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Does Being Older Make Someone a Better Soccer Fan?

It is an assumption made over and over again in soccer circles. “I’ve been supporting them for forty years, so I know what is right.” Or it’s “You didn’t know what it was like, you weren’t there.” Does this really mean that someone is more fanatical? Or even has a better knowledge of the game in fact?

As an Arsenal fan, it is an argument I hear quite a lot. Whenever someone younger defends Wenger you hear “You’ve only known Arsenal with Wenger, how could you possibly have an opinion?” But you have to go back a way to find Arsenal fans who do know anything other than Wenger. As he began managing Arsenal in 1996, in reality no one born after 1990 is really going to remember before Wenger and as a result anyone under the age of 23 has really only known Wenger in charge. It’s impossible for anyone this age to know any different than Wenger, but they are not incapable of using Google. Even a quick search will tell anyone that doesn’t know that every team has its ups and downs during their history. Usually. supporting a club for twenty years gives you some kind of recognition with your fellow fans, but at the moment Arsenal is a special case. In fact those who have stuck with Arsenal for their seven, and probably eight, trophy less years are going through a time where Arsenal are hard to support and those who stick around are probably the true Arsenal fans.

With Chelsea the argument is much similar. “You were not around before the Abramovich years so you’re not a real fan.” But then again as Abramovich took over in 2003, less and less people will have been around before Roman Abramovich bought the club. Who would have wanted to be any way? Since 2003 Chelsea have won nine major trophies – the UEFA Champions League, the Premier League 3 times, the FA Cup (4 times) and the League Cup twice.

With the introduction of the Internet, anyone can know anything about any club. No one really needed to be there to know what happened. Obviously they needed to be there and feel the atmosphere or the depression whichever club and whatever time they are looking at. It means, though, that everyone in football can know the same amount no matter what age they are. Facts and figures can be looked up, and people can read other accounts of people who were there. The point being that people who are older, especially soccer fans, do not automatically know more anymore.

Undeniably people will make the argument about glory supporters and those who swap their team at a moment’s notice; the game is rife with it. This is not something that will stop though and if they are funding your club by paying for merchandise and maybe even at the turnstile, I would not complain too much about them. Sometimes their knowledge and loyalty maybe lacking and this is annoying but it is not the true young fans that should be targeted by this kind of assumption.

Deriding someone’s opinion for being a younger fan could deny the game some of its most avid supporters, those who are not jaded by the beautiful game. Yet who turn up time after time. In Arsenal’s case there are plenty of better arguments to oust Wenger, so this one does not really need to be used. It quite frankly makes people look a bit stupid because they don’t have any arguments to use instead, and seem just as bad as those who show blind faith towards people in football.

So does being older make you a better fan? No, the answer to being a better fan lies somewhere else, in the amount that you watch the games, the amount you take part in the club’s fan base and the amount you defend them and support them when they need it. Anybody of any age can do this and they should not be put off by dismissive comments.

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  1. damian

    March 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Heck no! Older fans think that the long ball is still a good option to play.

    • Guy

      March 7, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      Must be why I’m a Stoke fan. 😀

      Actually, I wish Tony had a Plan B…for anything!

      • IanCransonsKnees

        March 7, 2013 at 1:23 pm

        He doesn’t even have a plan B for what he wears in a morning. I swear he’s got a Stoke tracksuit for every day of the week.

  2. Guy

    March 7, 2013 at 10:19 am

    One word answer, “No!

    It does, however, allow me to buy a few more match day beers with my Social Security check. 😉

    • trickybrkn

      March 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      Of course it does, because it provides context.
      When I first started to follow my club, I knew the basics… Loved the spirited fan base. Today many pick clubs because they follow one player. But if he leaves does your passion? or was that just the gateway.
      I’m not going to make a value judgement about how you get to love a club, But you can say that the longer you support them, the more you know, maybe you go to a supporter event. meet people that also support the club, talk about the times that where bleak and brilliant. I try to watch football matches at bars or at brunch spots that have EPL fans here in the States. You’ll find the newbies are a bit louder, a bit less proud and a lot less versed on the players beyond the 2010 squad. Talk with the grey haired fan, they can talk about the FA Cup run of 1995, or the smell and feel of a certain ground. Does time make you a better person, no… does it frame a context of history and style. clearly.

