Story of Our Foundation

Story of Our Foundation

Galatasaray Spor Kulübü is a pioneer club in Turkish sports history and this characteristic is, without a doubt, comes from the legacy of Galatasaray High School (Mektebi Sultani) which is a pioneer institution that gave birth to our club. The unbreakable bond between the club and the high school is an undeniable reality and a source of pride.

The school was first founded by Bayezid II in 1481 to educate future statesmen and takes its name from the district it is founded: “Galata Sarayı” (Galata Palace). The school got to its current location on September 1 1868 and it was renovated by Sultan Abdülaziz. With the completion of reconstruction and reorganization, first sporting activities in Turkey started within the school. Gymnast Monsieur Curel added Physical Education class to the syllabus and initiated the activities through education.

These steps were truly revolutionary for the country: Curel trained the students with modern tools and organized a Training Festival in Kağıthane in 1870. In this event, different athletes with different accomplishments received medals and prizes and students were offered cooked rice (pilaf) with mutton after the contests. This, later, turned into a tradition of its own that brings alumni and students of the school together every year.

Foreign sports teachers that come to school after Curel (such as M. Moiroux, Signor Martinetti, Stangali) introduced different branches of sports, such as swimming, rowing, apparatus gymnastics, besides gymnastics and track and field. This was also a first in the country. These works gave its first results relatively fast and people like Faik Üstünidman, Major Mazhar Kazancı, Abdurrahman and Ahmet Robenson Brothers, whose names are engraved in Turkish sports history today, worked in the high school and introduced tennis, scouting and hockey to students. Especially with Üstünidman’s leadership, students started to play football for the first time.

Despite first display of football being nothing but a disorganized, fully chaotic hustle of many students in one field, the game was now inside the historic Ceremonial Gate of the school and the love of football spread like an epidemic.

Two Englishmen living in İstanbul, James Lafontaine and Horace Armitage founded Kadıköy Football Club on 1901 but on 1903 because of a dispute between English players on the team, Kadıköy FC divided and gave birth to another club: Moda Club. On 1904, these clubs came together with other teams like Imogen, Elpis, Strugglers and founded İstanbul Football Union. They were playing regular games in “Union Club-İttihat Spor” field in İstanbul where Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium is on today.

As it can be inferred, all these teams were non-Turkish or founded by minorities in İstanbul. Galatasaray High School students were interested and saddened by the games played between these non-Turkish teams. Now, their goal was to found their own clubs like English, learn the rules of this game end to end and compete with non-Turkish teams.

Beating non-Turkish teams

The founder of Galatasaray Spor Kulübü, Ali Sami Yen tells the story of the club’s formation with these words in his book “Ellinci Yıl”:

“We determined to found a football club in Galatasaray on 1 Teşrin 1905 according to Julian calendar during the literature class of our deceased tutor Mehmet Ata Bey. We were a few like-minded friends. First friends who were enthusiastic to play and compete were Asım Tevfik Sonumut, Reşat Şirvani, Cevdet Kalpakçıoğlu, Abidin Daver, Kamil… Our Bulgarian and Serbian schoolmates also joined us. Asım was the accountant, Cevdet was the vice chairman and I was the chairman. Asım was the accountant because he was good at collecting a penny for the club every week from the members. I was the chairman because I knew how to oil and inflate the ball. I was caring for the ball as it was my own blood. After all, all we had was a ball. I bought lard every morning on my road to the school. I would oil and inflate the ball with it. I made a patch to the ball by cutting a piece from my new shoe. The friends who saw what I did showed deference to me more than anyone else in the club. At that time, for being chairman or being elected to any other duty, you needed to gather deference by being the most hardworking person in the room. Similarly, Cevdet was the vice chairman because he was washing our jerseys.”

“Our goal is to play in a collective way like English, to signify a certain color and a name and to beat non-Turkish teams.”

Although there were ideas to name the club as Gloria or Audace, finally the name was decided to be Galatasaray. According to researcher Cem Atabeyoğlu, the name Galatasaray was derived from the fans saying “These are the gentlemen of Galata Palace” while the team beat a Greek squad 2-0 in their first game ever. Founders adopted this name and preferred club’s name to be Galatasaray which translates to Galata Palace in English.

Founders List

Ali Sami Yen listed thirteen founding members of Galatasaray Spor Kulübü on pages 181 and 182 of  Galatasaray Inventory Book as the club’s first chairman from 1905 to 1919.

