Oct 30th, 2015, 05:51 PM

Sports Fan Cultures: Europe vs North America

By Jessaline Fynbo
(Photo: Al Arabiya News)
The stadium ambiance at football games back home is nothing like the excitement at a Paris Saint Germain soccer match.

You’re sitting in a crowded stadium and, all of a sudden, a rivalry team fight breaks out. These fans seem barbaric and the tension is real. Where are you? No, you are not at a U.S. college football game – you’re at a European F.C. match.

Sporting events in Europe are different from those in North America – at least from what I’ve experienced. For example, the University of Michigan Football stadium in Ann Arbor (the largest football stadium you can find) seats approximately 107,000 people. The Parc des Princes stadium, home to the Paris Saint Germain football club (soccer in North America) seats less than half that number -- approximately 49,000 people. One would assume that the noise is louder at a Michigan football game; however, from my experience this is untrue. The boisterous pride of Paris Saint Germain (PSG) fans is something I have never witnessed before.

In the United States and Canada, sports fans are allowed to buy various alcoholic drinks while attending an event. Not in Europe -- and especially in Paris. At the Parc des Princes stadium the only alcohol people are permitted to buy is beer that has a strikingly low alcohol content of 1%. In North America you can buy various beers and liquors -- and you can easily get drunk at a game. In North America, its easy to assume that most of the fans filling the stadiums are drunk, or are getting drunk. In Europe, fans get drunk before the game. While drinking is not the point, what is fascinating about sporting culture in Europe as opposed to North America is the noise level. Attending a PSG match was like nothing I have experienced before. The crowds were wild. One half of the stadium screamed a chant while the other half of the stadium chanted back. For a first-timer, it feels like you’re watching a rehearsed but unrealistic movie.

Chants supporters PSG

Once you start paying attention, however, you realize this is how the game works: the fans take extreme pride in their club and they are not afraid to show it. I admit that I am not an avid sports fan. But being present at a European soccer match made me want to go to another one. The atmosphere and the pride fans take in their team is unparalleled. The way every single person in the stadium pays close attention to the game makes you feel out of place if you look away from the field even for a second. In North America, people get excited when their team is winning and obviously upset when they lose – but not with the same intensity you feel in Europe.

The fans also seem more generous in Europe. When I took my seat, a regular fan handed me and two others a PSG flag so we would feel in place. No, the man didn’t go and buy the flags when he saw us sitting without them – he had them prepared just in case there were people there who do not usually attend these matches. Europeans seem to want everyone equally involved, as if it is a community thing. There is no time to criticize people for “bandwagoning” in a stadium because the fans there are so invested in the game. This is the kind of excitement you just cannot get in North America.

 If you haven’t had the opportunity yet, go buy a ticket for a PSG match (or anywhere in Europe, for that matter). Try not to go to a rivalry game, for they can sometimes get violent. However, matches at which club rivalry does not run as deep are incredibly thrilling – something an expat just can’t get at games back home.