Rooting for the Rival: Uniting or Divider?

Cheering for the Rival: The death sentence that unites
Rahman Mohamed

Sports, it’s one of the few things that forces geographies to push apart their political differences as they combat for the championship.  But whether it’s in an inter-school sports league or at in an international league, the one thing that will always be present is: the rivalry.  And there’s proof today in the final.

There it is.  Because you associate yourself with one team or live in one country you’re not allowed to cheer (or even raise your hopes) for the rival, the team that you compete with more ferociously than any other team.  And you can’t dream about what will happen to you if you’re caught.

But according to Cody T. Harvard of the University of Memphis (2013) in Development and Validation of the Sports Rivalry Fan Perception Scale (SRFPS) this is what unites fans.

According to his research to feel good about themselves people come together in groups.  When they do they create a collective identity, or something they associate around.  Thus they rally around not cheering, or booing the rival.  Fans feel joy when athletes they admire are successful and their rivals, or the athletes they they have contempt for, are unsuccessful.

In a study that involved male college (American) football fans and the “Sport Rivalry and Fan Perception Scale (SRFPS)”, the average fan said he disagreed with supporting his favourite team’s rival in any competition (a championship game, out-of-conference play, winning all games except when they play against my favourite team).  But they were neutral on ranking the rival’s Academic Prestige (the academic prestige of my favourite team’s rival is poor, people who attended school where my favourite team plays missed out on a good education, the academics where my favourite team’s rival play are not very prestigious) and the Sportsmanship of their rival teams’ fans.

According to BBC even though Germany humiliated Brazil in front of their home crowd, because of a soccer/football rivalry that dates back to the 1900’s they were unwilling to cheer for Argentina.  One Brazilian, 44-year-old Lilia Viana, said “Argentina can’t win here.”

27-year-old Gabriel Tedde, from Sao Paulo said, “If Argentina wins, I’ll stop watching football. They just can’t win.”

There is support for Argentinians in Brazil.  Some are supporting Argentina because of South American solidarity.  Brazilian striker Neymar says he’s cheering for Argentina because he’s loyal to Barcelona team mates Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano.

On the other side, before the tournament, 18-year-old Marcus Guimaraes said he’s supporting Argentina because “Brazil’s preparations for the World Cup were really bad.”

The most common view, quoted by 22-year-old Juliano Alves: “If Brazil can’t win, Argentina can’t either.”


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