Questions of Identity at the 2010 World Cup – A Case Study of Grahamstown’s Football Supporters

Questions of Identity at the 2010 World Cup – A Case Study of Grahamstown’s Football Supporters

Astrid Vogel

This article focuses on the ways in which football supporters in Grahamstown supported teams participating in the 2010 FIFA Football World Cup. It seeks to determine in what ways their support was affected by their identities and how their support may in turn have affected their identities. Giulianotti’s[1] ‘ideal’ category framework (with particular focus on the distinction between ‘fans’ and ‘flâneurs’) is used and critiqued. This article also uses Crawford’s[2] ‘fan career’ framework  to better understand the phenomenon of football support during the Football World Cup. Both of these frameworks are limited, however, as they are based on club football support. The author has further considered the influence and interaction of the interest in the event, impact of the event on the individual, and the individual’s identification with the event on their engagement with the event. Additionally, the author places emphasis on performativity theory[3] and its elaboration to include the influence of space[4] regarding the perception of what a ‘real’ fan involves, as well as the enactment of embarrassment over uncompetitiveness. Finally, the article considers the ways in which football is consumed during the World Cup tournament.


This article considers the meanings that the 2010 FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) Football World Cup had for a selection of fans in Grahamstown. The main focus is on the ways in which Grahamstonians supported teams participating in the Football World Cup, to determine in what ways their support was affected by their identities, and how their support may in turn have affected their identities.  Because the 2010 FIFA Football World Cup was held in South Africa, one must note that the national team was not competitive and a large number of South Africans expected the team to do poorly. Therefore, my research focused on how South African followers supported their national team and whether they additionally supported other teams from the start of the tournament.

In general, I use the term ‘fan’ to describe all supporters; however at times, I also use the distinction Giulianotti[5] has made between what he calls ‘fans’ (individuals interested in the team or sport for its own sake) and flâneurs (individuals only interested in the sport for other reasons, such as fashion).  It is important to note that past studies, and thus the frameworks established from these studies, have focused on club football and not on international events.


Giulianotti classifies club-sport spectators into four ‘ideal’ categories: supporters (those who attend every live match loyally), followers (those who occasionally watch live matches), fans (those who watch every match on television), and flâneurs (who occasionally watch televised matches). He classifies supporters and followers as being ‘traditional’ spectators, while fans and flâneurs are consumers[6]. Crawford[7] points out that these classifications do not take into account the flexibility of spectators and their interaction with sports.

All locations used as fieldwork sites screened matches, thus informants can only be classified as ‘consumers.’ Accordingly, ‘fans’ are those who become engaged with the event to the extent that their support for a team becomes part of their everyday life – i.e. their support becomes a salient part of their identity – while flâneurs do not become engaged to such an extent; the attachment (if it is present at all) is fleeting.

In the World Cup context ‘fans,’ firstly, are individuals who support a particular national team loyally. Toby watched every single match played by all three of the teams he supported. He might have supported several teams; however, his loyalty to all three over long periods of time (he always supports these teams for World Cup tournaments) indicates that he is a fan. A second form of fan support that is evident in the World Cup involves the sport itself. Rose is not a fan based on her team support; however, she enjoys the sport and loves watching many matches, so she can be considered a fan.

It is important to note that these aspects do overlap. Many fans support a particular team for various reasons including the sport itself. These fans may support particular teams without limiting themselves to watching only those matches. The interest in the sport itself guides individuals to watch more matches than those of particular interest because they involve a team that is being supported.

Flâneurs are rather common during the World Cup tournament. Stephanie, for example, only watches the World Cup and she has no interest in the sport itself. Many informants watched the World Cup because it is an international event. Nevertheless, there is another form that flâneur-support can take. David was not interested enough in the World Cup to have a team that he actually wanted to support. Through Toby, however, he became involved involuntarily and for the one match in the tournament that he did watch, he became attached to a team even though he had not cared for the team or the sport minutes before the match started. Some flâneurs become involved for a very short time even if they do not necessarily want to be involved, and then lose interest again and move out of the football sphere completely.

