Photo: Sergey Mikheev/Shutterstock

The 8 Types of World Cup Spectators

by Paul Kelly Jun 25, 2014
1. The avid fan

Forged in the fires of domestic and international competitions, these are the purest of the pure when it comes to the game. Knowledge in abundance and a willingness to share it, irrespective of the interest level of those being subjected to it, distinguishes the members of this group.

When two of them meet, there’s no predicting the outcome. Armed with the same facts and love for the game, their view can be swayed by allegiance to club or country, or just a general dislike of certain players (I’m looking at you, Cristiano Ronaldo). Hours will be spent / wasted discussing the ins and outs of the tournament, much to the annoyance of everyone around them.

2. The statistician

“He’s got 5 goals in his last four games but never scores when playing alongside a teammate who currently holds residence in the same country as him.”

“Teams with three vowels in their name never score goals in the first 20 minutes.”

These are examples of the pearls of wisdom the statistician has in their possession. A purist of the sport in many ways, the statistician sees the game as a script just waiting for the players to act out. For them, it’s the knowing that matters and not really the result in the end. Who, what, when, and where have all been decided — it’s just up to the statistician to point out how right they were about it all.

3. The gambler

The World Cup is an unpredictable tournament, with the story twisting and turning on one moment of genius or one unfortunate lapse in concentration. Within this environment of uncertainty and volatility, the gambler can’t be far from the action. Whether it’s with the intent of spicing up the viewing experience of a game they have no vested interest in, or just a gut feeling they have that one particular player will finally score that goal he’s been threatening for the past few games, this is gamblers’ heaven.

The gambler can be found glaring with unusual intensity at seemingly uninteresting games, occasionally muffling sounds of frustration or premature joy as one team or another makes an attempt.

4. The face-painted party animal

Less about the game and more about matching outfits, this curious breed can be found at nearly every match, especially when the host country is a nation like Brazil. Some are supporting teams out of loyalty and years of patriotic watching, whereas others wear the strips of Brazil or Spain because they know summer colours complement their complexion. People with silly hats, team letters crudely drawn on their bodies, and an eye for the camera spend the match making themselves known and trying to elevate the atmosphere as best they can.

5. The part-time prognosticator

Regurgitating paraphrased analysis they overheard at the table beside them in the pub or briefly at the end of the evening news, these are those who have only the most casual association with the sport but will never acknowledge the fact. And they won’t allow that lack of information to affect their contribution to the World Cup banter.

You’ll hear them disagree with common consensus as though privy to some exclusive knowledge or insight, only to eventually wilt back into the shadows as the benefit of doubt gradually turns to disregard.

6. The unaffiliated

Just there for the ride, the unaffiliated tags along for the social occasion. Having no real interest in the sport isn’t enough to save them from getting pulled into the discussion about the validity of penalty calls or whether this or that player is an idiot.

More often than not they say their goodbyes to distracted friends busy berating the TV, slinking back into the safety of their non-football world. The only refuge for these poor put-upon souls are fellow unaffiliateds with whom they can share their woes and just hold tight until this whole nonsense blows over.

7. The saboteur

Unfamiliar with the sport of football in any meaningful sense, the saboteur is there to observe this foreign game, analyse and disassemble it, and compare it to their (superior) sport of choice.

“Rugby players don’t roll all over the place.”

“1 — 0? 2 — 0? What’s the point? I’ll stick with basketball, thanks.”

The key with the saboteur is not to engage. It’s an unwinnable battle that’s been fought for many years, and when it comes to diving, a football supporter doesn’t have a leg to stand on, anyway (unfortunate pun), so it’s best to avoid. If they don’t appreciate this beautiful game for what it is, you’ll never convert them. Just nod politely and turn back towards the TV.

8. The armchair coach

The World Cup is a massive competition featuring some of the most talented and skillful players from all around the globe battling it out physically, mentally, and tactically at the highest level. But such an elite competition doesn’t escape commentary from the armchair coach. With no experience of the game past the age of 12 or 13, they shout pointers and criticism at professional athletes and actual coaches, miming staggering disbelief at the choices made by these giants of the sport.

With in-depth analysis such as, “You should’ve passed it to yer man,” or, “He should’ve put his foot through it,” you can hear them weigh in when the game isn’t living up to their standards. In fairness, they’re generally a creature born from frustration at an underperforming team, but that doesn’t make you want to slap them in the back of the head any less.

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