Association football culture

Association football culture

Football culture refers to the cultural aspects surrounding the game of association football. In many countries, football has ingrained itself into the national culture, and parts of life may revolve around it. Many countries have daily football newspapers, as well as football magazines. Football players, especially in the top levels of the game, have become role models for people. The game has become glamourised, with many children practising the game and aspiring to the wealth shown off by the top footballers.[citation needed] Football's power runs deeper than the ninety minutes played on the pitch, it has held the power to unify nations, it has played out wars and it has brought people together from around the world. The FIFA World Cup held every four years is the quintessential football event, combining the greatest players in the world and the passion of the fans. Football has a long and glorious history, with which a vast and diverse culture has emerged. The culture of football can be easily divided into how the players, fans and clubs see the sport.




Football chants are generated by fans at matches to encourage their team, insult the opposition, or just make a noise. Some clubs have their own anthems which the crowds sing. Some songs are shared between clubs. While some chants are used to mock opposition players, such as "Who Ate All the Pies?," others are more aggressive and of a personal nature against a player on the pitch. Some chanting can be more than insulting, and may even be racist or sectarian in nature. These type of chants tend to have been banned from football stadiums. FIFA and UEFA have both sanctioned "Say no to racism" campaigns to combat offensive chants and songs. Although FIFA and UEFA do not directly punish fans who partake in such discrimination, they do expect the domestic leagues and local stadiums to act upon the policies and control what fans say.


There have been a number of accidents and disasters in the history of football. Some of these, such as the Hillsborough and Ibrox disasters, were due to problems with crowd control. The Heysel Stadium disaster was a combination of hooliganism and poor crowd control. The Bradford City stadium fire was due to poor fire safety in the stadium. Lessons learned from these disasters have led to safer football stadia.

Fair Play campaign

Fair Play is the name of a FIFA programme which aims to increase sportsmanship as well as prevent discrimination in the game of football. This also involves programmes to reduce racism in the game. The programme extends to outside of football, in trying to support charities and other organisations which improve conditions around the world.

The principles of the Fair Play programme can be summarised as follows:[1]

  1. Play fair
  2. Play to win but accept defeat with dignity
  3. Observe the laws of the game
  4. Respect opponents, team-mates, referees, officials and spectators
  5. Promote the interests of football
  6. Honour those who defend football’s good reputation
  7. Reject corruption, drugs, racism, violence, gambling and other dangers to our sport
  8. Help others to resist corrupting pressures
  9. Denounce those who attempt to discredit the sport
  10. Use football to make a better world

Both FIFA and UEFA have awards which they hand out to individuals or groups of people who have promoted what they see as the spirit of Fair Play, both within and outside of football. An example of this was the Italian player Paolo Di Canio who, while not given an award, was congratulated by many sections of the football world for a generous display of Fair Play. Despite having a goal scoring opportunity while playing for West Ham United against Everton, when Di Canio saw the Everton goalkeeper had picked up an injury, instead of scoring what could have been the easiest goal of his career, he caught the ball, thus stopping play and allowing the goalkeeper to receive treatment.[2]

Food and beverage

In the United Kingdom, attendance at football matches is associated with the consumption of traditional football foods such as meat pies and Bovril. Food and beverage sales in stadiums can raise high incomes for clubs, and some clubs make attempts to improve their service and diversify out of traditional foods.[3] In Brazil, sanduíche de calabresa (pepperoni sandwich) is a popular meal in the surrounding areas of stadiums after matches. In Mineirão stadium, feijão tropeiro, a typical dish from Minas Gerais, is very common. In Germany, many football fans eat bratwurst and drink beers. In Argentina, choripán (a sandwich with grilled chorizo with crusty bread) and grilled hamburgers are commonly served in stadiums. In the past, a variety of pizza without cheese was served, which is now known as pizza de cancha (“pitch pizza”). In Spain is very common to eat sunflower seeds during the game. Althought not in the whole Bosnia and Herzegovina, but especially in Sarajevo ćevapi are commonly seen to be sold around the stadiums before and after the matches and you can often see people selling pepita and juices in front of the entrance of the stadium and on the stands during the match.


