To the casual observer, soccer supporters might appear to constitute a kind of undifferentiated mass, a gathering of people (male, by and large) strangely mesmerized by a sport commonly featuring score lines as seemingly absent of drama as 2-1 and 1-0, or a crowd distinguished only by their local, tribal custom of donning jerseys colored red or blue or white.
To the outsider, soccer fans are both inscrutable and hard to tell apart. (I was once asked, for example, by a kind, elderly woman if I’d ever taken my son to “Trafford Bridge.”) But if you spend a little time in soccer circles, you’re sure to develop a more nuanced perspective on the committed soccer fan, and before long you’ll recognize that they are by no means all the same. To the contrary, you’ll see that they fall into a variety of types.
Indeed, if you spend a good deal of time pitch side, or in the pub, or in the online discussion groups dedicated to the game, you’ll come to the inevitable conclusion that there are, in fact, precisely four kinds of soccer supporters.
Which leads to two important questions: which kind of soccer supporter are you? And which kind annoys you the most?
Here’s a simple taxonomy to assist you in formulating your answers.
1. The Pragmatic Supporter
This soccer supporter has an almost uncanny ability to take the positives from each match, no matter how dismal the result for his team. He can comfortably offer balanced analysis of his team’s strengths and weaknesses over the office water cooler, and he seems genuinely interested in observing the long-term process of building an incrementally more successful team. He demonstrates respect for opposing sides and admires talented players no matter what team they play for. Other soccer supporters find him a bit bewildering.
Where he sits in the stands: In the family section.
Preferred pub: Enjoys visiting pubs supporting rival teams when traveling for work.
Weekend soccer league position: Central defender in an over-40 league, known for his calmness on the ball.
2. The Divine Right Supporter
More common than the Pragmatic supporter is the Divine Right supporter. You’ll recognize him by his habit of believing that his team possesses a God-given right to win every match. You’ll notice his fondness for blaming referees for calls they’re likely to make before the match has even started. This supporter hates the opposition – all opposition – as well as TV commentators and the press in equal measure. Negative observations made about his chosen team are considered an affront to nature.
Where he sits in the stands: Behind the goal, adjacent to the visiting fans.
Preferred pub: Frequents the same supporters pub exclusively. Only. Ever. Always. (The one nearest the KFC.) Sometimes naps in a spare cot in the back room upstairs.
Weekend soccer league position: Insists on playing striker despite being five foot two.
3. The “Little Abramovich” Supporter
This variety of supporter is marked by his bottomless loathing for everything about his own team, including its kit, manager, first team players, reserves, chief executive, mascot, stadium, and sponsor. He’s easy to spot because he has crazy transfer window dreams involving the most unlikely convergences of star managers and international players. After the window closes, he wants to fire the manager even if the team is in first place.
Where he sits in the stands: Way, way up in the middle section so that his endless directives to the “idiots” on the field are sure to drown out the voices of the TV commentators nearby and be heard by millions.
Preferred pub: Those where swearing is actively encouraged.
Weekend soccer league position: Fancies himself a play-making midfielder. Routinely kicks the ball out of bounds.
4. The Schadenfreude Supporter
Frequently to be found offering up zippy one liners in the comments section of the online sports pages, this soccer supporter is okay with his team losing the majority of their games provided its nearby rivals are doing even worse. He actively roots for all other teams to fail in lieu of rooting for his team to win (since they almost always can’t), and exhibits a boundless enthusiasm for discussing the misfortunes of other teams’ stars – including injuries, criminal cases, tabloid scandals, and red cards.
Where he sits in the stands: Never actually attends matches, only sort of watches them on television, and blogs snarky comments the entire time.
Preferred pub: Doesn’t leave the house much, to be honest.
Weekend soccer league position: Has never actually played the game himself.
Notwithstanding the extensive research I put into developing this piece, you may feel that my list is neither comprehensive nor error free in some of its details. Feel free to offer up your own alternative descriptions of soccer supporters below. But don’t forget to tell us which one you resemble, and which one you least enjoy having to sit next to at game time.