Oleh Darmanto Simaepa
Imagine, someone stands wearing a red or a yellow shirt in the sea of white-shirted football fans in the crowded stadium. Although s/he is a supporter of same club with the mass, s/he will be seen as a strange supporter. Some supporters may shout at him/her, and other may ignore his/her existence. Moreover, she/he may not be considered as a part of the group because of his/her appearances. However, S/he will be accepted as a part of the group if he sings the mars, mocks the opposite players, or shows his middle finger to the rivals. In the football stadium, there are no people in between. As a supporters, people should identify yourself as ‘us’ or ‘them’ depend on the team that they support. ‘We’ or ‘they’ determine supporter behaviour, attitude, clothing, and word. Being a football supporter in the stadium, people may lose their individuality.
The relation of people in the stadium reveals how important of football in modern society as well as represent how individu build a relation with community. Certainly, football is an important sport because it is able to blend the differences and to unite the diversity of human nature. Football can integrate a million people from different religions, nations, classes, and ethnicity into a union. The stadium is a social medium for people to meet and socialize. People watch football game with the differences purpose. Generally, thousands of people watch a spectacular and technical entertainment that is provided by gifted football stars. Players such as Maradona, Zidane, and Messi for a few are the modern version of Maximus the Roman in the Colloseum as in Ridley Scott’s film, The Gladiator. They make people come to the stadium to see the ‘theatre of the dream’ and celebrate togetherness, happiness, drama or surprises. Football stars’ life and football indusry represents wealthness, power, prosperity, or glamoureness our modern society. From the different side of perspective, some people watch football match to forget their problem. For example, the South Africa World Cup 2010 made the Ivorian stop the civil war by coming to the stadion watch their national team. The anti-apartheid warrior Nelson Mandela used football to reconcile South Africa Nation in the Johanessburg’s historical match in 1994.
However, football is not always bringing a nice story. Racism is associated to this game. European newspapers report regularly about the supporters who throws banana’s skin or imitates monkey’s voice in the stadium when the dark-skinned played get the ball. Ironically, racism is also found among the players themselves. Each year, football association release a list of players and clubs who is suspected for racist action. They release a huge campaign against racism and take a fine from the club who can not prevent their supporters and player to deploy a racist action for other players. Moreover, violence is also linked to football. Through history, stadium is the place that a thousand of supporter have been killed by other supporters. For instances, football match and stadium were used by Serbian militia as tool for genocide in Yugoslaviea. During the World War II, football match triggered a war between Argentina and Uruguay. In Indonesia, we are familiar with the fighting among supporters and the violence along the competition.
Racism and violence are mainly taken by supporters. Those negative aspects of football might be rooted in the mass psychology of supporters. In a football match in the stadium, it is believed no ‘individual’ supporter. There is no place for neutrality in the stadium even in a box of journalist or official committee. Supporter, a football pundit, and a television comentator should choose and decide their favourite team. Certainly, someone who attends in the football match chooses his team before entering into the stadium. The reasons of choosing a team are various. Some love their team base on the city origin, favourite player, coach, style and tactics, or nationality. Then in the stadium, his/her decision will melt with other thousand people decision. Having said, there is no loneliness or noneness for supporters in a crowded stadium.
The collectiveness of supporters in the stadium is an example of basic human psychology. The psychologist Erich Fromm noted on The Need To Conform (1996: 280) that men always find a solution to overcome their separateness, achieve a union and transcend their individual life and find an atonement. Religions, arts, militaries, states, or music are the institutions that provide an answer for human beings in search for togetherness. In the contemporary life, football is an important institution that is chosen by people to make a unity. Football fans in a crowded stadium are the space where individu can unite with other million poeple. The football fan in stadium is an example of Fromm’s term of union. As Fromm said, union save a person from frightening experiences of aloneness as well as football fans community for a supporter. Consequently, football fans not only provide a social acceptance to a supporter but also encourage his/her find their collective identity.
The development of fans as community have been rooted in the history of football, however, it significanly increased in 1970s-1980s, and since then football fans have played important role in modern football. The social origin and aspect of fans have been a research topic among social scientist since the football fans was viewed as social problem across the world. For example, in England, there was hooligan that dominated newspaper headline for their violence and destruction after a football match. In Balkan Peninsula, there was several ‘civil war’ among the supporters. Meanwhile, in Beunos Aires or Sao Paulo and elshewhere, a ‘new species’ of supporters that different with pre-war supporters was born. In the beginning, the attention of sociologist and psychologist focused on violence and youth culture aspect of football fans. The new species of fans was characterized by fanatic, angry, young, and use of violence. They created mass fighting, killed several rivals and tortured opponent players. Furthermore, some of the ultras a group of young fanatical football fans built an alliance with hand-wing political party and paramilitia.
