Our Turkish championships in national competitions organized by the country’s football federation since 1924
On this page, as also stated on the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) website, are shown the 28 Turkish Championships that Fenerbahçe has won in national football competitions which first began to be organised in 1924 following the foundation of the TFF in 1923.
An overview of the Turkish championships organised by the national football federation from 1924 to today
1) Football in Turkey began to be played at a national level in 1924 following the foundation of the TFF in 1923. The TFF, a member organisation of FIFA, arranged the first national championship in Turkey in 1924, with this being different to the previously organised city leagues. This first national championship was titled the Turkish Football Championship.
This championship was played from 1924 to 1942 between the champions of the different city leagues and regional championship.
The situation changed in 1942 when a league was created between the champions of Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir and city/regional champions outside of these three major locales. The host of this competition was determined through an elimination.
This championship was organized and played nationally between 1924 and 1951.
2) After the Turkish Football Championship came the National Division, Turkey's second national league competition. This was the nation’s first league with both home and away games. All seasons of this league were played until 1950 except for three seasons and the participants of the league were teams that had been successful in the city leagues played in Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara. The top four teams from the Istanbul league that season and the first- and second-placed teams in the Ankara and Izmir leagues that season participated in the National Division. (Only one season did three teams from Ankara participate.) The National Division was held between 1937 and 1950.
3) Turkey's third nationwide football organization was the Federation Cup. The Federation Cup was played in the 1956-57 and 1957-58 seasons. In the first season of the Federation Cup, clubs from Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, and Adana were represented. Adana teams did not take a place in the second season, when only Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir teams played.
4) Turkey's fourth national football championship was started in 1959 as the National League, today's Super League.
Fenerbahçe’s 28 Turkish championships therefore come from the total number of national championships held by the country’s football federation.
Fenerbahçe won the Turkish Football Championship three times, the National Division six times, and the Super League 19 times.
But whenever these issues come to the agenda of the day, some individuals and organizations in the public eye try to argue against the addition of Fenerbahçe’s 9 Turkish championship won before 1959 by presenting various reasons.
Now let's see if their objections are correct or not.
Before 1959 there were no national championships, only city and regional leagues. National championships started in 1959.
Description of TFF
Although this objection has no basis, we wished to answer this first anyway because it is frequently cited. In fact, even the names of these competitions prove that they are national. When looking at the Turkish Championship and the National Division match programmes and teams participating in these competitions, it is clear that these are national, not regional.
These competitions were not limited to a single region or city, but brought teams of different regions together nationally. Moreover, it is clearly stated on the official Turkish Football Federation (TFF) website that the first national Turkish football championship was held in 1924 and the first champion was Harbiye, refuting these baseless allegations completely.
The pre-1959 national championships were played between the teams of only three cities (Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir). They were partially national, not fully national. They therefore cannot be counted as national championships.
The Turkish Football Championship was played with the participation of teams from many cities across Turkey. For example, teams from 16 different cities in 1933 and 22 different cities in 1935 competed in this nationwide competition.
The National Division was itself played between the teams of three cities (Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir) except for the 1941 season when the participation of Eskişehir Demirspor to the National Division meant that four cities were represented. However, this situation does not mean that the National Division was not national as the Federation Cup, which the TFF counts as two of the national championships won by Beşiktaş, was played with teams of four cities in one season and three cities in the other.
But more importantly, seven of the first eight seasons of the Super League, which commenced in 1959, were played between the teams of only three cities (Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir), with the sole exception being the 1960-1961 season when Adana Demirspor from outside the three major cities took part in the league. Teams from other cities were not allowed to participate in the Super League for the first eight seasons.
As examples, the teams participating in the 1959 and 1960 league seasons can be viewed in the Turkey Football Federation official records:
In summary, the number of different cities in the National Division and the number of different cities in the Super League between 1959 and 1966 are exactly the same. The claim that the Turkish Football Championships and National Divisions were not Turkish championships while accepting the first eight Super League seasons is unreasonable.
The National Division and the Turkish Football Championship Series were played the same season. There cannot be two Turkish champions in one season.