      • Guy

        March 7, 2013 at 1:20 pm

        “Of course it does, because it provides context.”

        I understand your point, but “better” is not the adjective I would use.

        • IanCransonsKnees

          March 7, 2013 at 1:26 pm


          Away from football I deal with older people a lot in my work, some are sound,understanding and reasonable, others are absolute knobjockeys of the highest order. Returning to football I find the same to be true.

  3. Sammy

    March 7, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Interesting as this is the first time I’ve heard about the concept of age being used to judge soccer fans. If this is really true, I’d say it makes no sense at all. Come on, the young eventually DO grow old, don’t they? So, by this logic, everybody can be an excellent football supporter, they just need to wait until they are old enough to be known as one. And if you die young, too bad. You’ll never be regarded as a proper fan. Not even if you were a little kid who constantly went all out in love and passion for the team.


    Right now, the bigger issue that needs to be addressed is the endless ridicule that EPL supporters are receiving these days for reasons such as:

    – they do not live near the team, have no connections to it, or
    – they have not been to the team’s stadium to watch a match before; and so on.

    I mean, you cannot possibly expect EVERYBODY to be able to attend a match of the team they like, or have connections to a team, can you? If so, how do you expect these people (myself included) to support a club? Are you saying that we have no choice but to remain neutrals?

    I just fail to understand how people think
    sometimes. Criticism is fine, but at least make sure the criticism is valid, reasonable and makes sense.

    • Sammy

      March 7, 2013 at 11:37 am

      I don’t know who gave me the thumbs down, but to whoever it is, I’m fine with that. But can you explain what it is you disliked about my comment, to help me understand your viewpoint better? Since merely rating it isn’t going to tell me anything. I’d also like to know where I might have said anything wrong, and also any other viewpoints people have that may be different/disagreeing with mine.

      • Guy

        March 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm

        Sammy, I think it might have been that last sentence in your first post.

        Totally unreasonable! 🙂

  4. christian

    March 7, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Experience can lead to wisdom but it’s not always guaranteed. I’ve only been a fan for the past 10 years and know I still have a lot to learn and I enjoy that. Learning the history of the clubs and the sport are a great passion and hobby of mine but I don’t claim to know any more that anyone else.

    That said you can hear some absolute garbage from people who have been fans for a day or for a century. I don’t give a pass to anyone who says they’ve been a fan for x amount of years.

  5. Larry

    March 7, 2013 at 7:08 am

    Being older and having followed soccer longer usually makes one a more knowlegeable fan but not necessarily a better one.

  6. IanCransonsKnees

    March 7, 2013 at 1:35 am

    I’ll call people plastic fans, gloryhunters etc if that’s what they appear to be. They feel they’re able to give fans, like myself, of comparative minnows stick because we’re following smaller less fashionable clubs. Rather than take the easy option we stick with them through the divisions (I get Citeh fans POV on this), the stuff about it being hooligan related is an absolute crock of sh!t and shows a level of ignorance bred by its glamorisation. The difference being, and Arsenal fans will experience it one day, when you succeed in getting promoted or winning a trophy it’s all the sweeter for it – whether that be promotion to the Premier League or the Johnstone’s Paints Trophy (look that one up). Alternatively the plastics, particularly when they’re snubbing their hometown team rather than foreign converts, will never ever understand this and continue to use ridicule to make themselves feel superior.

    • Dean Stell

      March 7, 2013 at 8:52 am

      Actually, I wonder if there’s a distinction between plastic fans and people who are just asses. I’d bet you find a lot of fans who support big clubs just because it gives them ample opportunity to tease other people on Monday morning. If you’re basically a bully, it will be much more rewarding to support Man United than to support Swansea.

      Honestly, I’ve never understood teasing co-workers, friends and family members just because your club beat their club. For one thing, “you” didn’t have anything to do with it. Secondly, it isn’t like the roles won’t be reversed at some point in the future. 🙂

      • christian

        March 7, 2013 at 9:35 am

        Agreed. Never understood that whole thing. Enjoy your team but lording it over people is nonsense.