In some countries football has been associated with alcohol consumption.[4] This can be before, during and after the game, with drinking occurring inside the stadium, sometimes illicitly, as well as in pubs and bars outside. However, unwanted behaviour caused by drinking has led to the banning of the sale of alcohol to general supporters in stadiums across the United Kingdom, although most English and Welsh sides continue to sell alcohol within general stadium areas, with only clubs in Scotland being subject to a blanket ban. Sales of alcohol still occur in executive lounges. Some teams and countries have Supporters Clubs which have friendly drinking reputations. However some countries are more associated with drunken hooliganism as mentioned in the violence section below.

Hooliganism and violence

The level of passion with which football teams are supported has from time to time caused problems, and clashes between fans can result in violence. Some violence occurs by people aiming to cause trouble, a phenomenon known as hooliganism. Other fans group together in hooligan firms, which are organized gangs that seek fights with other firms supporting rival clubs. Both are sometimes known as the "English Disease,"[5] after the disorder caused by English fans travelling abroad to support either their club or national team in the 1970s and 1980s.[citation needed] However organised violence surrounding football has been prevalent throughout other countries, most notably by ultras in Italy, torcidas organizadas in Brazil and barra brava in Argentina and other Latin American countries.

Violence by fans has ranged from small fights between fans to tragedies such as the Heysel Stadium disaster and also the Football War. There have been incidents of fans being murdered, such as the killings of Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight, two Leeds United supporters, in Istanbul in 2000 on the eve of the UEFA Cup Semi-Final first leg.[6] In recent years this aspect of the game seems to have passed its peak in England though it has by no means disappeared completely. Specialist police units and information-sharing between regional and international police forces has made it much harder for the hooligans to organize and participate in disorder. CCTV inside and outside stadiums and also at other anticipated "flash points" such as city centres and railway stations now makes it more likely that people involved in disorder can be identified later even if they are not arrested at the scene. However there are still disruptions surrounding football matches. One example being the UEFA Champions League matches which were played on 12 March and 13 March 2005.[7][8]

Violence by fans has also affected players, but this is rare. For example, a message to Christian Vieri, apparently by an Inter Milan fan, threatened to burn down his restaurant, criticising his attitude towards the team.[9] There is also the notorious incident where the Colombian international player Andrés Escobar was murdered shortly after returning home from the 1994 World Cup. This was reputedly for scoring the own goal which eliminated Colombia from the competition.[10]

Match programmes

Match programmes are sold inside and outside stadiums before, and sometimes during, matches. In their most simple form, they provide basic information on the teams, players, and match officials. Larger clubs usually produce multiple-page programmes with features such as comments from the manager and club captain, interviews with players, ex-players and backroom staff, information about ticketing arrangements for forthcoming matches, a detailed fixture list and review of the team's season so far, competitions, pages for junior fans, and a detailed feature on the opposition. Programmes from some matches are collectible items, and can fetch money at an auction.

Pitch invasions

Supporters of West Bromwich Albion invade the pitch after the final whistle to celebrate the "Great Escape" of avoiding relegation on the last day of the 2004-05 season

Pitch invasions happen when supporters move from the stands onto the football pitch, some times to deliberately disrupt a match. This is distinguished from times when, due to safety reasons, fans are let onto the pitch.

Examples of pitch invasions include the 1923 "White Horse" FA Cup final between Bolton and West Ham United at Wembley.[11] Due to the overwhelming numbers in the stadium the police had to bring order back to the stadium. Another example is the 1977 British Home Championship match between England and Scotland, again at Wembley. After Scotland won 2-1, the "Tartan Army" invaded the pitch and managed to break down the goalposts, as well as cutting up the turf to take.[12][13]

Solo invasions are more common although few in number. In some cases these are streakers who try to invade the pitch while nude. Supporters tend to view this as harmless fun. One such pitch invasion was at Euro 2004, in the final game between Portugal and Greece, when Jimmy Jump ran onto the pitch to disrupt the game.[14] Another well known invasion was carried out by Karl Power, who sneaked into Manchester Uniteds team photograph before their Champions League game with Bayern Munich;[15] his other stunts have involved the England national rugby union team and the British Grand Prix.