While 27 national football competitions were held in Turkey between 1924 and 1951 - 11 National Divisions and 16 Turkish Football Championships, 20 these were the sole national football competition in Turkey in the year they were held. The National Division and Turkish Football Championship were held only seven times within the same year, but no team was competing for both simultaneously. The National Division and the Turkish Football Championship were sometimes played in the same calendar year but never at the same time. Matches never overlapped and one championship did not start before the other ended. The winners of the Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir leagues qualified for both the National Division and the Turkish Football Championship.
In the period when the number of teams was not as high as today, the National Division ran for three to five months (March-May or July). Accordingly, the football federation created another national championship for the same calendar year for teams they invited. Our teams also participated and competed nationally.
The same happened in the Italian Serie A League, however the situation in the Italian league was more controversial as in the 1921-22 season, there were two different champions in Italy. Due to a split within the Italian Football Federation, a second organization hosted a league with teams that joined them and after this one-year separation, the Italian Football Federation even accepted the champion of this league created as an alternative against it as the Serie A champion. Although different teams competed in these leagues held in the same season, the Italian Football Federation even accepted the league competing against it.
It is still possible to give further examples on this subject from different nations of the world. In Argentina, to name one, football was played as the Apertura (Opening) - Clausura (Closing) leagues where one season could have two champions. The same team could even become league champion twice in the same year.
The winners of the Turkish Football Championship and National Division did not represent Turkey in the Champion Clubs' Cup (now the Champions League). Therefore, these cannot be considered national championships.
The champions of these two competitions did not participate in the Champion Clubs' Cup because the Champion Clubs' Cup had not yet started! The Champion Clubs' Cup was held by UEFA for the first time in the 1955-1956 season after UEFA was founded in 1954. The period we have discussed covers the years between 1924 and 1951. Therefore, it is unreasonable that national championships in the period before the establishment of UEFA and the start of the Champion Clubs' Cup were not counted for this reason alone.
No country in the world bases its census on the start date of international tournaments between clubs. If so, the number of championships in all European leagues would be counted from 1956!
If what you have said is true, the Turkish Cup should be counted as a Turkish Championship. That is also a national competition.
The Turkish Cup is a national competition, but is not considered a Turkish Championship for two reasons.
Firstly, when the first Turkish Cup was held in 1962, Turkish national league was already in existence. The Turkish Cup has never been the number one competition in the country and has always been played as a competition secondary to the Super League. The situation whereby the Turkish Football Championship and National Division were held at different times and that there was one national championship when they were played does not apply to Turkey Cup.
Secondly and more importantly, the Turkish Cup is a competition that was held to determine the country’s representative to the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, which existed at the time. While the Turkish championship (Turkish Football Championship and National Division) were started independently of and much earlier than the European cup competitions, the Turkish Cup was created solely to send a team to the Cup Winners' Cup.
In all of Europe, cup competitions of secondary importance which have a value below that of the nation’s championships are not counted as national championships in any country.
The Turkish Football Championship was not a league so cannot be counted among the national championships.
In order to qualify for the Turkish National Championship, a team had to first be the champion of the city league and then the regional league. After this, the season’s champion was determined with elimination matches held. In the post-1942 period, regional and city champions faced each other in a neutral-venue league with all matches held in the same city due to the limited logistical means of the period. The Turkish Football Championship thus played as a league in different stages.
The Federation Cup, of which Beşiktaş won in both outings of the competition, was a league played between teams after qualifying from a knockout elimination stage. For example, Fenerbahçe could not qualify for the league stage of the 1956-57 season as they were defeated in the second round. The two Federation Cup wins of Beşiktaş, which are considered towards their national championship count, were not played as a league as would be defined today as they included elimination elements, however, this did not prevent the first-placed team in the 1956-1957 and 1957-1958 seasons from being declared national championship.
In addition, the 1959 season of what is today’s Super League was played in the form of two separate groups, with the winners of the groups playing for the championship. The 1962-63 season was similarly played in two groups and then a final group. Likewise, the 2011-2012 Super League season was played in different formats, first as a league and then as a ‘super final’.
In the years when football was first being played nationally in other European countries, in particular in Italy, the teams of different regions also faced off in an elimination or playoff, however the absence of a league format posed no obstacle in terms of the fact that these championships are counted as being the national championship today.
