The Turkish League between the Big Four and the rising stars

  • 24 May 2019

The Turkish Super Lig is considered one of Europe’s most competitive leagues, with its fair share of big names and up-and-coming clubs.

Soccer Football - Super Lig - Galatasaray v Istanbul Basaksehir F.K. - Turk Telekom Arena, Istanbul, Turkey - May 19, 2019 Galatasaray's Fernando Muslera and Ryan Donk celebrate winning the Super Lig ( Reuters )

Sunday was the 33rd match day of the Turkish Super Lig and witnessed the long-awaited title decider between Galatasaray and Basaksehir. 

A 2-1 win for Galatasaray secured their 22nd league championship on home turf, completing a Turkish cup double after their 3-1 win in the Turkish Cup a fortnight earlier.

Here’s all you need to know about one of the most competitive league competitions in Europe.

The big four

The Super Lig - Turkey’s Premier League - was established in 1959. Since then, it has changed its name a couple of times, but remains essentially the same with 18 clubs competing.

Four teams, three from Turkey’s biggest city Istanbul, and one from the northeastern Black Sea city of Trabzon, are known as the Big Four in Turkish soccer.

The quartet has won almost every major Turkish trophy and are well known outside the country due to their appearances in international competitions like the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Champions League.

Soccer Football - Super Lig - Galatasaray v Besiktas - Turk Telekom Arena, Istanbul, Britain - May 5, 2019 Galatasaray's Marcao in action with Besiktas' Burak Yilmaz.(Reuters)

Galatasaray SK - founded in 1905 - has won 22 Turkish championships and secured 18 Turkish Cup victories and is considered Turkey’s most successful football team. It is the only Turkish club to win an international trophy, the UEFA Cup in 2000.

Fenerbahçe SK -  founded in 1907 - won 19 Turkish Championships and six Turkish Cups, it is also an Istanbulian club, situated in the Asian suburb of Kadikoy.

Beşiktaş SK -  founded in 1903 - is located in Istanbul’s central district of Besiktas and has a stadium close to the shores of the Bosphorus. The team has won 15 Turkish Championships and nine Turkish Cups.

Trabzonspor, from the country’s northeast, was especially successful in the 1970s and has won six championships and eight cups. 

Over 90 percent of Turkey’s football fans support one of the clubs.

Soccer Football - Super Lig - Galatasaray v Istanbul Basaksehir F.K. - Turk Telekom Arena, Istanbul, Turkey - May 19, 2019 Istanbul Basaksehir's Riad Bajic celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Murad Sezer(Reuters)

Other contenders

There is another Istanbulian team that has been causing a stir in recent years: Istanbul Basaksehir F.K. 

The club was founded in 1990 but went mainstream in 2014, finishing as runner-up in 2017 and likely in 2019 too, missing out on the Championship after a loss against Galatasary last week.

The club has played in the top flight since 2014 and is set to be a footballing power in the coming years.

Other notable teams include Bursapor, which won the Super Lig in 2010, the first time a club from outside the Big Four has won the title.

Bursaspor soccers celebrating their championship with their fans in the city of Bursa.()

However, the club has failed to replicate it success and has struggled to finish in the top five ever since.

Despite not winning the league, Sivasspor went from humble origins in central Anatolia to finishing as runner-up in 2009 and qualifying for the Champions League.

While the Big Four dominate the Super Lig, the Turkish Super Cup has been won by 11 different clubs.