Derby matches, which are between two neighbouring rival clubs, are often fiercely competitive. Sometimes there are underlying political or sectarian tensions, such as the Old Firm between Celtic Football Club and Rangers Football Club in Glasgow. The term often applies to matches between two teams from the same city or region, but it is sometimes used to refer to matches between big clubs from the same country. Derbies are usually treated as the most important matches by the fans, players and clubs, regardless of position in the league table, et cetera. The film Green Street embodies the spirit of derbies when one of the characters refers to the West Ham United versus Millwall Football Club rivalry as that of Israel against Palestine. Of course this film does focus on the mostly past era of hooliganism, however its depiction of matchday passion shows just how important derby day is to fans. When it comes to derbies, the culture of football thrives and shines in all its colours. How Soccer Explains the World is a perfect source into how derbies emerged and what they mean to the community.[16]


After the Hillsborough Disaster, the British government commissioned the Taylor Report which resulted in standing being banned from many stadiums, include every top league stadium. Groups such as Stand Up Sit Down are campaigning for its return. This is very different to the situation in British non-league football and other leagues around the world where it is common to see terracing (standing areas) making up some, or even all of the room for fans.

Sticker albums

Usually collected by children, a sticker album is a book where a collector sticks in pictures of players from different teams in a certain league. The most widespread are those that have been produced by Panini worldwide.



Such is the popularity of football that some players become better known for their 'off-the-pitch' activities. The celebrity status is such that advertisers and sports goods manufacturers hire them to sponsor their products. The Brazilian footballer Pelé is such a player. He was so admired as a player during his time that he went on to become a UNICEF ambassador, as well as being a spokesman in advertisements for many different companies. He also spent some time in politics in Brazil.

Former FIFA World Player of the Year, European Footballer of the Year, and African Footballer of the Year George Weah secured most votes in the first round of the 2005 Liberian presidential election, but was defeated in the run-off ballot.

Another football celebrity is the English footballer David Beckham. He is a trend-setter in England, with his frequent hairstyle changes triggering copycat looks in the country. He is also married to the former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, and his relationship difficulties were widely reported in the UK press in 2004 and 2005. Statues have been made of him, notably at a Buddhist temple[17] as well as made out of chocolate.[18] Becks, or golden balls as he is also known, was a longtime Armani model, famous for his underwear advertisements.

In late 2009 Beckham was replaced by Cristiano Ronaldo as Armani's primary footballer/model. Ronaldo, former Manchester United player and currently a player for Real Madrid, has amassed a massive fan base thanks to his blistering speed and mesmerising skills.

Many other players have also become celebrities and are treated as heroes by the fans. Retired players, such as Gary Lineker, have become celebrities in their own right by working on television or radio. Even non-footballers who are connected to football have become famous through their association alone. After the 2002 World Cup the head of the South Korean Football Association decided to run for president of the country.[19]


There have been deaths of players on the pitch and dugouts. On 5 September 1931, Celtic F.C. goalkeeper John Thomson suffered a skull fracture when he collided with Rangers F.C. player Sam English during an Old Firm match. He was fatally injured and died later that day.[20] On 10 September 1985, Scotland manager Jock Stein died of a heart attack as his team scored the equaliser against Wales which virtually secured qualification for the 1986 FIFA World Cup finals. He was aged 62.

In 2003, Cameroon international player Marc-Vivien Foé collapsed during a Confederations Cup match against Colombia and was pronounced dead later that day. His death was attributed to previously undiagnosed heart problems. On 8 September 1990, York City F.C.'s David Longhurst collapsed and died on the pitch during his team's match with Lincoln City F.C.. The game was abandoned and York City paid tribute to the player later by naming a stand in his honour at their Bootham Crescent ground. In 2004, the Hungarian international Miklós Fehér died from a heart attack, while playing for Benfica against Vitoria Guimarães. On 9 September 2006 Hinckley United F.C. player, Matt Gadsby, collapsed on the pitch and died during a Conference North game against Harrogate Town F.C.. Medical tests revealed he died from a heart condition known as Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy. On 25 August 2007 Sevilla FC player, Antonio Puerta suffered a heart attack during Sevilla's first game of the season against Getafe whilst running back towards his own goal. Sevilla teammate Ivica Dragutinović as well as medical staff rushed to his aid. He was admitted to hospital and he died on 28 August aged 22. Several players have also been struck by lightning while playing during sudden storms.[citation needed]

Other disasters have occurred away from stadia. Most notably, the Superga air disaster of 1949 in which the entire Torino F.C. squad perished. The Munich air disaster, involving the 1958 Manchester United F.C. team and the loss of the entire Zambia national football team in an air crash in 1993.


