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Most men become fans because their father would take them to matches as a child, and many older fans still retain strong memories of these formative experiences.

As football fandom is socially inherited within the family, matches regularly comprise ritualised days out for all members — toddlers and grandmothers included — and the passion for football is a unifying event that frequently leads to animated conversations at home in front of the television or around the family dinner table.

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.

Football fandom is seen as a rite of passage involving a process akin to apprenticeship.

It involves years of instruction, of 'practice', of dedication and of demonstrating your own knowledge in the presence of others before being accepted by 'real' fans.

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.

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.What might otherwise be forgettable, everyday actions become as meaningful and important to fans as, say, a church Mass, and generate powerful bonds.These rituals often have a superstitious quality — wearing the same 'lucky' shirt to every game or following the same routine during the build-up — even eating two pies just before the kick-off because that made the team win last time.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.There is a strong commonality among all fans across Europe — football unites rather than divides in this sense.— that motivates the team, intimidates the opposition players and perhaps even influences referees' decisions.The fans truly believe they must attend the game to 'help the team to win', not just to observe the event.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.

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