As the Basketball World Cup got underway in Istanbul yesterday, a less well-known contest kicked off: Turkey’s own African Cup of Nations football (soccer) tournament.
The competition, now in its sixth year, brings together the city’s sizeable African community, a significant proportion of whom have come to Istanbul with the dream of making their names as professional footballers.
Even for those with the talent to make it, this is a difficult dream to realise. Some of the Turkish leagues do not allow foreign players, and the permits that foreigners need to do any work at all can be prohibitively expensive.
The cup holds real importance to those taking part, as it’s a scouting ground for agents looking to sign players.
However it also brings together a community struggling to make its way in what is sometimes an inhospitable country. Foreigners without plenty of cash or company backing find it difficult to get the necessary documentation to live and work legally here, and black people in particular are often the targets of racism.
This year, the six competing teams are representing Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo, Ghana, South Africa, and Ethiopia.
Nigeria and Cameroon, widely regarded as the favourites, drew yesterday’s opening game 1-1.