What Are Your Football Rituals?

Last week EPL Talk asked the question, “Who Do You Watch Football With?” – and for the most part, got the variety of answers we were hoping for. It seems everyone from the “all alone football fan”, to the brave pub goers, to a few lucky ones who live with in walking distance of their beloved were all accounted for. One EPL Talk reader shared a fantastic and touching story of his time watching the beautiful game while serving in Iraq.

As we continue to bring you news and analysis of all things Premier League and England National team related, we also strive to take an in depth, fun and even humorous look at football culture in the UK, North America and any other country where EPL Talk readers reside. The EPL Talk community continues to thrive with healthy debate, lively chatter and witty comments. To all the readers of EPL Talk, thanks for your continued support and feedback.

For our next delve into football fan culture, we take a quick look at our superstitious friends and the ever important football ritual. In this post, I’ll attempt to outline some rituals that are common among American sports fans. As always, we look forward to your feedback as our little football community continues to grow in 2010.

  • Preparation

Almost important as who you watch football with is how you watch football and more specifically, how you prepare for match day. In America, we don’t always have time to prepare for a big match because of the time difference of UK kickoffs (the mid week Premier League or Champions League matches are usually smack in the middle of our 9 to 5’s). On the weekends, important preparation may be something as simple as your routine coffee, breakfast or even an hour or two in the gym that gets you ready for a match.

I myself like to get up way too early on a Saturday and watch the Premier League Preview show, read Randy Capps’ Premier League Preview and listen to any one of my six or seven favorite Premier League related podcasts. After my in depth preparation, I’ll know any side stories the British media are reporting on, which teams are playing and where, and be able to refresh my mind on the current league table. For me, this ritualistic preparation is almost important as the match itself.

In England and other parts of the UK, how do you prepare for a Cup final, local derby, or even a normal Premier League weekend?

  • Anticipation

You’ve got all the up to date news, stories, fixtures and even team sheets. In anticipation of your club and a full match day, it’s likely you’ve donned your lucky scarf, replica kit, or whatever piece of clothing or garb you’re comfortable in for the day. Without these simple memento’s of cloth and stitch, you’re viewing experience isn’t quite the same. I never wear my replica kits on match day, it’s almost like a reverse superstition of sorts. A football supporter has to be comfortable physically and mentally to be able to fully devote themselves to the full 90 minutes. Total concentration, and at times I’ll even believe I can effect the outcome of the match in my teams favor if I’m focused enough.

Most athletes listen to a particular piece of music in preparation and anticipation of a mach. Supporters are no different. It may be heavy metal or hard rock to get you pumped up or these match day tunes could just be your favorite band or something relaxing to calm your nerves (a little Radiohead or Arctic Monkeys never hurt anyone on match day). Music on match day has always been a great way to curb anxiety while awaiting kick off. If you’ve had success with a particular song or band and have implemented those sounds into your match day rituals, it’s likely you know a little about,…

  • Superstition

Massively analyzed, talked about and obsessed over in the States, the superstitious sports fan is almost as common as the replica kit and pre or post match pint (or both, depending on how thirsty you are). Got a lucky pair of socks that seem to bring your team 3 points when worn? Maybe it’s the same side seat on the couch as last week’s 2-0 win over your fiercest rival.

Regardless of how mundane it seems to the outsider, these mindless rituals we obsess over when conducted the right way can ease our mind and even empower your team’s central striker to a stoppage time winner (at least that’s what we tell ourselves). I’ve heard some incredibly odd superstitious rituals growing up stateside, everything from teeth brushing antics between innings in baseball to facial hair growth towards the end of a season to getting dressed the exact same way on game day. I’m sure there’s more oddities out there and I look forward to reading them in the comments below.

The game of football effects all of us in different ways. Whether we obsess over our preparation, anticipation or even silly superstitious rituals, we all share a similar passion. Sometimes I take a step back from all the madness and almost think my obsession isn’t much more than the simplistic chasing of a small round ball around a strip of grass by overpaid millionaires.

But of course it’s much more than that. Football is largely bigger than the 90 minutes of running, sweating or kicking. It’s the culture that surrounds the game that really draws me into it’s allure. It’s how I view the game, how I prepare for it, the songs, the chants, the talk, the debate, the off-the-field stories and so much more. It’s the whole package. Think of it as the old adage, the sum is greater than the parts. When we truly look at the surrounding variables of football, then, and only then will we start to realize it’s true power and ability to entertain, captivate and enrapture our senses.

Photo Credit: Coachie Ballgames

28 thoughts on “What Are Your Football Rituals?”