The emergence of fanatic fooball fans can not be separated from the social context at that time. A Scottish sociologist Ricardo Giulinotti explains that the number of football fans organization increases because they provide an environment for young people to express their collective identity (2007: 161-7). The result of neo-liberal policy in developed countries in 1970s made the changing in social relations for modern society. Neo-liberal policy made government cut social insurance, health supplies, reduced public expenditure, and extended the pension age. Thousands of young people had no job and were not in school. Their parents must work hard and had no time to accompany their children, especially when they were teenager. Foooball fans are believed as to be the product of the social change since the role of family and religion were sinking to give a social nursery for the youth. The young people looked at the football fans as the place to express their voice as well as a new kind of community. The film Hooligan Streets (1998) illustrated how football fans have been the source of many of the most visible manifestations of youth culture protest. The youth tends to join football because football fans give them a nesting place. Further, not only young supporter, however, find the football fans as community. Moreover, adults, children, teenagers, women or men also feel the football fans as community. They can raise the flag, drink alcohol, yell together and feel as unity that cannot be separated. Again, football fan is a community as Fromm’s definiton ‘where man feel more strong and brave enough’ (p. 283).
Without doubt, the football supporter in the stadium is a new kind of community in our time. This novel community creates a new custom, practice, and beliefs. Like a religion, the football fans in the stadium have songs, attributes, social codes, taboos and sanctions. They have a particular code of conduct, and some scholars classified them as ‘sub-culture’. Moreover, this community also creates a hierarchy among the supporters according to the place, age or gender. For example, fanatic supporters occupy in the curve of stadium or in the back of the goalkeeper area. Usually, these places are specialized to young man. Less die-hard fans occupy the middle side of stadium. Women and children also sit in the middle side of stadium or near the security area. The organization of fans will select a new member through several inaugurations and initiations.
Through its social code, the football community seems to force an individual supporter following the community rules. However, such as Fromm said, people want to conform to a much higher degree than they are forced to conform (p. 284). Fromm’s analysis is useful to explain the habit of the football fans. It is true that the supporters have different personalities or attitudes when they watch the match. They come to stadium with different reason, buy ticket with their money and love their team through different ways. Nobody can force an individual fans to see the match or changing their decision to choose their team. Nevertheless, stadium is different things. When the whistle is blown and the kick-off begin, the football match divides a thousand people into two categorizes. Visitors should choose: our team or theirs team. The individual becomes impersonal person in two categories: proponent or opponent. Football match provide a room for an individual supporter who want to be a part of the community.
The role of stadium for provide a room for conformity is obviously for contemporary society. Football venue is look like a holy temple for modern society. Stadium is physical building with a football pitch, the seats, and car parkings. There is something with social relation, for instance joyness, worships, and drama in the stadium. In the word of the Merseyside legendary manager, Bill Shankly, football match in stadium is ‘beyond the life and the death’. As a football essayist Simon Kuper (1994: 4) writes, the stadium is the ritual place for post-industry society. In the stadium, post-industry society can find their imagination about a community. However, the concept of community in the stadium is different with the concept of community for South Dakota people, as Dorothy Lee written in Autonomy and Community (1996). There is a limited space of two-ways social interaction between individu and the collective fans as community. The dialectic relation that creates both of autonomy and collectiveness is not developed in the stadium. People who come to the stadium do not find their autonomy. On the contrary, people who come to stadium willing to search for a similarity with others and leave their autonomy.
Is it true that the football community do not have the room for personality or individuality? The answer is depends on the place. Out of the stadium, a supporter is an ‘individual’ with various backgrounds. s/he can be a teacher, a young executive, a priest, a monk, a student. Certainly, s/he can select their place in the stadium for free. In the stadium, however, people becoming an alien person if they can’t sing, yell or objurgate rivals together or show their identity. A serious professor can be a crazy fan, a calm husband can be an energetic supporter, or a priest can shout at the opponent players with several curses. Preciselly, in the stadium, someone prefer their anonymity.