People of different races have sometimes not been accepted as players in European football. This is changing at the start of the 21st century due to society change as well as campaigning on the part of the football authorities in different countries. UEFA and the European Union support the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) project[21] which aims to stop racism. Many black players were not accepted initially into European football, even though the earliest black player was in 1881. However in the 1970s onwards players were increasingly accepted leading to a situation where many club and national teams have players of varying ethnicities. However, full acceptance in the bigger footballing nations did not occur until the 1990s, and racism still exists at some levels. Samuel Eto'o, for example, was once racially insulted by some Real Zaragoza fans at a match against FC Barcelona, and threatened to quit the game if they kept insulting him. The same happened to Messina defender Marc Zoro in a match against Internazionale.

In some countries, such as England and Germany, there have been strong campaigns to remove racism and intolerance from football on the pitch and on the terraces. In other countries despite visible problems, little action has been taken such as Spain and Italy.[citation needed]

Female players

Women have been playing football as long as the game has existed. Their numbers, as both football players and fans, increased with the lifting of bans on women playing football and attending matches.The first FIFA Women's World Cup was held in 1991, and has drawn worldwide television interest. Football matches now tend to have increased numbers of women supporters at the match, as well as watching matches at home or in pubs and bars. In the United States, the Women's United Soccer Association League was formed in 2001 in response to growing interest in women's football around that country. The league collapsed in 2003, but grassroots football was not affected, and the league relaunched in 2009 as Women's Professional Soccer. The semi-professional W-League continues to operate with 38 teams, as of 2006. Japan's women's league, the L. League is well supported.


For the best players it means their services can be offered to clubs in various different countries, and for whatever the price they want. The top players can make salaries of millions in a year, plus whatever additional endorsements they receive.

Teams have also benefited from this by being able to find a wider support base outside their traditional local areas. They can also scout for talent from a wider area. However some European clubs have been accused of exploitation for doing this, as some African youngsters they have recruited for football teams have eventually been left with nothing after the team no longer requires their services. In the modern game most clubs have multiple foreign players, this is especially evident in the English Premier League where English players are outnumbered by their foreign counterparts. Many teams attempt to build a complete team with players with ball control, others with strength, others with speed and others with vision. Traditionally these skill sets are associated with different regions; ball control is regarded as a South American trait, speed is typically associated with African players and strength is typically seen as the European way. Therefore, prominent clubs scout these regions heavily for rising talent and advise them to have a trial with the club. Football has become a global sport where spectators from around the world can enjoy many different leagues. It has created international rivalries as well as community rivalries; yet at the same time it has the power to bring communities together. The FIFA World Cup brings the world of football together for an entire month. Through triumph and defeat it is a modern example of nationalism fused with globalisation.[22] In Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World, he explains that national teams create a tribal sense of nationalism amongst fans. This nationalism is shown in wearing football shirts, scarves and flying flags to express pride. When tournaments such as the FIFA World Cup, the African Cup of Nations and the UEFA European Championship bring in supporters from nations around the world, this national pride is a part of globalism. This complex system is all a part of the global community of football. Football brings players, fans, coaches and clubs together from every part of the world. A prime example of the unifying power of football is the African nation of Ghana. It gained independence from British imperial rule in 1957 and used football to unite the nation. The Black Stars as the national team became known as, hosted the first African Cup of Nations. Ghana has become one of the most passionate footballing nations in both Africa and the world, thanks the unifying power of the sport.

Coaches are also becoming sought after internationally. This extends to national team coaches, once being native to their country, being brought in from other countries. Examples include Brazilian legend Zico coaching Japan, Sven-Göran Eriksson, a Swede who coached England, as well as Berti Vogts, a German who coached Scotland and Nigeria. Another German, Otto Rehhagel, is practically a national icon in Greece, after leading the national team to a shock victory in Euro 2004, and shortly afterwards turning down an offer to coach the German national team and stay with Greece. Dutch coach Guus Hiddink has a similar iconic status in South Korea after coaching its national team to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup. So much so that one of South Korea's World Cup stadiums was renamed in his honour shortly after the competition.

