Football: More than a Ball Game

Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool F.C.
Players of City of Manchester Ladies F.C. in the rain after a game.
A scramble in the penalty area.
Five people watching a friendly match.
Cheering football fans in haze created by a smoke bomb.

Football, or soccer as it is called in the United States, is Britain’s most popular sport. A broad base of both men and women are registered in the country’s amateur club teams and people who don’t play football often enjoy watching games. Those who watch games, quite naturally, do it either on TV or at the fields, and furthermore, often take great pride in their favorite club teams.

Four national teams

Apart from having a favorite club team, football fans in Britain, as a rule, also have a favorite national team. This team is typically either England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, with the English squad, famous for icons like Kelly Smith and David Beckham, having been the most successful team out of the four. England, too, is credited with having invented the game of football, and given this legacy, it is tough for certain Englishmen to swallow that their men’s team has only won the World Cup once — a long time ago — in 1966.

Around the time of the English World Cup win, British teams and players had a reputation for being physically strong, but lacking technical ball skills. Nowadays, though, with many international players signing for club teams in Britain, that reputation is all but gone. Well-rounded as they now are, the best English club teams compete at the highest level in Europe, and teams such as Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool have been famous worldwide for decades.

Devoted and thirsty supporters

The world-renowned English teams, though counting on followers worldwide, have their core fans in Britain. These core fans are whole-heartedly into football, and in typical British fashion, often also whole-heartedly into alcohol. As a result, for many hardcore supporters, the pub plays a central role before games kick off. Here, at the pub, fellow supporters meet up, drink a few beers and talk about the game ahead. This practice of talking up the game over drinks creates unity between fans, and the alcohol the drinks contain makes for a lot of high-spirited song and chanting during games. However, no amount of alcohol can guarantee the outcome of matches, the results of which, literally, could determine whether passionate British football fans have a good or bad week in their personal lives.

Hooligans

Continuing on the topic of British football fans, a relatively small but infamous group of supporters is the hooligans. These are people prone to be assertive and a group that sometimes uses violence against hooligans from other teams. Internationally, on some occasions, the hooligans have given English football a bad reputation, despite being nowhere near the majority of the English fans.