One should note that this classificatory system is limited because it does not allow for the complexity of individuals. For example, we can consider Lilly who was a flâneur initially and who was only interested in watching the World Cup because it was being hosted in South Africa. She had little or no interest in football itself. Towards the end of the tournament, however, she had become a fan and wanted to continue watching football because she enjoyed the sport for its own sake. Eva is similarly in-between the two ideal categories. She knows much about football and watches a lot of it, but her interest is limited to the team of her choice; she has no interest in the tournament after her team has been eliminated. So the number of games she watches is guided by the competitiveness of the team she supports. During some events she will watch football until the final and other times she will only watch two matches, and of course if her team does not qualify, she will not watch the tournament at all.

Evidently, there is more variation to the World Cup football support situation than what the ideal categories allow. Support is not static. Thus, it is necessary to take Crawford’s[8] ‘fan career’ framework into consideration.

Crawford states that all spectators are consumers because of the consumer-based society that they live in and advances the theory of ‘fan careers’ which allows for a change in the form of support over time and accepts that all sport spectators are consumers. Crawford uses a career trajectory to explain the differences in commitment of different fans towards their clubs. This trajectory involves the following points at seven levels: general public (those who have knowledge of the sport/team without much interest in it), interestedengagedenthusiasticdevotedprofessional (individuals who know so much about the sport/team that they are considered to be experts), and apparatus (those who reach a level where the sport/team becomes a fixture in their daily lives). The trajectory is not linear as fans can, and do, change their attitudes very easily, or can be at a different stage of the trajectory with regard to different types of sports or teams[9].

Lilly’s football fan career through the World Cup follows this framework linearly. Initially, Lilly was a member of the general public, aware that the sport existed, but not interested in it. Through the advertising around the World Cup and South Africa hosting the event she became interested in the event itself and decided to participate. With the help of her friend who explained the rules to her, Lilly became engaged and later enthusiastic about the World Cup and decided to continue watching further matches, supporting a new team once her first choice had been eliminated. Finally, she became devoted to football and is convinced that she will continue watching different leagues after the end of the tournament.

Crawford looks simultaneously at how the interest in the particular sport is generated as well as in a club. In the case of the World Cup, however, this seems different; the event generally raises the interest in the sport, rather than in any particular team. The interest in teams is based on other reasons and a team can easily be replaced by a new one should interest in the original team falter.

I consider it necessary to make an additional distinction between ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘devoted’ fans for my purposes. In the World Cup context, it seems that an ‘enthusiastic’ fan is interested only in a particular team, like Eva. A ‘devoted’ fan, like Lilly, is interested in the larger context of the sport itself.

Rose is the only fan I know who has gone beyond her devotion (both at the club level and at the World Cup level). She truly is a professional. Rose watches football because she enjoys the sport and because she knows much about it. Her interest is also not restricted to a single league, let alone a single club. She knows world football and her knowledge and appreciation of the sport allows her to ‘watch as much football as [she] possibly can’[10] whether it is a league or World Cup match.

Because of the nature of the World Cup as an event which is limited in time, the category apparatus in the fan career trajectory does not seem to apply. It is possible, however, that individuals who are part of FIFA may qualify for this position in the framework.

The fan career framework further offers the advantage of allowing most people to go through a period of transition during the initial stages of their fan career. Often, it is not always obvious to the individual undergoing the transition that they are being taught. Claire had to think for some time before she admitted that she had been introduced to the sport during the previous World Cup in 2006 by Italian friends whose support for their team had infected her and raised her interest in the tournament and in the sport.

Furthermore, Crawford’s framework also allows for the support of several teams. Lilly supported Bafana Bafana because her primary interest in the World Cup was initiated by South Africa hosting the tournament (thus patriotic). Her second choice, Ghana, was a regional one, but their performance (they were the only African teams to make it past the group stages) also affected that choice. An additional factor in her choice was the team’s performance, which implies her knowledge of that performance. Finally, her third and final choice was Germany, a selection which was predominantly guided by her identification with the team through her German ancestry. Her choices imply her progression along the fan career trajectory and show that team choices are not necessarily based on a single reason.

An individual can have a career trajectory purely as a World Cup fan; Claire and Stephanie, for example, are only interested in watching World Cup football. However, the knowledge obtained in previous World Cups is often still applicable in the following one and therefore, individuals like these can be considered ‘enthusiastic’ or even ‘devoted’ as World Cup fans, but will still be flâneurs according to Giulianotti’s ideal categories.


Figure 1

The intensity of an individual’s support is governed by their interest (how intense it is as well as whether it is for a particular team or for the sport in general) and how strongly the sport impacts on their identity (whether it has a temporary or everyday impact).

