Football is an important means for people to form and maintain strong friendships that might otherwise not exist.
These social bonds between fans are so strong that many describe them in familial, kinship terms — 'my brotherhood' or 'my family'. Over half of all fans feel that being a fan of the team is like having a long-term girlfriend/boyfriend.
'Football friends' are different from friends in other areas of life. Football plays a key role in family life in much of Europe, linking the shared experiences of family members across generations and creating a lasting sense of tradition and belonging.
The strongest of these relationships is that of father and son.
The role that football plays in this context is very important given fears about the break down of the traditional family unit and its values across Europe.
The fans truly believe they must attend the game to 'help the team to win', not just to observe the event.References to extreme emotional experiences at football games characterised all aspects of discussions with fans — some referring to the 'pure joy' and exhilaration of being at football games.Such is the intensity of the experience that two thirds of fans have cried at football matches — mostly through joy, but occasionally because of despair.Football fans describe themselves as the 'twelfth man' — as essential to the success of the team as the players and coaching staff.It is the actions performed by fans during the game — the ritual chants, songs, banner waving, etc.The specific social and cultural role that football plays in any given country, however, is heavily influenced by historical factors.These include whether a major side or national team has won an important tournament at a decisive time in the past or whether the sport was traditionally played by upper or lower classes.The Football Passions report summarises extensive sociological research across 18 countries in Europe.The objectives of the study were to capture the emotions of being a football fan and to compare the feelings, expressions and behaviour of fans associated with support of their football teams.In addition to the actions performed in the stadiums during the match, pre- and post-game rituals are important in creating a sense of community among fans.From meeting up with other fans for a drink before and after the game to the orchestrated coordination of fabric squares to make up a larger banner, rituals foster a strong sense of belonging to the fan group.