As I sit in one of the pious get-together within Mumbai suburbs, the atmosphere completely changes. You will see flags of the team, hear chants echoing, war paint on the faces. The pre-game banter is something else, every time the opposition’s player was on the tube, a loud moan followed by jeers and whistles. An atmosphere created in a small Colosseum.
I have never seen blind and religious faith towards a club (of course not on par with The God Of Indian Cricket) but you could sense honour and pride beaming in all of them. The owner of the place spoke of how people flock to this outlet and there is a 2 hour singing gospels of the club, players and opposition banter. I sat down with one such fan who has seen every minute of the senior squad play through the three terms and has in her words “never felt so close and understanding” than this club. He continued to say, “I have a family here. We do not fight we do not put each other down. Yes, there are strong opinions about our club, our players, but we are equal, no biases here.”
Let’s call this fan Anderson. Andy confidently said, “The mood and behaviour towards my family and my entire circle of friends, hinges on how my club performs on game day. My whole sense of personal well-being depends on it. I have spent good money on this ale here, wearing our colours.” He ended saying, “The least they could do is return the favour and win it against the city rivals. Is that too much of an ask?”
We were nearing kick-off and all focus went to the big screen. Fans here well warmed up with their alcohol and vocal cords in sync with the atmosphere in the stadium. The match began, and positive vibes and energies were sent to the players. Each attack was applauded by the congregation, and each wrong decision was heckled at.
I noticed each fan goes through a range of emotions whether they are winning by a big margin, narrowly escaping with a win or getting a spanking. You might not need a hairstylist or a nail appointment, just pay a football fan and you will get a new one every time.
It is clear that a football club’s fans make up an “imagined” community (where you’re identified as a VIP and given space to express your views), these communities lead to hooliganism which is a serious threat to the overall experience of the game.
Back to the match, and my experience of a fan was not over, if the team wins by a good margin and convincingly, I quick observed, decision making skills come to the fore front. Plans were already being drawn up of doing a city wide march, or when does the community meet next? Or people calling a long lost friend and patching up with each other. The power of sports is just simply amazing. People were hugging each other as if they were involved in the game. Sports does that to you, it acts like a catalyst to your reality.
The process is complete only when the fan has expressed himself on social media, to show the world, he made the right decision of rooting for the team and an attachment to the overall good of the community.
Rooting for a team isn’t about sports—it’s actually about relationship-building, trust and togetherness that we are of the same ilk and feel accepted in a lonely world.