Just what does it mean to the modern football supporter to travel? To trundle along the pavement come matchday in anticipation of a mere 90 minutes? What does it mean to visit an opponent’s stadium in a foreign land or in a rival domestic city?
In the case of the latter some would say not very much given the travel revolution that has taken over the weekly planner of just about any football fan.
While once an exclusive right to just the most well off of supporters cheap flights from Ryanair to Easyjet through to Jet2 mean an abundance of options have made it a reality for any supporter to go just about anywhere and watch football in a matter of a few hours.
As recently as the 1970’s mass travelling English supports journeyed to continental Europe as the skies opened up. A trip to the Bernabeu for Liverpool or Notts Forest fans became as common as the yearly family jount to the Costa Brava.
Foreign fan travel has now become a common feature of just about any UEFA competition whether the fans involved are Dutch, French, German or Italian. Essentially going ‘on tour’ is a fundamental right of passage for most supporters.
The sight of scarf clad, flare trousered wearing Spurs fans in Rotterdam to flag waving St Etienne fans in Glasgow in ’76, the fashion for travel engages both excitement and trepidation. But the fashion has also spawed an illness; but one that fortunately has healed greatly long since the horror of the Heysel disaster.
The changing landscape of the football stadium has led to less travelling fans. But without the away fan a stadia can be far quieter and far less vibrant for the home supporters.
And, while the ragged beer swilling escapes of the 70’s have far from gone, being a supporter these days means an additional sense of responsibility.
Stadiums are more organised, and laid out specifically for supporters not being the dusty terracing where fans were hearded in like cattle. At the stadium clubs are more welcoming to supporters with guidance for the visitor detailed on clubs websites. As a consequence away fan behaviour is scrutinised and punished almost weekly by UEFA even to the extent of stadiums being closed and travelling support restrictions being put in place.
Perhaps the most over riding characteristic of the travelling fan is the concept of ‘loyalty’. The travelling fans are usually the ones who overcome personal obstacles (money, time and work committments) to carry the team through a tough game in the face of resident hostility; they are the ‘chosen few’ if you like – the lucky ones whom the players celebrate with or apologise too at the final whistle.
The ability to travel as an away fan travel brings some of the most exciting things that any supporter can do – the organising of tickets; the meeting of new friends; the group train travel or organised coach trip; the pubs; the banging of drums and audible sing songs. These things all bring the same emotions for any supporter whether in Zagreb or London.
*This article has been written for anyone who ever travelled to an away game.
Photo set can be found here.