Figure 1 illustrates that Rose has a high interest in football and it has a high impact on her life as she watches many matches. Claire only watches World Cup football, although she has a high interest in the sport; she is only temporarily affected by football. In comparison to Jake, Claire is more affected, even though both only have a temporary interest in the sport. Jake favours particular teams in the World Cup and therefore watches fewer matches. Finally, Steven has an exceptionally high interest in the particular team(s) that he supports, but does not let this support affect his everyday life to the extent that Rose does. He only watches the matches that involve his team(s).

The higher the impact and the interest, the greater the emotions (no matter in which direction the impact and the interest lie). Supporters for Ghana during the quarterfinal match against Uruguay (2 July) had a high interest in the match and it also had a high impact on their identities as supporters (evident in their extreme emotional reactions when Ghana lost on penalty shots). The emotional breakdown of Ghana supporters, irrespective of whether their support was a temporary or more permanent aspect of their identity, demonstrates that the individual’s involvement with a match/sport/club is extremely important when considering their identity as fans.

In patriotic forms of support for a ‘first’ team, the identification is particularly strong because the team is considered in terms of ‘our boy,’ an attachment far stronger than the attachment to a team that is supported because it is perceived as being a ‘good’ team. Identification with a team as being ‘our boys’ also affects the individuals’ engagement with the sport: high collective identification was evident in the support for Ghana against Uruguay and the intensity of engagement was much higher than in other matches. In addition, the intensity of engagement was carried over in later matches played by Uruguay where many informants commented on their disgust for the South American team’s performance against Ghana and their desire for Uruguay to be eliminated from the tournament.

A third criterion involved with the identification and engagement with a particular team is representation. To what extent does the individual feel that the team represents them?  Rose did not support her national team because she felt that the team as a whole was too arrogant for her to identify with. Steven planned to support Netherlands at the start of the tournament, but later denied this, stating that their style was too boring and that he preferred Spain’s style. It is likely that the Netherlands team did not represent what he expected from a football team.

It is useful to consider the fan and flâneur categories in the context of the individual’s negotiation with different aspects of football. These different aspects include the World Cup tournament, the teams or clubs that individuals support, and finally football as a sport. Individuals who are only interested in one of the aspects are flâneurs, while the individuals who are interested in two or more aspects are fans (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

Of course, none of these distinctions are able to conceptualise fully the extreme complexity of the situation; the simplification serves to demonstrate trends amongst supporters.



Rubin[11] discusses the way in which football perpetuates gender stereotypes through the strong belief that the sport is a purely masculine domain. According to Rubin[12] ‘[f]ootball players and fans […] consistently valorise the idea of being a “real” man and as such women and all things feminine are derided and degraded within this environment.’ Football therefore acts as a platform where ‘masculine traits’ are performed and glorified. From this perspective, female fans cannot be taken seriously because the fact that they find the footballers attractive automatically excludes them from ‘real’ fandom, while a woman who ‘demonstrates a full knowledge and enjoyment of the game for its own sake […] is not a real woman.’[13]

Rubin’s perception indicates the importance of performativity theory[14] considering the ways in which gender roles are performed in accordance with social norms. This theory has since been elaborated to focus on identity.[15]  Social norms are contested/reiterated through discourse which is a process that is continued through performativity; thus it does not preclude agency. Additionally, space has productive power because of the context (historical, political as well as geographical) which surrounds it and thus, different spaces have different intensities and forms of power.[16]

The ‘real’ fan considered from the ‘real’ man perspective[17] ties in closely with the concept of performativity as this ‘realness’ needs to be enacted (through discourse or behaviour). Claudia finds it difficult to engage with her male friends as a football fan; she feels that her friends do not take her seriously and has to ‘work’ hard at being accepted as a fan. Whenever she watches a match, she openly displays her support. Rose, on the other hand, is accepted by her football fan friends. Rose does not find it necessary to display openly her support through clothing. This difference in experience and subsequent behavior is based on the social context in which each finds herself.

Claudia is a black Zambian who is married to a white, Dutch man who watches football with Karl and Heinz (white Germans) while Rose is a coloured woman who watches football with other coloured men (all of whom are South African). Alegi[18] mentions that in Africa women’s spectatorship of football has long been acceptable and thus the differences in the experiences of these women are based on the impressions that the men with whom they socialise have acceptability for a woman to be a football fan or not. Rubin’s perception, therefore, is too simplistic and culturally specific to generalise as she has done.