  1. Not particularly superstitious and as the matches are usually on at 7AM PST, my “rituals” consist of dragging my ass out of bed, showering, picking up donuts or bagels and heading off to Maggie McGarry’s Irish Pub to watch with the Bay Area Gooners AKA the San Francisco Branch of Arsenal America.

    If it’s a home match, I usually wear the home kit. Away match, away kit. Other times, it’s my Bay Area Gooners t-shirt or some other Arsenal t-shirt.

    I get to the pub early enough to hang our BAG banner, set out the mailing list sign-up book, put out the donuts or bagels and get a cup of tea before kick-off. I guess that does qualify as a ritual of sorts.

    1. I so know how you feel, nothing like getting up for a match as the sun is coming up. I think getting out of bed for the matches are a feat itself.

  2. I’ve now relagated my Friday nights to staying in, making fantasy league transfers, catching up on the latest lineup news, shopping for my weekend brew, and going to bed early so I am ready for the 7am kickoff (near Chicago). Then workout on Saturday morning so I am done with it and I can enjoy 6 straight hours of football and drinking…best part is it all wraps up at around 1pm, I can grab a nap, and I can still go out on Saturday night (but not too late…have to be ready for the early game’s Sunday morning kickoff).

    Every year we travel to San Diego for Spring Break, which means heading to the Shakespeare Pub to watch Champions League matches on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Great atmosphere!

    1. masterblaster,

      It sounds as if you’ve got your priorities straight when you mention going to bed early as a form of preparation for a Saturday. It’s uncanny how much you and I think alike. I too, also see a successful weekend after only 4 matches back to back,.etc. Then Pub. – and we can only manage this turbulent lifestyle with a few weekly visits to the gym, good looking out.

  3. For me, having 5 kids, 2 dogs (one handsome lab named Rooney), 1 cat (I really think he’s a Chelsea fan, boo.), I usually record the matches I have to see and watch them later in the evening. Then I can relax with an import without all of the distractions. This also involves avoiding all ESPN channels and sports related apps on my iPhone so as not to see the final score. For me, watching a match is immensely relaxing especially without distractions. Nice article Jes, looking forward to the comments….

    1. I’ve often said that technology kills the DVR football fan. It’s bitter-sweet and a little ironic that we’re able to record multiple matches on our widescreen HD TV’s, only to have to spend a day avoiding other forms of tech such as computers, iPhone Apps, PUSH notifications and that damn bottom line ticker on ESPN, which has been showing EPL and other Euro league scores for some time.

      Good luck and enjoy your import

  4. If the game is a good old 3pm kick off on a Saturday, then I will normally head into the beautiful city of Newcastle for about 1. Go to the usual pub, have a few quick drinks, see the lads. Finish the drinks leave for the stadium at about 2.45, get to my seat at around about 2.55. Stand up all game, scream shout sing. Its a must.

    I’m lucky to live 10 minutes away from S.T James Park.

  5. I don’t have a ritual, but I do have a “lucky” jersey experience that was rather fun.

    My wife and I were in France last May visiting her family, and as the date of the FA Cup Final approached I decided to check out a sports store in town to see if maybe I might be able to get my hands on a new Chelsea jersey. They had a decent selection and I decided to go with the strange yellow away kit that they would be wearing that weekend, it seemed like a fitting choice at the time and despite my slight aversion to the color it actually doesn’t look all that bad.

    The selection of names (with official letters and numbers) was relatively small though and I ended up going with Drogba, I had wanted to wait to get his jersey in the colors of the home kit but I’ve never been the patient sort. Needless to say it all ended up going rather well, since it was Drogba that brought Chelsea back into the game when Everton took that shockingly early lead.

    So for the remainder of the season the Drogba Weird Yellow Kit ended up being my “lucky” jersey, at least until this season when I bought a John Terry jersey and ended up watching him score a winning goal the following weekend. Now it would appear that I have two…

  6. I don’t have a fixed ritual for weekend matches per se, although I do have a superstition about not wearing the shirt of any player that is not in the line-up that day. During Champions League and other mid-week cup matches, if Man United is playing, I don’t go to work without my United tie and/or cufflinks…which usually evokes the same query about what the crest on my cufflinks represents…

  7. I always where a Man Utd T-shirt to work the Friday before we play so my coworkers see them quite often. Saturday morning it’s up early fix a cuppa, put on my jersey and wake the lads. We all have our favourite seats which never vary. At half-time we set the timer for 15 minutes and turn off all electronics just to be safe. Two more matches, if I’m lucky, and then off to the shops with the wife. A little give and take always helps. My wife thinks I’m mad when I where my scarf during the games as we live in Florida….