According to his almost calligraphic writing, here are the “founding fathers” of Galatasaray:

1-Ali Sami Yen

2-Asım Sonumut

3-Emin Bülend Serdaroğlu

4-Celal İbrahim

5-B. Nikolof

6-Milo Bakiş

7-Pol Bakiş

8-Bekir Sıtkı Bircan

9-Tahsin Nahit

10-Reşat Şirvanizade

11-Hüseyin Hüsnü

12-Refik Cevdet Kalpakçıoğlu

13-Abidin Daver

Since there was not an associations law in 1905 in Ottoman Empire, it was not possible for Galatasaray Spor Kulübü to be legally and officially registered. On 1912, after the enaction of Associations Law in the empire, the club finally had a legal identity. Some names from the first members list was taken out because there was a legal obligation for members to notify their names and their addresses themselves and members who resigned or were back in their country after completing their education, were legally ineligible to be listed. As a result, the founders list of the club was rearranged on 1 September 1913. And this was the final and official result:

1-Ali Sami Yen

2-Asım Sonumut

3-Emin Bülend Serdaroğlu

4-Celal İbrahim

5-Bekir Sıtkı Bircan

6-Reşat Şirvanizade

7-Refik Cevdet Kalpakçıoğlu

8-Abidin Daver.

According to our terms of reference, here are the founders of Galatasaray Spor Kulübü in its full list:



The club was founded by Ali Sami Yen and his friends whose names were written below: (Date of Initiation)

1) Ali Sami Yen 01.10.1321 (1905)

2) Asım Tevfik Sonumut 01.10.1321 (1905)

3) Emin Bülent 01.10.1321 (1905)

4) Celal İbrahim 01.10.1321 (1905)

5) Bekir Sıtkı Bircan 01.10.1321 (1905)

6) Reşat Şirvanzade 01.09.1322 (1906)

7) Refik Cevdet Kalpakçıoğlu 01.09.1322 (1906)

8) Abidin Daver 01.09.1322 (1906)

9) Ahmet Robenson 01.09.1322 (1906)

10) Ahmet Adnan Pirioğlu 1323 (1907)

11) Neş'et 01.10.1324 (1908)

12) Ruşen Eşref Ünaydın 01.10.1324 (1908)

13) Yusuf Celal 01.10.1324 (1908)

14) Hasnun Galip 01.10.1324 (1908)

15) Hüseyin Zihni Eden 01.09.1325 (1909)

16) Mehmet Rıza Kara 01.09.1325 (1909)

Boris Nikolof (*) 01.10.1321 (1905)

Milo Bakiç (*) 01.10.1321 (1905)

Paul Bakiç (*) 01.10.1321 (1905)

Tahsin Nihat (*) 01.10.1321 (1905)

Hüseyin Hüsnü (*) 01.10.1321 (1905)

(*) These persons were not given member numbers because they resigned from membership before the official registration of the club on 14 August 1913.

The club was officially registered by these officials who were on duty on 14 August 1913.

* Chairman; Ali Sami Yen (Member No. 1)

* Vice Chairman; Mehmet Rıza Kara (Member No. 16)

* Secretary; Refik Cevdet Kalpakçıoğlu (Member No. 7)


The founder of our club Ali Sami Yen tells about the essence of being a member Galatasaray community with an anecdote from our No. 2 member Emin Bülent Serdaroğlu.

“The first person I told about founding our club was my close friend Emin Bülent. He was an alumni, because of that we only could see each other in the off-days of the school.

We did our work with Asım Tevfik in the school, we expanded the group and finished the foundation of our club which was a laborious task in those days.

Since Asım Tevfik worked with us closely during the process of realizing our dreams, we registered him as the No. 2 member and Emin Bülent as the No. 3 member.

Years passed by. The disputes and struggles within the club distressed Emin a lot to the point that he started to hate sports and sportspeople. I think, we were still friends only because of our personal bond at that time. His membership of Galatasaray felt like it was erased from him.

Again, years passed by. It was a sad day that I will remember until the end of my days. Emin Bülent was in his final hours in his house in Göztepe. His dear wife welcomed me saying that he was truly bad this time and told me to brace myself so that he would not read anything from my face.

Emin Bülent was battered and bruised because of his months-long fight against death with both his soul and once really strong and agile body. He called me over to this side with a hand gesture and said:

“Ali Sami… I am going to reveal a feeling I hid for all these years to you: You were unfair to me all this time, I am the No. 2 member of Galatasaray.”

His eyes shined for one last time and continued talking:

“Tell all the friends, if I am not given the credit that I deserve, all of you are going to be indebted to my soul forever.”

Emin was making the final big move of his life. His head fell down to the side, his hands fell on the quilt, empty and powerless.

I was shocked. Was that the same guy who would not even talk about his own club?

I talked to Asım to realize Emin’s dying wish. He also really liked Emin. The club’s problems made us bond like three musketeers. He was ready to give his own life to spare Emin from death but he could not agree to give his place in our club, he could not force himself to it. However, Galatasaray General Assembly welcomed the commitment of its two members with jubilation and acknowledged the claims of both of them. The rightful and beautiful conclusion was this:

Both Emin and Asım would be Galatasaray’s No. 2 member and there would not be any No. 3. But the reality was different: The gap that Emin’s noble soul left behind was filled by not one person or member, all Galatasaray members replaced it with their emotions.”