Galatasaray

 

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Türk Telekom Arena

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Comments

Anthony Joy

Match: Galatasaray vs Arsenal, Champions League Group game, 9th December 2014

Published: 14/12/2014

 

Wheelchair spaces at the Turk Telecom Arena

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Anthony Joy

Match: Galatasaray vs Arsenal, Champions League Group game, 9th December 2014

Published: 14/12/2014

 

Arsenal’s final matchday in this years Champions League group stage meant a return trip to Istanbul, for the second time in 4 months.   Having only been to the city in August for the qualifier against Besiktas, myself and a group of nine friends travelled out in anticipation of another great few days, in what is one of Europe’s most interesting and entertaining cities.

 

This time we were playing Galatasaray;  this team generates many negative emotions in Arsenal fans, particularly those of us who were present for the 2000 UEFA Cup Final in Copenhagen when the level of violence marred one of our worst days following football.  It’s fair to say there were some nerves ahead of the game, and no one in our group chose to wear colours on game day. Despite this, we looked forward to visiting a new ground.

 

Getting There & Parking

Arsenal laid on coaches from Dolmabache Palace (near to Taksim Square) opposite the Besiktas stadium (undergoing reconstruction).   This location is easy to get to from Taksim Square via the funicular to Kabatas, followed by a short walk 3-4mins away.  Istanbul transport is free to wheelchair users (a guard will open the barrier for you).  A companion will need to purchase a travel token costing 4TL per journey.  The coaches were not wheelchair accessible; I had to pull myself onto the front seat with my wheelchair being stored underneath.   Taxis were an option but we decided to stay with the group.   Arsenal advised the local metro station nearest to the ground was closed (consequently we didn’t look into access).

 

The journey to the Turk Telecom Arena took a little over 30 minutes having to battle through the very heavy Istanbul traffic (There is traffic everywhere!). 

 

There didn’t seem much parking to hand around the ground.  The coaches were reversed into an under-ground perimeter road next to a stairwell to the away section.  Arsenal had arranged local Police and a representative from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to escort us from this location ,up to Podium level to enter the stadium.  This involved walking around half the stadium perimeter and waiting 10 minutes to access a lift to podium level. 

 

Getting a Ticket

Our tickets were arranged through Arsenal however for some reason Galatasaray did not post these over to the UK with the bulk of the allocation. Consequently I had to travel to Istanbul without the ticket, planning to collect out there.  I dislike this enormously, it makes me nervous that something will go wrong.   Arsenal originally asked me to travel to a hotel 5km outside of Istanbul during the afternoon to collect.  I refused and asked for alternative arrangements to be made; this amounted to the tickets being left with the Arsenal steward on the coaches.

 

The tickets were complimentary for both wheelchair and companion seats. We  were however situated in with the Galatasaray fans in the BATE stand; the 550 Arsenal fans were situated in the opposite upper tier with no access available. 

 

Spectator Viewing areas

There were signed disabled entrances wide enough for a wheelchair to enter.  Level approach was available.  You enter through a 1.5m wide cage; I was fine but any large wheelchair may struggle.  

 

There are wheelchair spaces set out along the back row of the lower tier of the stadium, both behind each goal, and along the sidelines. I read that there are approximately 80 spaces.  There are companion seats by the side of each marked bay.     

 

The view was good – originally the escort took us to seats virtually on the halfway line above the players tunnel.   However, when we voiced concerns as to how we’d get back to the coaches after the game we were moved further toward the corner flag to sit behind some Arsenal VIPs who were accompanied by Arsenal FC stewards.   The view was still very good, however when Galatasary fans stood in front, the view was obstructed. 

.

 

Amenities

There were accessible toilets behind our section, which were clean and spacious (as to be expected in a new ground).

 

Services

There was a kiosk/service counter in the block we were in.  You can wheel straight to it but the counter is very high so I couldn’t see what was being cooked. I went for broke and asked for a lamb doner; it was amazing.  It was much tastier and better value than some of the rubbish that passes for food in the UK.  The steward offered to assist me carrying a drink back to my seat.

 

After a good win, we were escorted back to the coaches under the stadium with the Arsenal VIPs.  The Police wanted to carry me in my wheelchair down a steep metal staircase, while saying in broken English that the lift we used only 2 hours before was now “broken”.  I refused to be carried and was backed up by the Arsenal VIPs and stewards.   The solution was to walk us through the main road going against the traffic to reach the coaches.   It showed a lack of organisation, and that in Turkey 20 people will get involved in decision making when honestly one would do!

 

Istanbul in general

As this was my second visit to Istanbul I knew that travel between the main areas of Taksim & Sultanahmet was relatively easy.  Taksim is in the newer part of the city with more accessible transport options. Sultanahmet has more of the tourist sights (eg Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace).  As its the older part of town, the terrain has lots of the dreaded cobbles.  But there are dropped kerbs in most areas.

 

If staying in Taksim I suggest taking the Fenicular down to Kabatas. Take the lift nearest the big Turkish flag and access through the wheelchair gate.   At Kabatas, take the lift to the Tram and take it to Sultanahmet.  Access to/from the platform is level and the raised tram platforms have ramps down. The trams are always packed but dont be put off.  The crowd will move; just be assertive and you'll be fine.  Which side you exit or enter differs from stop to stop.

 

This trip we decided to hop over to the Asian side of Istanbul.  Exit the tram at Eminonu and take the ferry to the other side of the Bosphorus.  The journey is free for wheelchair users, and there are level ramps to board the ferry.  Wheelchair users will have to sit out on deck so it can be quite cold.

 

I visited the Blue Mosque this time, as building works were complete.   There is a steep ramp to negotiate and 2 small steps.  As with any mosque, shoes must be removed.   They offer an in-house wheelchair to transfer into (so that the outside doesn’t enter the inside), or (as I opted for) you can have your wheels (front and back) sellotaped up!  It was quite a novel way to solve the problem.

 

If visiting the Haiga Sophia, you’ll need some help to get around. Big steps are accommodated by steep ramps but it is worth the trouble. A magnificent building.  Entry into the Haiga Sophia was complimentary for both wheelchair users and a companion.

 

In Sultanahmet is also the Basilica Cistern, as used as a location in the Bond film “From Russia with love”.   Entry is complimentary for wheelchair users, and you access via the gift shop at the exit.   A stair-lift will (painfully slowly) take you down to the underground corridors. Well worth a visit.

 

On our last day we visited the Topkapi Palace; again entry was complimentary mainly due to the number of steps throughout. The Palace serves as a museum now with many artefacts around the history of Islam in Turkey. An interesting place but the access issues, lead me to suggest giving it a miss.

 

Istanbul severly lacks accessible toilets anywhere. The Port Shield pub in Sultanhmet has a toilet that a short wheel-base chair could access.

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