  7. John

    March 7, 2013 at 12:19 am

    I’ve been an Arsenal fan since 2005, and have only known, supported, and loved a trophyless team for a 1/3 of my life. Nothing is going to change that, Wenger or not. I am an American and would do anything to see a live Arsenal game. I visited the Emirtes, but it was in the off season. Pure torture. I wih I could havecseen Highbury in its day.

    I agree with dust. (Well, not the Spurs part, although, as I’m not from London I hate ManU way more). But it’s all about giving and taking stick.

    Thank you for the article. Wraps up a lot of feelings I’ve had over theclast 8 years. I pray it wont be 9 years. #ArsenalPride

  8. Frill Artist

    March 6, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    “Does Being Older Make Someone a Better Soccer Fan?”

    Does being an elitist make you a better football fan?

    • Guy

      March 7, 2013 at 10:07 am

      There is a typo in your post….. 😉

  9. Dean Stell

    March 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    I’m of two minds about this…. On one hand, there is something unique about the experience of seeing something live in person or on TV. You can’t replicate that experience by watching YouTube video years after the fact. There’s also a different experience to devouring an experience in a short period of time and allowing it to seep into you, week after week, year after year. That’s true of lots of forms of entertainment. Consider the different experiences of watching a great TV program live over a 4-6 year run or original programming and inhaling it over a month on Netflix. It’s just not the same because you’re missing out on the collective experience, the newspaper articles, the blogs, the chats with other fans….

    On the other hand…..seniority is the armor of incompetents the world over. If the best thing you have going for you as a fan, at work, in a marriage, etc. is that you’ve “been there for a long time”… probably aren’t doing it very well. And people who have been around a long time ALWAYS underestimate how quickly newbies become proficient.

    Still…..I’ve never understood the desire to look down on other people just due to a timing issue. Why do old-time fans of a club mind new people showing up, buying kits, increasing ratings for their club, etc.? That’s just more money in the club’s pockets and that should equal a better product on the field.

  10. Kevan

    March 6, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    What bothers me most is when a European/UK based fan calls American fans of a club “plastic” if they’ve never been to a game live. I’ve been a Leeds United fan since 1998 and watched the Premier League and English football/Champion’s League for 14 years or so…half my life. So I HATE being called “plastic” just because I’ve never been to Elland Road.

    • Wongo1

      March 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      It is part of the tribalism of football, many of the former hooligans feel this way because the football club is really all they had and if you are not from their hood how could you even know. We have it here in the USA as well only not quite as bad because people move around and travel within the country so much more in the USA.

      I would ignore the plastic comments because in truth if you have been following the scum….sorry Leeds for 14 years you are more than a true fan, you are a glutton for punishment hehe.

      • dust

        March 6, 2013 at 10:59 pm

        It’s partially tribalism, but its also not explicitly former hooligans, it didn’t even arise from hooligans, it certainly isn’t about going to see a game or not especially if you are overseas.

        Its not the most intelligent thing to call someone for sure. The tribalism aspect is for example if you live in London and support Man Utd, reason being is its a small island with many many teams you could support, which leads to the “Glory Hunter” “Fair Weather Fan”.

        A better example might be man city fans calling man Utd fans in manchester Plastic as City fans regard them selves as more hardcore for supporting what has been essentially a terrible team while the fashionable thing is to support Utd.

        Is it dumb? yes, but its also banter, as for being a leeds fans and following them, I would not call that plastic, there are a lot of “Plastic” Man Utd, Chelski and Farcenal fans, these people probably supported Liverpool in the 80’s then switched and are normally not from the teams Local Area.

        People gravitate to success and thats fine on some level, but there is something to be said for supporting a team through thick and tin especially if its local.

        I grew up in early life in tottenham / wood green, but stuck with Spurs in-spite of their not being very good at the time when the family moved around.

        there is a superiority thing as a result, but its part of football banter, and getting all offended by it is probably not the way to go if you want to enjoy football, take it on the chin and give it back!!
        or just move on with your day.

        • Wongo1

          March 7, 2013 at 10:11 am

          Dust you have said a mouthful there and it is all true. I have followed United for almost 30++ years so I know what you mean.

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