Monday, September 25, 2006

Chicken and Egg

I have always believed that the passion of the soccer fan is largely about local pride and historical memory. As boys and girls, we grow up attached to a particular institution, we remember and internalize the team's highs and lows, its moments of joy and humiliation. Our reaction to events on the pitch - the singing , the barracking, the passion - all of it derives from a narrative we share with the players who wear the colours we love.

Right? Wrong, apparently.

I was on-line last night buying tickets for next year's FIFA U-20 World Cup (and despite Jack Warner being head of the organizing committee, there are still plenty of seats available through non-Trinidadian sources...;-0) and idly started looking for info on season ticket sales for next year's MLS expansion club Toronto FC. Didn't find anything, but did find the wholly bizarre site www.toronto-fc.com.

Despite never having played a game and having only one played on the roster, Toronto FC apparently has a completely demented fan base. I'm not kidding about this. In one fan forum they are actually arguing about which songs to sing come first game, all on the theme of Toronto FC 'til I die. Opening Day, remember, is still eight months away.

So now I am starting to re-think the whole basis of fan-dom. My original explanation might be correct for some fans but clearly there are a bunch of people out there who simply want to belong to something and sing a lot of daft songs with people of similar proclivities. Shared history and love of club has nothing to do with it (let alone appraectiation of a club's exploits, which in this case are entirely non-existant). This is a very good piece of evidence for those who believe that football club devotion - like nationalism or fascism - is simply a desire to be a "True Believer" and to identify with a collective whole.

Did Eric Hoffer ever watch a football match?



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