We all dream of being amongst those fans. The ones who sacrifice anything and everything to follow their team. The ones who stop at nothing to let others know who they back. The 'die-hards' so to speak. Or do we?
Although die-hard might invoke some feelings of extremity, most of us who follow our respective teams would probably claim to be die-hard, if not, dedicated followers at the least!
A terrace packed with passionate fans; all urging their team on, donning the appropriate regalia is what you expect to see at a footy game. To the viewer it seems a voluntary, self motivated act of 'simply supporting' by each individual member of the crowd. That it might be. But what effect do images transmitted globally from these games have on kids and impressionable watchers around the world?
Footage from Football games portray supporters as an homogeneous group of people, who not only support the same team, wear the same clothes, sing the same songs but also react in the same ways to fouls, goals, misplaced passes etc. etc. Now I am well aware of the fact that these are all givens at any sporting event really, but my argument seeks to go past the banal and hopefully allow open debate on the matter that follows.
How any one person interprets visuals is obviously highly subjective and dependent on many factors other than what is actually being observed. Seeing and personally hearing fans celebrating a goal is one of my favourite things in life. I still, now, get 'gooseflesh' whenever I relive or re-watch goals from matches bygone. Yet in as much as viewers around the globe might share my experience of this, they too might be unconsciously experiencing that inevitable feeling of connectedness to those who were actually present. It is in our shared experiences that we come to think of ourselves as similar.
By virtue of that fact people from around the globe come to think of themselves as belonging to a community of supporters, who all think alike, act alike and feel alike in relation to the team they support. It is this sense of belonging or wanting to belong that makes it possible for those who consider themselves to be the ideal supporter to draw up an idealised list of characteristic traits that then impose themselves on those who thereafter wish to be thought of as real supporters. A criterion of sorts...
This article is speaking out against those who attempt to define what it is to be a 'real fan'. As if anything they have done makes them any more authentic than someone else who follows the same team. I though believe that it should be every fans aim to be well-informed make it a priority to not be misguided by any or every bit of information published or broadcast.
So to complete the analogy: it will be through each one's own actions that he will be liberated from the stereotypes that define football supporters of any one particular club. Save the fans from mindless subscription to ideas of what it is to follow a football team!
By doing this we define ourselves as fans and move away from the probability of just being a statistic. A Look-Alike. The Radicals will more than likely disagree with what it is I am trying to say but I urge fans to not just follow for the sake of being a part of the imagined whole.
I'd like to thank, Jamie Ward for inspiring me to write this article.