There had always been keen competition for regional supremacy between the neighboring Turkish cities of Kayseri and Sivas, but this had never spilled over into serious violence – until 1967. Provincial amateur football clubs were encouraged to merge in the mid 1960s to create single dubs capable of holding their own in the new Second Football League, a nationwide third tier for Turkish -professional football.
Three clubs in each city amalgamated to form Kayseri Erciyesspor and Sivasspor respectively. They went toe-to-toe for the first time in September 1967, providing the perfect opportunity for rival fans to strut their stuff – a confrontation inflamed by the fact that both teams were sharing top spot in the league. Around 5,000 supporters of Sivasspor headed for Kayseri the day before the match, flooding bars and less salubrious houses of entertainment. Quarrels broke out, fans were stabbed and police made 50 arrests.
Suitably forewarned, security forces ringed the Ataturk Stadium on match day, searching spectators and removing assorted weaponry. When the match began at 16.00, tension among the 21,000 spectators was palpable, exploding into violence when Kayseri Erciyesspor scored after 20 minutes. Scuffles broke out among the players and the crowd responded. Rival fans exchanged a hail of unconfiscated rocks and missiles, before the outnumbered Sivasspor contingent tried to escape. In the ensuing stampede, 40 spectators died and over 300 were injured.
A general riot broke out, the referee abandoned the game and the two teams were locked into their dressing rooms to protect them from the angry mob. Sivasspor fans who got out of the stadium in one piece indulged in a little gentle window-smashing and vehicle-binning as they raced back to their coaches and headed for home, leaving a few of their compatriots behind to fight running battles with Kayseri fans.
When was the Ataturk Stadium Disaster: September 17 1967
Where was the Ataturk Stadium Disaster: Kayseri, Central Anatolia, Turkey
What was the Ataturk Stadium Disaster death toll: 40 (including 38 from Sivas), with Sivasspor supporters also featuring most prominently on the injury list.
You should know: Tragic events in Kayseri were just a starting point Turkey’s worst-ever sports-related violence really got into its stride. In Sivas, where enraged inhabitants rioted for days, burning buildings, plundering shops and vandalizing pretty much everything they could lay hands on, with particular reference to the many properties owned by Kayseri folk. Two more people died in the week-long rampage.