USMNT midfielder Jermaine Jones made it clear that he intended to play the rest of the 2013-14 European season somewhere other than Schalke 04. In the final week of the January transfer window, Schalke agreed to end his contract with the club and allow his short-term move to Besiktas. Jones joins the Black Eagles as they push to be the top team in Istanbul while counting down the months to opening their rebuilt stadium.
From Schalke 04 to Besiktas
Schalke 04 director of sport Horst Heldt portrayed the Jones move in an official statement as about playing time. "We're pleased that Jermaine has found a new club where he can achieve his major footballing ambition this year," Heldt said. "With good performances and plenty of playing time he can lay the basis for a successful intervention at the World Cup in Brazil. We would not have been able to give him that in the second half of the season." Jones played 14 times in the Bundesliga this season.
Where is Besiktas?
Istanbul, Turkey, taking its name from the neighborhood where it serves as a sports club with teams in a variety of sports. Istanbul currently has four teams in the Super Lig, Turkish soccer's topflight. Most fans are probably more familiar with Galatasaray or Fenerbahce, with Kasimpasa also representing Turkey's biggest city. Istanbul has a metropolitan population of over 14 million people. Basketball is also a popular professional sport, with Besiktas fielding a team in the topflight Turkish Basketball League along with Galatasaray and Fenerbahce. The city itself is on both sides of the Bosphorus, partly in Europe and partly in Asia. Besiktas is located in the part of the city in Europe. Besiktas means 'cradle stone.'
To start, J.K. is an acronym for the Turkish for 'gymnastics club'. That's how Besiktas J.K. got its start, as Turkey's oldest athletics club founded in 1903. Like other European sports clubs, it's probably easiest to think of them like college athletic departments. Though they field teams in a variety of sports, it's obvious that soccer and basketball are the big ones, just like football and basketball in American colleges. Turkey gets a professional soccer league in 1959, and the Black Eagles have 13 league titles finishing 2nd 14 times. Their last Super Lig title was in 2009. They also have nine Turkish Cups, lifting that trophy most recently in 2011.
How tough is the Super Lig?
Turkish soccer's reputation is as a tough place to play away in the Champions League and Europa League. Most of that is dependent on Galatasaray, the modern standard-bearer for Turkish soccer. Istanbul clubs dominate the Super Lig. Galatasaray have 19 championships with Fenerbahce winning 18 times. Two of Besiktas's 13 titles predate the Super Lig's founding, but it's still easy to see that the top three teams in the Super Lig that account for 48 titles in a league that didn't exist prior to 1959. Last season, Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, and Besiktas finished first, second, and third. To answer the question, it's not tough for a team like Besiktas to finish in the European places but it's difficult to get past the other two major Istanbul clubs and take the title.
What happened to Besiktas in the Europa League this season?
UEFA penalized the club for match fixing, keeping them out of the 2013-14 Europa League even though they qualified for the competition by finishing 3rd in the 2012-13 Super Lig. At issue was the 2011 Turkish Cup final, Besiktas's last trophy. Besiktas beat small Istanbul club Buyuksehir Belediyesi SK. Amid a broader investigation of match fixing in Turkish soccer, the 2011 Cup final became a focus point. Besiktas eventually returned the trophy and filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport after UEFA suspended the club from European competition. With the case under appeal, Besiktas started play in the 2013-14 Europa League and advanced to the group stage. The Court of Arbitration for Sport held up UEFA's ban, with UEFA dropping Besiktas and replacing them with Tromso, the club they beat in the playoffs to make the group stage. Fenerbahce also received a ban from European competition as a result of the investigation.
Where does Besiktas play?
Right now, they're playing at the Recep Tayyip Erdogan Stadium in Istanbul's Kasimpasa neighborhood. That's because the club is currently rebuilding their historic BJK Inonu Stadium as the Vodafone Arena. That work required demolishing the seating bowl of the old stadium. The original Inonu Stadium held 32,145 fans and has ocean views. The rebuilt version will hold 41,903 fans when it opens next season and maintains the historic look of the stadium in a way that should have Chicago wondering what they were thinking with Soldier Field. Besiktas kept it classy, using the detail they had to keep under historic preservation regulations to highlight their new building.