If only you knew how my heart felt, Tears well up in my eyes
Anladım ki ölene kadar, Fenerbahçe düşmeyecek dilimden
I know that until I die, I will never stop singing about Fenerbahçe
A true fan is meant to suffer. "His loyalty is unquestionable and yet he is always wronged – wronged by the [club] administration, wronged by the federation, wronged by the referees and made to suffer through the defeats of his own team," writes Nuhrat.
But for many fans the club is their lives and their love transcends all else.
Gokhan Karakaya – a former member of Galatasaray's largest, most fearsome fan group 'ultrAslan' – extolled the fierce sense of camaraderie. "There are no levels – you are the same: educated, non-educated, nationalist, Kurdish. You all get on the same bus and go to the same destination, and share everything."
Ölüm varmış, korku varmış
There is death, there is fear
Bu dünyanın sonu varmış
There is an end to this world
Bizim için yoktur tasa
We shan't worry
Kalbimde sen yaşadıkça
As long as you are in our hearts
Başarılar gelir geçer, asaletin bize yeter
Success comes and goes but your nobility stays
Öyle şeyler yaşattın ki, deplasmanda Sami Yen’de
You gave us so much away and at home
Uğrunda ölmeye değer, Ultraslan hep seninle
We would die for you, Ultraslan is always with you
Galatasaray fans also sing a song that includes the refrain "may those who do not love you die" ("seni sevmeyen ölsün"), taken from a famous arabesk song.
This kind of crazy-blooded love is unruly, it can inflame feuds and can spill over into violence. It is increasing at odds with the glossy vision of 'modern' or 'industrial' football.
In line with many European countries, the Turkish authorities have tried to gentrify football in recent years, seeking to re-shape fandom into something more docile, bourgeois, and receptive to constant invocations to consume increasingly expensive tickets, merchandise, and products.
Many supporters complain that clubs and the authorities increasingly want customers, not fans.
For some fans, football clubs became their lives when they had nothing else. Corporate football has capitalised on the power of this arabesk love, but it is squeezing some fans dry and displacing some from the stadium altogether.
But on a match day you can still see many of the lovesick. They are used to suffering, they welcome it. They are wronged and they expect nothing else. They are ready to sacrifice everything.
Sevdim seni bir kere
I loved you once,
I can't love another,
deli diyorlar bana
They call me crazy,
Well, they may fuck me, I won't change
FURTHER READING: Yagmur Nuhrat, 'Fair Enough? Negotiating Ethics in Turkish Football', Brown University, 2013.