Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Why Do We Support Who We Do?

At work, we've done a sweepstake on the Women's Euro 2013 tournament in Sweden. To be honest, we love a sweepstake and organise one for virtually any (major) event, so that's probably not much of a surprise. Sports events, baby weights, how late someone will come back from lunch, you name it we sweepstake it. And yet despite the inane nature of them and the almost laughable sums of money to be won, they seem to stir an astonishing loyalty in me for teams I scarcely knew existed much less supported.

This spring I found myself quite unexpectedly a die-hard Kolkata Knight Riders fan for the IPL 2013 campaign. Despite the fact that a few weeks before I had had to do comprehensive research before I could even a name an IPL team, I genuinely cared what happened in KKR's games. I was frustrated by Yusuf Pathan getting out early, Kallis scoring too slowly, Gambhir never converting a start and the failure to select Lee or Ten Doeschate. I downloaded the app and had ITV4 on constantly. My point being, I became a real fanatic. Sadly, the reigning champions and theoretical challengers for the title ended a dismal 6-10 record and early elimination.

Then comes the Women's Euros over the last couple of weeks. The sweepstake is organised, the team names on the bits of folded paper inside the mug. I draw France. Now my knowledge of women's football was such that I knew the USA were the best, and that England were decent, but beyond that, couldn't exactly claim to be an expert. A quick bit of research and I realise France are pretty decent and in with a shout. £16 here I come. Then, when it all came to an end against a stubborn and organised Danish team in the quarterfinals, I found myself genuinely disappointed (and not for the sake of £16 potential winnings).

The reason for my aimless ramblings is that it got me wondering how we come to form affiliations with teams, develop affections or even fanatical passion. It's probably fair to say that most people support a sports team of some description, whether that be football, cricket or tennis, club or national teams. And probably even more follow and support certain individuals in sports like tennis, F1, snooker or golf. 

Glory hunters...
With individuals it's often determined by their nationality (would anyone support Andy Murray if he wasn't British?), as much as by their personality or sporting prowess. But with club teams it can be apparently arbitrary but no less meaningful. Of course a lot support their "local" club (I use speech marks because that usually means the closest team that are good) but there seem to be all manner of other reasons as well - parents' teams, obscure links as a child, kit colour, favourite players etc. I decided to start supporting Sheff Wed around the age of 12 for no particular reason other than they were in the Prem and I didn't support anyone else. 

Most would agree that the most passionate/fanatical fans would tend to be those who have a geographic/nationalistic link to their team but there are unquestionably other reasons and factors that lead to fervent support. Why do you support who you do?

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