Turkish Football News

Istanbul migrants’ dreams of turning pro become reality

African players; Istanbul African migrants hopes of turning pro become reality

Migrants in Istanbul of African origin are one step closer to fulfilling the dreams of becoming professional footballers.

Konviction Ruya Spor, made up of amateur African players living in Istanbul, aims to be the first professional football club of its kind after getting their license from Turkish officials. If approved, it will revive hopes for players who had originally moved to Turkey to play in the professional leagues.

In a small stadium in Avcilar, a district on Istanbul’s European side known for its sizable community of African migrants, 32 players from Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Liberia, Ivory Coast and other countries come together a few days every week for a strict training session. Some are university students and others work odd jobs but all share a passion for football.

The team is the brainchild of Djibril Bakala Camara, a Guinean migrant that’s been living in Turkey since 2016. Camara said they applied to local authorities to be classified as “an association,” a requirement for football clubs, one month ago. Until then, the team polished its skills in friendlies with other amateur clubs in Istanbul.

The player going about their training.

Coach Mustafa Yildirim, the only Turkish member of the team, says most of his players are “on an average level for Turkish football” but adds that all are “well-built and can accomplish much more if they do not give up training.”

Though their official number is not known, as some stay as illegal immigrants, migrants from the African countries are estimated to make up the majority of the city’s migrant population, along with Syrians.

Statistics show one in four African migrants prefer Istanbul for accommodation and Muslims from North African and sub-Saharan African countries, including Senegal, Mali, Niger, Ghana, Gambia, Ethiopia and Somalia, mostly prefer to come to Turkey instead of other countries.

Interest in foreign players has led to more African players joining clubs in Turkey in recent years and this trend has been increasing every year. Most African players find success in secondary or amateur leagues before moving on to other countries.

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