Role models

Football players, especially at the top levels of the game, have become role models for people. The game itself has now become glamorised, with many children practising the game and aspiring to the wealth shown off by the top footballers. The top footballers also have "hangers-on", best compared to the groupies of rock stars. Such extravagance has recently been satirised in the British TV show Footballers' Wives. For another example of notable "hangers-on", see WAGs (wives and girlfriends, more specifically those of the England national team at the 2006 FIFA World Cup).

Debates have been had over whether footballers are appropriate as role models, some arguing that the high profile given to footballers will inevitably lead to them being held up as role models; where as others say that they technical ability on the pitch is of paramount importance, and that they are simply doing a job like any other person.[23]

"They tend to be signed at the age of 12, are probably barely literate because they're not interested in school, and tend to be very immature. They have somebody on hand to take care of everything for them, and are so detached from reality. Any parent who thinks footballers should be a role model to their kids needs their head examining."
—Ellis Cashmore, professor of culture, media and sport at Staffordshire University, believes that footballers should not be held as role models off pitch.[23]

Bad behaviour

While many football players can be argued to be good role models, there have been headlines in the news regarding bad behaviour by footballers.[24] Such is the influence of footballers, their activities tend to be reported widely in the media and also bring condemnation from the government of the countries in which they play.

One such player was Diego Maradona. While he had exceptional skill and was voted FIFA's Player of the Century, he also suffered problems with drug abuse. He was also sent home from the 1994 FIFA World Cup for doping offences and Argentina meekly bowed out of the tournament following a shock defeat by newcomers Romania. His cocaine abuse has led to his medical problems in recent times.[citation needed]

Shortly before Euro 96, the English national team gained notoriety for the "Dentist's Chair" incident. Several English players including Paul Gascoigne and Teddy Sheringham were photographed in Hong Kong after being seen in a bar pouring beer down each other's throats while the person sat on a dentist's chair. Later in his life, Gascoigne struggled with alcohol and drug addiction and had to be hospitalized for overdose on several occasions.

There have been incidents in England of players being accused of violence and misconduct off the pitch. Although on many occasions, players have been found not guilty, such cases are highly controversial. In 2001, two Leeds United players, Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer, appeared in court over the assault of a student outside a nightclub. Woodgate was found guilty of affray.[25] In 2002 three players, two from Chelsea (John Terry and Jody Morris) and one from Wimbledon (Des Byrne), appeared in court on charges of affray. All were acquitted.[26] On May 20, 2008, Joey Barton was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty for his part in an assault in December 2007. Barton was captured on CCTV punching a man 20 times.[27]

In 2004, the Leicester City trio of Paul Dickov, Frank Sinclair and Keith Gillespie spent a week in prison after being accused of sexual assault while on a training break at the La Manga resort in Spain with their team.[28] However, the case was dropped after forensic evidence showed the accusations to be baseless.[29] Although the players accused were ultimately innocent, the scandal led to a media outcry about footballers and their behaviour, especially with regard to children who look up to them.

Wayne Rooney was also attacked in the media for alleged visits to prostitutes in 2004, a claim he later admitted was true.[30] Adrian Mutu admitted cocaine use after failing a drugs test,[31] and Graham Stack was charged with rape but cleared in 2005.[32] Lee Bowyer again made headlines in 2005 when he and Newcastle United teammate Kieron Dyer fought each other near the end of a Premiership match.[33]


Clubs have moved from amateur status to, in some cases, big commercial concerns. Players have also managed to increase their earnings massively during this change.


Allegations of corruption, for example match fixing, in football have always been present. This level of corruption can vary from country to country, and can involve players, agents, and teams. The 2005-06 football season saw many corruption scandals. This included the 2005 Bundesliga scandal in Germany with the refereeing scandals of Robert Hoyzer, and the Brazilian football match-fixing scandal involving Edilson Pereira de Carvalho.[34] This was followed by the 2006 Serie A scandal ("Calciopoli") in Italy where five clubs were found guilty of match fixing and resulted in several top clubs being penalized (most notably, Juventus was relegated to Serie B for the 2007–08 season and lost many top players) and getting their own title stripped off from them and being rewarded to Internazionale who were runners up, and Apito Dourado in Portugal, with FC Porto and Boavista FC involved.


