With a capacity of 53,586, the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium will become the first Turkish arena to host a UEFA Cup final, with the final act of the 2008/09 competition set to unfold in Istanbul on 20 May 2009.
The home of 17-time Turkish league and four-time Turkish Cup winners Fenerbahçe SK, the stadium lies in the Kadikoy district of Istanbul at a location which has long been associated with football. The arena has been rebuilt stand by stand in recent years to bring the passionate Fenerbahçe fans even closer to the pitch, with UEFA awarding it the 2008/09 UEFA Cup final on 4 October 2006.
This season will mark the 100th year of football on the site of the stadium, with the first games being played at what was once called the Papazın Çayırı back in 1908. Union Club – later renamed İttihatspor – were the first host club at the site, though Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray AŞ and Beşiktaş JK were all to play games at the stadium in its early years.
İttihatspor ceased to exist in 1929 with the lease for the stadium passing directly to Fenerbahçe, who eventually bought the venue outright from the government for 9,000 TL in 1933. The following year saw Şükrü Saracoğlu take over as club president, a position he was to hold until 1950 – between 1942 and 1946 in tandem with his role as Turkey's sixth Prime Minister.
By 1949, the Fenerbahçe Stadium was the largest football ground in Turkey with a capacity of 25,000, but its development was far from complete, and it continued to be updated and adapted over the following decades prior to another surge of activity which commenced in 1999. These improvements were symbolised by a further change of name to the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium, in honour of the former president who died in 1953.
The rebuilt venue represents a new development for Turkish stadia. The first major stadium not to incorporate a running track, it also houses executive boxes and is ranked as one of only two five-star arenas in Turkey. With the stands just a few metres beyond the touchline, visitors can now feel the full force of home fans' passion from all sides.