    1. man99utd,

      Thanks for the feedback,

      Interested to hear why you “turn off all electronics just to be safe” during halftime. This sounds like an interesting but not understood superstition.

      1. Jesse,

        Not a superstition, more a ritual. That way there’s no possible way of hearing or seeing any of the scores of the delayed matches…


  8. i always drink from my lucky man united pint glasses on match days. i always wear my lucky jersey with ‘red devils 81’ on the back. i always have my ‘believe’ scarf nearby. always have the wife fix me a full english prior to kick off, and always lots and lots of homebrewed english bitter. yum!!

  9. Well…..Not sure I follow what all the excited chatter is about or even understand most of the Bitters and Pints and Lineups and Kits? But I will have to say” Thats My Boy !!! Something for me to ponder? Great article.. And I do understand one thing…”MAN UTD” rules.

  10. Always buy ‘The Oatcake’ ona Friday. Listen to the Friday night Football Phone in on BBC Radio Stoke from 6pm-7pm. On a Saturday if we’re on a streak I’ll try to wear the same socks and boxers, shave or not shave depending on how much facial hair I had when it started. I’ve not had my hair cut for a while before now fearing that it would lead to us losing. At the match I usually walk down to the concourse in the lower tier on the 85th minute and go for a piss, aiming for this betfair ad that they stuck on the trough ages ago. My theory is it’ll help us score and it’s worth missing the goal if it does! Apart from that I’m a relatively rational human being.

  11. My routine is pretty basic, roll over, turn on the TV, flick channels until Tommy Smyth stops talking, watch while laying down until the first moment of controversy, and then I grab my laptop and watch the game while talking to people online about the game (usually UnprofessionalFoul.com) Then, because Arsenal’s usually the 10AM game, I put on my Arsenal shirt and scarf and watch the game. If we win, I’m fine and I go about my day. If we lose and/or something controversial happens, I obsessively read articles about the game for like 90 min…..then I nap lol

  12. since I am somewhat of a night owl, I am running on 3-4 hours sleep half the time if I want to watch the early Saturday game on ESPN2 so I begin the day by getting lots of caffeine in my system, then sit down to watch the game. After that one I will usualy get a bite to eat, brush my teeth, and/or run to the bank if I need to, then watch the 10AM game(s).

  13. Wow that last paragraph was honestly so amazingly well said. It’s the whole culture around the game that draws me into it, It’s impossible to understand why we are so obsessive unless you can actually experience it but you hit it on the head.

  14. drank a newcastle(my favorite beer) one day while watching spurs lose to newcastle.
    never again. starting midnight UK time prior to a match i wont touch one.

  15. Read as many news items, previews, blogs as possible, then trudge off to the tv. If the game is boring, then I’ll just keep reading on my laptop in front of the tv. Regularly checking Soccernet’s Livescores section (best on the net in my opinion) is a must, however. With games always being between 12am and 8am in Australia, I always make sure to save some icecream or cold watermelon (yes, watermelon) to keep awake.

    1. I too love trolling Soccernet on match days…have you tried out the new Live Premier League Table? Excellent for tracking while the matches are in progress!

  16. Since getting DirecTV and have all the game on at home my rituals have changed. On really big games my mates and i still head to the pub (Fado Columbus) But more often than not I host about 6 to 10 other Manchester United fans at my house. Rituals begin with one of two gray lucky t-shirts to be worn under my kit. As far as kits go I wear red home for home matches and away for away. I have to many kits and choosing one for each game is a long process. Then I make sure that clean pint glasses and beer in the fridge are ready for my guests. Then I hang my United Flag out in front of the house (goes up for every game day). Then put on a pot of coffee for guests that might have had a long night before. I then re-watch the preview show and sky sports news from the night before. By this time my mates have arrived and the banter begins. We usually discuss the starting lineup at length and then game time. I love game days. They get me through the week.

  17. Seeing as I live on the West Coast getting up for the games are usually a feat in itself. I get my son dressed in his Derby County onsie, get my Derby kit on, wrap my Derby Scarf around his swing, turn on the computer, pull on the fan site and chat with my fellow Rams fans during the match. Then usually go back to bed after the match.

  18. There arent many games that I perform a ritual for, however last year’s CL final was one. Having visited the UK a number of months back, I had retained some beer for a special occasion. I cracked open the smuggled John Smith lager and ate prawn cocktail crisps while watching (with horror) Chelsea lose.

    During the EPL season when Chelsea are on in the morning, I usually cook up a full English breakfast minus the black pudding and watch the games with my son. I build up the match for him the night before so when he wakes up he’s more than ready to chear for the club.

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