Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Playing by the Book(s) The Unwritten Rules of Football in Turkey

Yagmur Nuhrat


This article investigates the tensions between official rules of Fair Play in football (soccer) and onthe-
ground formations of the notion of fairness in Turkish football. I contend that while fair play
guidelines prescribe universalists standards of ethical behavior for all football actors, there are
multiple instances in mundane football events which result in players’, fans’ or other
commentators’ variant appreciations of the ethical. Specific contingencies give birth to alternative
formations of fairness leading us to consider how ethics might be a matter of constant negotiation
rather than of preset verdicts. Using legal anthropology’s insights on legal pluralism and sports
philosophy’s discussion of conventionalism, I focus on specific footballing instances in Turkish
football and offer various social rationales in regard to how multiple ethical verdicts might be
reached. In this discussion, I include how some footballing conventions in Turkey come into
conversation with the written rules of football and set guidelines of fair play to show that people
draw on different sets of rules (written and unwritten) in their deliberation of fair action, fair play
awards and ethics. This article is the result of a year’s fieldwork in Istanbul beginning September
2010 towards a doctoral dissertation in anthropology on fair play and fairness in football in Turkey.

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