Up on the apartment building’s eight-floor roof, the acrid smell of tear gas is beginning to waft—not enough to incapacitate a person’s respiratory functions, but just enough to add some spice to the proceedings. “Police shoot tear gas here for fun,” a boy of about 15 says nonchalantly from his delicate perch on a water tower.
About 60 feet below, the day’s main event is underway on an overcast February morning. The local side, Cizrespor, from Turkey’s southeastern Kurdish region, is taking on second-division Giresunspor, from the Black Sea region, in a critical Turkish Cup soccer match at the club’s ground on the banks of the Tigris River.
Cizrespor, which plays in the fifth tier of Turkey’s soccer system, has already exceeded all expectations by making it to the group stage of the Turkish Cup. Few expected the team to score a goal, let alone qualify for the final group of 16, but anticipation is building over the prospect that a victory over Giresunspor could propel Cizrespor into the next round and set up an epic tie with Galatasaray, an Istanbul-based team that commands a national following bordering on the religious.