While most grassroot clubs and lower division league teams struggle to make ends meet, the big clubs can make a lot of money. Teams such as Manchester United, Manchester City and Real Madrid are considered amongst the richest in the world with a global support base.[35][36] Chelsea has also undergone a transformation, buying a number of expensive football players, due to being bought by the billionaire Roman Abramovich.

In 2008 Manchester City became the richest club in the world after being bought out by an Arabian billionaire.

The catalyst for this change was the arrival of satellite television. Satellite TV companies paid massive sums for the rights to cover football matches, and in turn have recouped this investment from the many fans who are unable to catch the game in person. This benefits the "hardcore" and "casual" fan as they have more choice of which game they want to watch.[citation needed]

While some clubs do well out of the increased money in football, other clubs can get into trouble trying to keep up. Leeds United attempted to do this by spending a lot of money, and were successful for a few seasons. However the debts became unmanageable, the successful players were sold off, and the team were eventually relegated twice, first from the Premier League to The Championship, and then to League One.

Not all clubs do well out of television money. Clubs in lower leagues receive less money for matches and, if promoted to higher leagues, can have trouble matching the spending power of bigger clubs. This leaves them more likely to be relegated again.

Clubs from smaller countries also have problems with this issue. Due to their smaller population base they receive less money from television rights. This means they are comparative paupers compared to clubs from the bigger countries, and can lead to debt problems if they try to match spending in trans-national competitions. Some clubs have managed to buck the trend by training players through their youth academies, as well as making wise investments. Examples of these clubs are FC Porto and Ajax Amsterdam, although when these teams become successful, as in Porto's case winning the 2003-04 Champions League, the players tend to get sold off due to financial pressures.


In many countries, football has ingrained itself into the national culture, and many parts of life revolve around it. Many countries have daily football newspapers, as well as football magazines. The mood of regions and countries has been seen to be connected to football.[citation needed] Victory in a major tournament can bring happiness to the local community or country. Conversely defeat can lower spirits, and has been seen to be connected to mortality in the population.[37] Withdrawal symptoms when the football season finished have also been reported.[38] The economy can also be seen to be connected to major football tournaments,[39] although the precise association is disputed.[40]

The terms soccer mom and soccer dad, popularized in the United States, refer broadly to a demographic group of parents with school-age children playing football.

Arts, literature and film

The popularity of football has been reflected in the arts, books and films. Books have been written dealing with the culture, such as violence, surrounding football, as well as detailed histories of events or rivalries. Many clubs have one or more fanzines, one example being TOOFIF.

Some consider that British football's image of a nasty working-class pursuit was changed into something far more respectable after Fever Pitch, a memoir by Nick Hornby about his life as an Arsenal fan, was published. The book also provided Hornby's big break. It was later adapted very loosely into a film.[citation needed] Numerous films have been made including Bend It Like Beckham, and The Football Factory, based on the book by John King, dealing with hooliganism and its relationship to socio-economic realities in England. In Germany, The Miracle of Bern (2003) revived the euphoria of the national team's victory in the 1954 FIFA World Cup and was a huge hit.[citation needed]

One film that has a historical basis is Escape to Victory.[41] The film was based on the true World War II story where a Dynamo Kiev team, which defeated a German Luftwaffe team, was subsequently persecuted, and some team members executed. The story has also been recounted in the book Dynamo by Andy Dougan.


It has been said that in some countries football has become the new religion (although this is a contentious issue).[42] "Religious" aspects of sporting events include:

  • ritual pre-match, match and post-match traditions, ritualised group responses to cues such as on-pitch events, etc.
  • group chanting, singing, dancing.
  • the widespread use of symbols: team colours and logos take on a special importance and insulting these symbols is a grevious insult to the whole side. Wearing them marks the wearer as an adherent of a certain group and divides the world, almost cult-like, into "us" and "them".
  • idol-worship of heroes which is associated with relics: balls, shirts, numbers, etc. associated with players and events are highly valued.
  • pilgrimages: some fans will fly to another country to see a match live or travel in large groups to far-away places, caravaning, to see events.
  • deep emotional involvement, ecstatic participation which can go in various directions: cathartic, fun, violent, etc.

