Why Does Turkey Play In Europe? (Explained)

Turkey is a transcontinental nation, hence it shares territory with both Asia and Europe. The majority of the nation is situated in Western Asia on the Anatolian Peninsula, with a tiny fraction in Southeast Europe on the Balkan Peninsula.

This geographical arrangement raises a plethora of questions regarding the Turkey Football Federations’ allegiance to UEFA and the AFC. You may wonder why Turkey plays in Europe (UEFA) when it has higher chances of qualifying the World Cups with AFC.

Here’s what you need to know about why Turkey plays football in Europe.

Why does Turkey play in Europe?

Turkey is recognised as a member state of the European Union despite having a significant portion of its territory in Asia. Moreover, they are acknowledged as a UEFA member since 1962.

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#1 Geographical distribution and history

Turkey only has a small amount of its territory in Europe. However, under the Ottoman Empire, it ruled over a sizable area of the continent. Hence, Europe has a huge role in Turkey’s history.

For many centuries, Turkey’s mainland was made up of Anatolia and the Balkans, and modern Turks share more cultural traits with the Balkans than with Asia.

Anatolia, despite technically being in Asia, was and continues to be a part of the European social sphere, especially in light of the fact that Turks overthrew the Romans in Eurasia. Naturally, they are as enamored with football as the European nations are due to its cultural ties.

A modern, secular republic was established in Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the country’s new leader, after the fall of the Ottoman empire. Turkey replaced the Arabic writing system for the Turkish language with a Latin script and allied with the west politically and economically.

Turkish football fans are on par with those in Europe in terms of their passion for the game. The most popular sport in Turkey is football, which contrasts with Asian culture since it is not nearly as popular as it is in Europe and South America.

#2 Competition and exposure

It is a well-established fact that Europe significantly dominates Asia in football. When it comes to qualifying and winning the FIFA World Cup, European countries have always emerged with greater statistics in both men’s as well as women’s football. 

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Source: MARCA

In terms of football, Turkey is more organised and advanced, and the level of play is far higher than in other Middle Eastern Asian nations like Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Turkey has been playing professional football for almost as long as Europe and it receives a perfect spot from UEFA as a result of its football achievements.

In the 1999–2000 football season, Galatasaray, the most popular team in Turkey, won the Super Cup by defeating Real Madrid (the champions of the European Champions League) and Arsenal in the UEFA Cup finals. Also, they managed to reach the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League five times over the years and semi-finals once in 1989. Clear evidence of the quality of football Turkey produces.

The country’s football develops far faster and better than it would if it were competing in Asia because playing in Europe drives the nation to constantly keep developing due to the fierce competition. Additionally, the clubs are also important; it’s not just about the national team. The UEFA Champions League is unquestionably more prestigious than the AFC Champions League, hence clubs from those nations would always opt to be a part of UEFA.

If Turkey played in the AFC, competent foreign players would not come to Turkish leagues and as a result, would also weaken the nation’s capability in the sport.

#3 Perks of being a part of the European Union

There are certain perks of being in the European Union, like tax benefits when it comes to transfers and club-related purchases, and lesser procedures for signing a player. Additionally, UEFA devotes a lot of resources and attention to its security strategy in order to make stadiums and games safer and more welcoming for both players and spectators.

You can find out how UEFA differs from FIFA here.

European football has invested in training, science and technology in a far greater way than that in Asia. The use of data and medical science in European football is significantly more sophisticated compared to that of Asia, giving Turkey more of a reason to stick its roots to European football.

In fact, the Asia Cup is less lucrative in terms of prize money and television rights than Euro Cup or other European leagues. Basically, Europe has a lot more to offer than Asia in terms of the growth and development of the sport.

European clubs attract players and revenue both locally and abroad. For instance, how many supporters will an Asian team have in South America or Africa? Next to none! 

On the other hand, European clubs have the largest fan bases anywhere in the globe. Even Ajax has a sizable fan base outside of Europe.


All the cultural and economical factors as well as the people’s love for football lay compelling evidence to why Turkey plays football in Europe. Participation in Europe increases Turkey’s potential to advance and achieve greater heights in the game. 

Even though the majority of the nation is geographically in Asia, they have not forgotten their European heritage and sometimes locals’ attire in Turkey reflects the fact that football is a cultural component of people’s life.

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