The National Division and Turkish Football Championship did not take place in the professional era. Therefore, they cannot count towards the number of stars a club has for championships they have won.
Professionalism regulates the agreement between the player and the club, but this has nothing to do with whether a championship is national or not.
Football was played as an amateur sport in other parts of the world until the mid-1900s. As in our country, professionalism started in many countries after the establishment of the country’s football federation but the champions of the national championships played before this are still counted as the national championships of these countries.
For example, the Italian League started to be played in 1898 and gained professional league status many years after. According to the Italian Football Federation, the Genoa team has nine championships, but all nine championships of the team came from the amateur period. Genoa, which has nine championships in Italy, will be able to add a second star to its shirt if it wins the league once again. The list of champions of the Italian league can be found at this link:
Similarly, the football federation was founded in the Netherlands in 1899. The transition to professional football took place in 1954, but championships in the Dutch league have been counted from 1899 onwards. For example, while Ajax displays three stars on its shirt for its 33 championships - one star for every 10 championships - eight of these championships are from the amateur period.
If professionalism was a benchmark in counting national championships, pre-professional champions would not be counted in the Netherlands, Italy, France, and many other countries.
All of the leading countries of Europe and the World take into consideration the national championships held by the country football federation by respecting the history of the country, the teams, and the legendary football players of that period, and count them among the number of championships. The only important criterion is that these championships were held by the country’s football federation and the championships determined the country champions nationally and not regionally.
The National Division and Turkish Football championship, of which Fenerbahçe were crowned champions nine times, were organised by the national football federation of this country and the trophies were given by our national football federation. The fact that these champions were the Turkish champion is clearly stated on the website of the Turkish Football Federation.
The trophies of the nine national championships of Fenerbahçe from the pre-1959 era held by the national football federation are in the club museum while news and articles from that period with the headline ‘Champion of Turkey’ are in archives across the nation.
Of course, Fenerbahçe was not the only champion in the mentioned national football competitions. Not including these competitions in sporting records is a great injustice not only to the teams who won the National Division and Turkish National Championship but to the history of Turkish football, too.
Finally, let's not forget that what made the Baba Hakkıs, Süleyman Sebas, Cihat Armans, Fikret Kırcans, Lefter Küçükandonyadises, and Gündüz Kılıçs legends of our clubs and our country are the goals they scored and the trophies they lifted in these competitions.
Our own club legends mentioned in the anthem of Fenerbahçe - the Cihats, Lefters, and Fikrets - became so with their goals, their saves, and their cup wins in these competitions and thus became immortalised in our club song.
THE NUMBER OF TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS IN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP HELD BY THE FOOTBALL FEDERATION SINCE 1924:
BY ÇAĞRI ÇOBANOĞLU
- Fenerbahce - 28 (Turkish Football Championship - 1933, 1935, 1944; National Division - 1937, 1940, 1943, 1945, 1946, 1950; Super League - 1959, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1968, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1983, 1985, 1989, 1996, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2014)
- Galatasaray - 23 (National Division - 1939; Super League - 1962, 1963, 1969 1971, 1972, 1973, 1987, 1988, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2018, 2019)
- Beşiktaş - 20 (Turkish Football Championship - 1934, 1951; National Division - 1941, 1944, 1947; Federation Cup - 1957, 1958; Super League - 1960, 1966, 1967, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995, 2003, 2009, 2016, 2017)
- Trabzonspor - 6 (Super League - 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1984)
- Harbiye (Military Academy) - 3 (Turkish Football Championship - 1924, 1942, 1945)
- Gençlerbirliği - 2 (Turkish Football Championship - 1941, 1946)
- Bursaspor 1 (Super League - 2010)
- Göztepe - 1 (Turkish Football Championship - 1950)
- Ankaragücü - 1 (Turkish Football Championship - 1949)
- Ankara Demirspor - 1 (Turkish Football Championship - 1947)
- Eskişehir Demirspor - 1 (Turkish Football Championship - 1940)
- Güneş - 1 (National Division - 1938)
- İstanbulspor - 1 (Turkish Football Championship - 1932)
- Muhafızgücü - 1 (Turkish Football Championship - 1927)