The birth of the fan: the origins of the football supporter

How did we become football fans? Many of us can trace the lineage of our support through our fathers, our grandfathers and so on. But association football has only been around for 150 years. At some point, perhaps six or seven generations ago, our ancestors discovered and embraced the emerging game, developed affinities for individual clubs, cheered and sang, and helped to initiate the fan culture that we’re part of today. This article for The Blizzard football quarterly examines why the Victorians first flocked to watch 22 men kicking a pig’s bladder about.

“‘The first derby match was played at Hallam’s Stoneygate ground on Boxing Day, 1860. Despite heavy snow, “a large number of spectators” saw Sheffield win 2-0. According to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, “The spirit exhibited by those who were present prevented the game from becoming uninteresting to the observers, who were extremely liberal with their plaudits on the successful ‘charge’ or quiet ‘dodge’, and equally unsparing in their sarcasm and country ‘chaff’ on the unfortunate victims of the slippery ground.” The dictionary definition of “chaff” is “banter”, which has therefore been associated with football since the very first club versus club match.’

Read the full article in Issue Twelve of The Blizzard.

UPDATE: Also featured on episode 45 of The Blizzard Podcast.

Published by Paul Brown

Writes about football and history. Four Four Two, When Saturday Comes, The Blizzard etc. Latest book: Savage Enthusiasm: A History of Football Fans. Twitter: @paulbrownUK

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