Space…the Final Frontier

A bit of a break from blogging, but I’ve had a bit of a brainwave over the last few days. After talking to my supervisor last week he suggested the idea of looking more at the performance aspect of football fans. (notice how I just slipped into the use of football – I’m going to have to spend some time in my thesis being very careful about my word choices) Then in talking to another student, I mused about writing a conference paper based on the behaviour of Panamanian fans outside the Canadian Team’s hotel when Canada visited for a recent World Cup qualifier.

Of course I’m now super excited and already doing research on all this and finding and not finding what I need. I’m interested in the idea of how fans create space for themselves. It’s one thing to have the chants and flares and signs of the supporter’s clubs inside the stadium, but they also contest space outside the stadium. Sure the home supporters want to own the space outside, but the visitor’s supporters marching in can be a provocative trespass of that space. Not only do the two groups have to negotiate each other, but also authorities who want to maintain some semblance of order about the event.

I took my son Marcus to the Canada – US friendly back in June and we arrived just at the same time the American supporters arrived (not the average supporters – the organized ones). As they held their little march to the stadium they chanted, waved their flags, threw smoke bombs, and generally made a big nuisance of themselves. They moved as one all the way to the gates and went in together. I think back to that now and how they performed their invasion of “Canadian” space. The effect of the large, cohesive group and the noise was a bit of a provocation to all the Canadian fans that they weren’t to be messed with – even if they were actually pretty nice guys (I chatted with a couple of them), and if their fans were that strong, the team must be strong too. What is even more fascinating about all of this in a North American context is the way that the chants, march, songs, signs, flares, etc. is all a borrowed performance from other soccer cultures – especially English. Now I’m left with the question of how the performances around the world are different and why (other than the obvious reason of soccer being a more marginal sport) North American fans do so much borrowing of supporter cultural performance?

So my first semblance of an idea. Obviously still needs some work, but my supervisor warned me I’ll probably switch ideas until some time in December. On the upside that’ll keep me blogging.

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