Accepted paper:

Playing (with) Loyalties: the UEFA EURO 2012 Critically Revisited


Alexandra Schwell (University of Klagenfurt)
Nina Szogs (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing upon fieldwork in Austria, Poland and Germany during the EURO 2012, the paper scrutinizes the performativity of group affiliations in football fan identities. With regard to strategies of selfing and othering, it analyses how stereotypes are used in the creation of loyalties and denegation.

Paper long abstract:

For hundreds of millions of people football is an important part of their everyday lives and identities. The UEFA EURO is one the biggest football events in the world, attracting not only dedicated football lovers, but also so-called 'event fans'. Public screenings of EURO matches in fan zones, pubs, and public places create specific spaces, liminal zones that suspend ordinary rules while setting up new ones. Football demands the spectator to admit to a team - most likely to the national team. Fans perform loyalty using shared symbols, like the display of national colours or chanting and singing national songs, and thereby fans originate group identity. While traditional football research has already extensively elaborated on national fan loyalties, our paper will focus on the largely under-researched realm of shifting loyalties: In the case of a national team not participating or dropping out early, most spectators will choose another team to support, if only temporarily. This highly contextual identification process does not happen individually, but the creation and legitimation of loyalties and denegation is not only strongly informed by personal experiences, but moreover by historical and socio-cultural narratives and media representations, and thus by stereotypes and prejudices. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork in Austria, Poland and Germany in public places during the EURO 2012 the paper scrutinizes how fans use strategies of selfing and othering in creating loyalties. The key question lies in the tension between a playful performance of self and other and a transgression of mutually respected rules of the game.

panel G24
The anthropology of sport in a changing world