Friday, September 09, 2016

Football Fans' Pre-Match Rituals

During the international football break I thought I would take the time out to do some research on the subject of football fans and their pre-match rituals.

Rituals of various kinds are a common feature of every known human society, past or present, and they may be performed on specific occasions by a single individual or by an entire community.

It is a well known fact that many football players have some unusual and often bizarre pre-match rituals.

In fact I wrote an article on the subject back in 2010.
Click on the link to read about 'The weird and wacky world of footballer's pre-match rituals' which includes entries about some of the biggest names in football, past and present, including: John Terry, Gary Lineker, Shay Given and Bobby Moore.

As for us fans of the game.........well we are not immune to some rather eccentric pre-match behaviour in an effort to bring our team good fortune. In fact almost two million adult football fans have pre-match rituals designed to bring their teams luck.

There are however, some generalised commonalities among the habits of most fans.

Many fans feel guilty if they don't carry out their ritual and their side goes on to lose the match.

Kissing the badge on the shirt, sitting in the same seat, or wearing your lucky pants are all classic examples of superstitious behaviour, that help football fans feel they've done a little to influence the outcome of the game.

Football is an unpredictable game, but performing a ritual or superstition can give supporters a feeling of control in what is essentially an uncontrollable situation.

Carrying out their ritual gives fans peace of mind or confidence that they are helping their team towards victory.

Across European countries and clubs there is a wide variety of rituals in which football fans engage, consciously or unconsciously, prior, during and after matches.

Once a match has kicked-off it is rife with ritualised behaviour, such as chanting and flag-waving, but the period immediately before and sometimes after the game – what we term 'playing football outside of the match' – also provide numerous examples of symbolic ways in which fans demonstrate their passion for the team.

Here are some of the most common pre-match rituals/superstitions performed by football fans across the globe:

a) Drinking in the same pub before a game.

b) Wearing lucky clothing, from scarves, shirts, hats to pants.
c) Eating a particular meal or visiting a lucky burger van.
d) Taking the same route to every game.
e) Watching the game from the same seat.
f) Placing a bet before kick-off.
g) Having sex before the game.
h) Using the same parking spot on match day.
i) Using a lucky toilet before the game starts.
j) Praying.
k) Watching the match with the same group of friends.
l) Kissing the badge on your shirt.
m) Listening to a particular piece of music before a game.

From John a Leeds fan:
"When Leeds were in the Champions League I spilt some spaghetti bolognese down my Leeds top during the first televised game, which we won. I did exactly the same for the second game and after that I didn't wash the top and deliberately spilt spaghetti on it every game. It nearly worked, we got to the semi-finals!"

From Dave an England fan:

"It is sod's law a team always scores when I go to the toilet. So if England are 1-0 ahead I stay right where I am. We could be the team that scores the second goal, making it 2-0, but I'm not willing to take the chance."

From Roddy an England fan:
"Praying to St.Jude often helps. The patron saint of desperate causes."

From Ian a Sunderland fan:
"If Sunderland are losing by one goal, I always take off my watch and put it into my pocket. When they equalise I put it back on. I have done this in nearly every game for about 10 years."

The title for the most superstitious football fans goes to the Spanish teams Barcelona and Real Madrid. Their fans don’t keep their superstitions to themselves but pass them onto family members. Tony, a F.C Barcelona fan currently residing in Tampa, Florida, requests his wife cook garlic-filled meals throughout game week. His entire family must sing the F.C Barcelona anthem at exactly midnight on the eve of game day, and just before he leaves for the game, he sleeps with his wife.

Some fans believe if they don’t show up to a game, their team will lose. This is the case with Real Madrid fanatic Diego. He confesses that he visits his grandmother on game day, asking her to pray over him as he wears his Real Madrid replica shirt. It’s not uncommon to see Real Madrid fans stop at local cathedrals in between bar-hopping for a moment of prayer.

Examples such as these further support the notion of the fan as being 'the twelfth man' – as an entity whose presence and actions off the field can help alter the course of events on it.

For newcomers, the frenzy-like culture of football initially may seem chaotic, irrational and overwhelming. The many rituals and traditions of football fans cannot be easily summarized. However, catching onto the wave is easier than you may think.

Here’s your newcomers starter kit.

The Ten Commandments of Football:

1. Thou shall not support another team. Choose one team and stick with them till the end.
2. Thou shall wear the proper regalia. A replica is a good start, but you could at least paint one side of your face.
3. Thou shall disrespect thy neighbor’s team. You must make your neighbor feel as uncomfortable and unwelcome as legally possible.
4. Thou shall respect thy neighbor’s bounds. Know your territory. If you’re the only one wearing blue in a sea of red, don’t choose that moment to announce your pride. This advice is not to hurt your ego, but to enhance your physical well being.
5. Thou shall rally. It’s imperative to congregate wherever you can. Rally on the train, in the pub, in the town square, in the ally, at the game and after the game.
6. Thou shall expect your team to win. Bad jujube starts in your mind. You must believe your team will win and expect your opponents to be utterly destroyed.
7. Thou shall sing at all times, pausing only to drink.
8. Thou shall freak out for every goal your team makes.
9. Thou shall begin a tradition. Take a drink for every corner kick, eat a meat pie at half time, or sleep with your significant other before the game.
10. Thou shall sober up in the morning, go back to work and become an integral part of society.

It shall surely come to pass, if you obey the commandments that I have given you this day, you will immediately feel a sense of belonging and an overwhelming desire to countdown to the next game. You will receive the promise of triumph. Welcome to the feeling of victory. Welcome to the religion of football.

Whilst coming to the end of this piece I remembered an article I read in 2009 about Matt 'Shaggy'
 Lawrence, a professional footballer with Crystal Palace at the time. To those people who think as fans that they have a very obsessive pre-match ritual, or to their long suffering spouses who think their fanatical partners are 'barking mad' when it comes to their superstitious behaviour come matchday, then when it comes to how a modern day football player prepares for a match..........Matt is in a league of his own!

I cannot divulge any further details, but if you ever bump into the former Wycombe, Fulham, Millwall, Crystal Palace and Gillingham defender (above), make sure you ask him about how this modern day football player prepared for a match!

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