A fan is described as a person with an intense, overwhelming liking and enthusiasm for a sporting club, a person, a group of persons, a company, a product, activity, work of art, idea, or trend.
‘Fan’ is a word that emanates from ‘fanatic’. A fanatic is someone who has lost all perspective, and only sees that which they are obsessed with.
Soccer fans are attention seekers. They usually want to be outstanding from the rest of the crowd. They can be seen wearing designer gowns and funny outfits bearing their team colors. They may also carry bibles and sing obscene songs. They are both vulgar and funny, but with a very short temper that can be unleashed onto other supporters, the players, the coach or even the referee.
Some call them hooligans. In short, fans are crazy, aggressive and unreasonable. But there are those who are very reasonable, humble and graceful. These are the supporters.
It is evident that there are two distinct categories of soccer lovers, the fans and the supporters. They are different in the way they carry themselves, their mentality and their behavior at the soccer pitch.
But they are both similar in that they are united in their passion, love and support for the team.
However, there is also a huge difference between the two. The soccer fanatics, who are usually known as “diparo” in local lingo, usually know very little about the club’s history, and they are there to share the glory in good times, but conspicuously absent when the team goes through a rough patch. At such times, the fans will look to lay the blame on someone else for the team’s failure, thereby sowing seeds of discord. In contrast, the supporter is always there, whether the club is winning or losing. The supporter always takes time to acquaint themselves with the club. They belong to the club and they have a history with the club. Most often, the supporters started the club and grew with it.
The supporter loves the club, not the players. The supporters will always rally behind the club, even when it loses its star players.
To a soccer fanatic, identifying themselves with the club is a hobby, past time or source of casual entertainment. To the supporter, the club is a way of life. Many a time the supporter sacrifices their personal lives for the club. Their family, love life, friends and even work sometimes suffer because the club always comes first. That is because the supporters love the club. The supporter lives for the club.
Our own local teams here have issues which often drag the team’s name in the mud and sometimes even affect the players’ morale. But the supporters always stick by their club and defend it through thick and thin.
We have often seen a lot of people, especially those whose team is losing, leaving the stands in disgust while the game is still on. One can only imagine the effect that such a gesture has on the players’ morale.
These are the soccer fans, not the supporters. The supporters stay until the last whistle, not only because they want to support the players, but also because they have hope, even in the bleakest of situations, that a miracle will happen to reverse their loss.
A club that performs well is usually the team of the moment, with hordes of fans rallying behind it. Such a surge in support is usually from fans, who only want to identify with the winning team. Fans do not have a stand; they are always seen where there is excitement.
Take the Zebras for example. When they were still winning, during the days of Jelusic Vesselin, they had an immense support base. During their games the stadiums were over filled. But then their form slumped, and today the Zebras’ games are characterized by empty seats. The fans are nowhere to be found. It is only the supporters who have remained behind.
Maybe the supporters club had more fans than supporters. The supporters are able to look at everything the club does objectively, and they are not afraid to be critical. It is up them to protect the club’s values and integrity and to encourage them to carry on.