The achievements or failures of my favorite team are also my own

Discover how in the stadiums, the individual loses his identity and becomes part of a group and its rules.

The achievements or failures of my favorite team are also my own
Soccer ball in the stadium. Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Soccer "colonizes" spaces of other entities that are frowned upon by society. There are people who, instead of criticizing or participating in politics, prefer to be part of a hobby, which is a social identity trait shared with someone else, said Erik Salazar Flores, an academic at UNAM's School of Psychology (FP).

In addition to our identity, we have identities acquired during our development in society. Collective identities give us a sense of belonging to a family, political party, religious group, or team. In this sport, it is not only a matter of identifying with this or that sports team but that its fans "recognize me as part of it", of its barra brava. For this reason, some people wear the Pumas jersey to distinguish themselves from the fans of América or other clubs.

Consequently, "whatever the team does, I'm doing, and if there is a goal in favor, we celebrate and say: we scored a goal, we won. Or the other way around: we lost". When the National Team plays, it is more relevant. It is clearer; I am Mexican and it is my team, its achievements or failures are also mines.

Pleasure and suffering

Shouting "we won" affects the brain similar to that of a drug. It triggers the secretion and release of oxytocin and dopamine, hormones associated with pleasure. I am happy when my team wins "because I am triumphing", but it makes me happier, because of my Mexicanness, if the National Team defeats that of a rich country. "In soccer, we are vindicated" when we beat the United States, for historical and political reasons. On the contrary, when "El Tri" loses, especially to this team, the Mexican fan suffers and gets frustrated.

The feeling of defeat," said Salazar Flores, "reinforces the shared identity because the other, who is also a fan of my team, suffers with me. One prefers to suffer or have a pleasant experience in the company. That is part of the collective identity, relevant to human beings. The fans in the stadium are not individuals but a whole social being, articulated, that can act in coordination to make a cheer and shout all at the same time. By doing the wave "we express that we are not one".

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the isolation, and the soccer games in almost empty stadiums, "there is a loss" because human beings are designed to interact face to face, the psychologist considered. It is different when the interaction is mediated by a screen. There is greater euphoria in watching a game in a stadium than on television. World Cups, for example, are successful and fans "also get very involved in these events even though they are not face-to-face," said Salazar Flores.

Colonized by soccer

In soccer, defeat is experienced as an affront and that is why there are violent events. This also happens because in the stadiums there is a "deindividualization", there is no personal responsibility because we are in a group. This is regrettable. Soccer, its teams, and fans occupy the space of other entities that are frowned upon by society, such as political parties and their supporters.

Despite certain stigmas in some groups of fans, soccer fans are usually more socially accepted than being critical of society. In some teams, we anchor our identity to develop ourselves, and our struggle, which should be elsewhere, is somehow anchored or "colonized by soccer". The fans are macho-homophobic when they shout "puto", which is a cry of cowardice. "This word mainly means homosexual, at least in everyday life. And it goes hand in hand with machismo."

Some are concerned that because of this expression the Mexican national team could not participate in the next World Cup and be banned from stadiums, but what should concern us more is that this homophobic cry is expressed because it is degrading and an insult to sexual orientation. It perfectly describes a good part of what we are as a society with those who are different from "the dominant normativity, which is heterosexual," he concluded.