Since its origins in the late 19th century, football has been a sport with a proven ability to create excitement among the following public. However, not all followers of the sport have the same interests or the same feelings towards it.

There is a kind of public that follows, lives and feels football according to the game and the results of a certain team. This kind of public is known as a fan (traditionally of a particular team) and the fans of a particular club are known as supporters.

What defines a supporter or fan of a team?

The characteristic that best defines the fan of a given team is the feeling of belonging to it. The fan of a club or team feels the victories and defeats of the team as his own, regardless of the players or coaching staff who are part of the group in a particular season or stage. For this reason, the fans have traditionally been considered the twelfth player.

What is the role of the fans?

The main function of the fans is to support the team not only during the 90 minutes of a match, but also in the moments before (accompanying the players to the stadium or football field, cheering the other spectators in the moments before the match…) and after (either celebrating the victory or cheering after the defeat).

Moreover, the fans also serve to support players and coaches in good decisions, while at the same time they can be critical when a series of bad results occur, in order to help find a solution to an unfavourable situation.

Positive and negative attitudes of supporters

  • Football fans have classically taken two clearly differentiated types of attitudes:
  1. Positive attitudes: fans who have adopted attitudes related to respectful behaviour towards their own team, opponents and the refereeing corps are what we call fans with positive attitudes. Football and the support for a certain team can be somewhat irrational in certain circumstances, therefore, the fans that take calm and respectful attitudes towards rival fans, without provoking altercations or riots will be those that we consider to be positive. This type of fans are the ones that generally promote the values that football tries to inculcate.
  2. Negative attitudes: as mentioned above, the love of football can, under certain circumstances, be somewhat irrational and can lead us to belittle, insult or hate a certain group of people simply because they belong to an opposing supporter. This irrational hatred can lead to altercations both between fans and between fans and the police. This conception of football fans has its roots in the English hooligans, which were eradicated decades ago, but whose ravages still continue today (although they are now small groups that are tending to gradually disappear). These fans that promote values such as hatred or racism are considered to be fans with negative attitudes, far removed from the values that football wishes to bring and instil in our society.

The different hobbies in Spain

  • Within the Spanish state we can find different fans that are identified with a specific name. Here we can find the names of the supporters of some teams:
  • Real Madrid: vikingos or merengues
  • Barcelona: Culés
  • Athletic Club (of Bilbao): lions
  • R. C. D. Espanyol: Periquitos or Pericos
  • Atlético de Madrid: colchoneros
  • Valencia: los Ché
  • Sevilla: nervionenses (from the Nervión neighbourhood) or palanganas
  • Almería: Indálicos
  • Córdoba: Caliphs
  • Granada: Nazaríes
  • Levante: granotas
  • Rayo Vallecano: rayistas
  • Real Sociedad: txuri-urdin
  • Villarreal: Yellow Submarine

Bonus: Meaning of Alirón: Alirón alirón, Athletic champions!

To finish with this article on football fans, here is an anecdote about the origin of the etymological meaning (or at least one of the main hypotheses that are considered as such) of the word “Alirón”.

During the 19th century, an English steel company established itself in the Biscayan town of Ortuella. The workers in the mines from which they extracted the iron to make steel were paid according to the purity of the iron they extracted for further processing.

At the end of the day, the gang leader would hang up a slate with the percentage of iron contained in that day’s extraction. If the percentage of iron was 100%, the slate would read “All Iron”. On reading this, the miners would burst with joy because the amount of money received for that day’s work would be greater, so they would all shout “Alirón” (All iron pronounced all in a row and with the accent on the last syllable).

Over time, this cry became part of the usual chants at Athletic Club de Bilbao’s victory celebrations.


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