People around the world are choosing to be part of something big. The need for emotion, passion and belonging predominates in the stadiums of this world. Sport in all its facets reaches an audience of millions. Especially in the context of major events, such as the Football World Cup, the Olympic Games or European Championships it becomes clear.
One of the best examples of this attraction that sport can bring to life is the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final between Argentina and World Champion of the tournament Germany. With more than a billion viewers, according to FIFA, the event has reached an audience not just in Europe, but across the globe. But what makes the fan culture so special?
It unites, it splits and it provokes: fan culture is a battle concept, argument and also the labour of heart. Every club fan understands something else. Everyone can interpret what they want. Fan culture has many facets. She is loud, creative and sometimes bizarre. Rituals are a natural part of this: the journey to the game, the chants in the stadium, choreographies, pyrotechnics, drums, fence flags and a certain attitude.
There are those who are thrilled to find a club great because their players win one trophy after the other. From the true followers in the curve – the flag swivels, the season ticket holders – these Fans are not taken for full. Anyone who has not ever cried for a club, who has not suffered, is not a true fan. Fan culture is a broad and elastic concept: some fans understand the term primarily as a shared experience on the day of the match. A beer, a hot dog, a chat and points – a match becomes a social event.
Sport means emotions and passion. This is the basis for lively fan culture and tense atmospheres in the fan buffs and in the grandstands of the stadiums. This indispensable part of the production on the side-line contributes significantly to the marketing of the club. Not a tactically minded move, not the praised stars in the field attract an audience of millions, but the discharge of emotions of the club fans. Often enough, clubs put this passion to the test with their athletic ups and downs. And yet, just when it comes to the existence of clubs, fans show eternal loyalty and solidarity for the club colours.
The fans are the main characters of a club
Fabian S. Fan of the TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
But it’s not just the big sports events that captivate adults, teenagers and children alike. In the Bundesliga alone, millions of fans watch over television as clubs compete against each other in the stadium. Some of the spectators even find their way to the stadium or to a pub where the games are broadcast live.
If you ask yourself why sport can exert this attraction on individuals, very different answers emerge. One of the reasons related to football is first and foremost membership of a club and a group. For many viewers, their own club has become their life’s content and is accordingly supported by ticket and merchandise sales. Even away games and training visits are becoming increasingly popular.
Germany is a football nation – season after season, millions of football fans either feverishly in front of the TV or even live in the football stadiums with their favourite club. They are shaking for decisive goals, well-deserved victories and finally the championship cup. Victory and defeat are often close together. Likewise, each transfer window for every fan is a real trembling for the whereabouts of the most popular players at the favourite club.
The fan behaviour of football fans is very contrary – passion and hostility sometimes go hand in hand. No matter if it hits a single player or an entire club: in a difficult time, often after a bad run, a player or club can quickly feel the anger of the fans. It looks different on a winning streak. A success is celebrated together and especially in crucial games, the relief is big when the referee makes the final whistle after the 90 minutes of regular time.
Bitter tears are cried and some historical victory remains with the date in the head of the fan. Football is and remains the most popular sport in Germany. Almost all people in Germany know the sport of football and even more than a third of the population said that they are particularly interested in the sport. Football has become the sport that gives us worldwide recognition. It is therefore natural for individuals to join a club to emotionally participate in the successes as well as the failures.
Already at a young age many, mainly boys, join a football club. According to Statista.com, this is 27% of 10 to 14-year-olds and 19% even under the 10 years old. Mostly at this age their own interest in a particular club grows. Either because of the regional closeness and connectedness or because of the influence of the environment likes friends and family. The fan passion goes from season ticket sales, over the personalised jersey – which is befitting each year newly acquired – up to the obligatory bedding in the club colours.
There is no limit to the fan’s loyalty to a club: financially, materially and emotionally. The 17-year-old Fabian S. from Sinsheim makes this clear: “I’m still in training and get my first real salary. I mostly invest it completely in the tickets and the merchandising articles of the club. At the end of the month, there is usually not much left.”
Fabian S. remains loyal to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, even though they sometimes make unreasonable decisions: “I used to get upset for days on a transfer of a player because I thought these players are the most important thing about the club. Today I think that the club itself and the fans are the main characters of a club. Without us, it would be only half as nice to come to the stadium and watch a game. Clubs and their managers should not forget this.”
In no other country, there are so many members who belong to a club like in the first Bundesliga in Germany. The reasons for a club membership can be quite different. However, for most, emotional affiliation is a crucial and important factor. It is certain that the football fans in Germany are something very special.