Football and other such sports lack some aspects usually associated with religion, however:

  • There is, in football, only a hint of transcendence. The memory of some players might be "immortal" and some teams "legendary," but there is little in the way of an idea or ideology that is found in religion.
  • There are no holy texts. There are famous sayings, but they do not carry authority for regulating belief or behaviour.
  • Prayers are common, but they are usually directed outside the system. Fans and players do not pray "to" football or "to" football heroes, but to the supernatural entities of other religions "about" football.
  • There are revered figures, but this is usually with a sense of irony. Owen Coyle was referred to as "God" by Burnley F.C. for example, because of his legendary role as a manager for the club, taking them from relegation favourites to the Premier League within 18 months of being appointed. However in Burnley's Premier League season Coyle left the club during the January transfer window for relegation rivals Bolton, taking the majority of Burnley's backroom staff with him. Because of this he is now widely referred to as 'Judas' by Burnley fans. One of his first games as Bolton manager was against his former club Burnley at the Reebok stadium. During the game several travelling Burnley fans displayed a banner which read 'He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy!', a reference to the Monty Python film The Life of Brian.

Religious beliefs are also in common use throughout football. Some players are religious and can be seen to cross themselves before a game. In Africa, traditional belief rituals are used to help teams win important games.[43] In Argentina an official religion around the football player Diego Maradona has been formed called "Iglesia Maradoniana".

The German club Schalke 04 has brought out their own Bible titled Mit Gott auf Schalke (With God in Schalke). This is an edition of the common Christian Bible along with spiritual texts by Christian Schalke players and officials.[44] Football and the often "religious" Yoga are brought together - both aim at fairness so to say ahimsa.[45]

Famous sayings

  • "Football without fans is nothing" Jock Stein
  • "Someone said 'football is a matter of life and death to you' and I said 'Listen, it's more important than that'." — Bill Shankly, 1981, on 'Live from Two', a Granada Television talk show hosted by Shelley Rohde.
  • "To say that these men paid their shillings to watch twenty-two hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink." — J. B. Priestley, The Good Companions, 1928.
  • "Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win." — Gary Lineker, July 4, 1990 (after playing for England in a World Cup semi-final against Germany that was lost after a penalty shootout)
  • "If God had meant us to play football in the sky, he'd have put grass up there." — Brian Clough, 1991, when manager of Nottingham Forest, bemoaning the style of football known as the 'long ball game'.
  • "The ball is round and there are two goals." (Piłka jest okrągła, a bramki są dwie.) — Kazimierz Górski.
  • "All I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football." — Albert Camus, French philosopher, novelist and goalkeeper
  • "Football is a game of four halves." — Gary Lineker, referring to the home and away legs of cup competitions.
  • "The ball is round, the game lasts ninety minutes, and everything else is just theory." — Sepp Herberger, German coach.
  • "After the game is before the game" (Nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel.) — Sepp Herberger, German coach.
  • "The people go to the stadium because they do not know how the game will end" (Die Leute gehen ins Stadion, weil sie nicht wissen, wie es ausgeht.) — Sepp Herberger, German coach.
  • "The first 90 minutes are the most important." — Bobby Robson.
  • "It's a funny old game." — Jimmy Greaves.
  • "Ein, zu zwei, zu drei - drun! (One, two, three - bang!)" — Hristo Stoichkov, Bulgarian footballer before the 1994 World Cup game between Bulgaria and Germany which Bulgaria surprisingly won.
  • "Football. Bloody hell." — Alex Ferguson, just after Manchester United won the 1999 UEFA Champions League final by scoring two goals in the 91st and 93rd minute of the game against FC Bayern Munich to win the match 2-1.
  • "Every disadvantage has its advantage", Johan Cruyff
  • "There's no such thing as an ugly goal. Ugly is to not score one." — Dadá Maravilha
  • "I do not play football, I score goals." — Dadá Maravilha
  • "In football, the worst blindness is only seeing the ball" — Nelson Rodrigues
  • 'Small money small football,big money big football'- Ferenc Puskas


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