Sunday, September 13, 2009

Taking soccer enthusiam to another level

This afternoon, I met up with a friend at the gorgeous Lusienpark in Mannheim (located right next to a soccer stadium). Upon exiting the park and walking 50 meters to my car, I encountered:
1. 30 armed police vans
2. 10 Ambulances
3. 50 (then I stopped counting) policeman armed for a riot
4. Another 40 police cars.

To most, this would cause terrorist fears. To those familiar with sports, it was clear that a soccer match was the cause of all the armed gear.

Soccer matches in Europe can only compare to attending a Japanese baseball game or a Brazilian soccer match, in terms of fan enthusiasm. Fans here take it to the next level. Every section has their own cheerleader (often an older male, who drinks a lot, swears at the other team, and leads cheers when his pants aren't falling down from climbing up the fence with barbed wire on the top to seperate the sections). In most stadiums, fans are only allowed in sections depending on the colors they're wearing... this limits any beatings invoked by someone (heaven forbid) wearing the wrong colors in the home team section. And big, loud drums are standard at all matches. At the Brazilian soccer match I attend, our hosts even told us to wear running shoes so that we could run away when the riots started.

The fan enthusiasm is part of what makes soccer matches so much fun to attend. But when does the enthusiasm go to far? Isn't soccer supposed to unit people instead of invoke fears or riots and beatings?
Pic1: shows security at mid-time during a Hoffenheim v. Karlsruhe fussball match in May 2009. Security, in this format, was placed around the entire field with 10 min remaining in the game.
Pics2 & 3: show fans at the Hoffenheim v. Karlsurhe fussball match in May 2009.

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