Additionally, Rubin claims that the attraction women have towards football players is considered one of the reasons why men cannot take their fandom seriously. Homosexual men, like Jake, have not been labelled as inauthentic fans just because they find the players attractive and talk about this perception openly. It is of course possible that in other social contexts this may differ.

According to informants, one of the most important aspects differentiating ‘real’ fans from the masses (flâneurs) is loyalty. Neill demonstrated this through uncomfortable silence and adamant refusal to support the USA when he had decided to support Ghana (26 June). He had changed tables with his friend Chad and, while the latter decided to engage with the young women who supported the USA and actively joined them in their support, Neill refused to change sides. Neill enacted his understanding of what a ‘real’ fan does.

Ntobeko, who has recently switched from supporting Orlando Pirates to AmaZulu, originally stated that his decision was based on the fact that ‘Pirates lose a lot.. He later mentioned, however, that ‘Orlando Pirates [fans] are associated with hooligans. Orlando Pirates – there is nothing positive you can say about Orlando Pirates fans. Kaizer Chiefs [fans] are associated with peace; the fans are known as the peace boys.’[19] He evidently felt that Orlando Pirates, and especially the team’s fans, did not represent what he wanted from football. This can be explained using Social Identity Theory which, according to Brown,[20] allows people to leave their group and seek another in the event of an ‘unsatisfactory’ identity. This particular example may be based on club support; however, it indicates how important the choice of a football team can be to the individual. During the World Cup, such dissatisfaction with a team was noticeable with Uruguay after that team eliminated Ghana from the tournament. Several informants admitted that they supported the opposing team as they wanted Uruguay to be eliminated from the tournament for what they had ‘done.’

In football fandom, embarrassment is also performed. Toby showed his embarrassment about his support for Italy (most notably when he walked out of their last match). Nevertheless, before he became embarrassed about his team, Toby made many excuses for their bad playing. This behavior is starkly contrasted by Elena who never once felt embarrassed about her team. She admitted that they were not very good, but did not feel uncomfortable about her support for them. This example potentially shows gendered differences in the perceptions of teams (of course, this generalisation needs to be studied further for confirmation).

Similarly, the collective depression that was evident following Ghana’s loss against Uruguay demonstrates the ways in which unhappiness is performed. It seems that unhappiness is performed to a greater extent than happiness because those people following winning teams would be happy, but would not make too great a show of it whereas the unhappy often made a big show of their emotions for a longer period of time.

The performative power of space is evident in the different ways that fans behave in different spatial contexts. The fans at the stadium perform their spectatorship differently from fans in other public locations (such as the Public Viewing Area – PVA – and the pub) and the differences are largely dictated by the seating arrangements of the stadium itself. In the Mikki Yili stadium PVA, there was no physical restriction on the spectators’ movements and therefore, they did move around much. In the pub, people were again restricted to the seating that was made available for viewers and therefore, did not move around much. In addition, the PVA is an open air site (like the stadium) and far more vuvuzelas were used in both of these locations than in any of the closed spaces (homes and pubs). Furthermore, fans made a greater effort to dress up going to the PVA than they did for pub screenings. In the private spaces, other activities continued while the football was practically ignored by some members of the households.

The differences in behavior in different settings also have a possible racial context. Black fans in the pubs were noticeably quieter in comparison to their white counterparts and only seemed to be in that space to watch a match, while at the PVA these very same people were exceptionally loud and participated in the singing and dancing. In contrast, the pub became a venue for white fans to have a social gathering.

Because performativity is so closely linked with roles, one needs to consider role transitions. Ashforth, Kreiner and Fugate[21] define such transitions as ‘boundary-crossing activities, where one exits and enters roles by surmounting role boundaries.’ Role identities are not bounded entities because different roles are flexible and permeable to a greater or lesser extent depending on the situation and the individual. Role transitions differ in levels of difficulty based on the flexibility and permeability of the roles in question, but are also affected by individual and contextual factors. In addition, Ashforth et al.[22] note that role transitions may increase or decrease in difficulty over time, depending on the individual and their situation.

Watching a World Cup match in a pub, for example, involves roles other than that of the fan: the paying customer, member of a particular group, etc. Therefore, role transitions take place in this as well as other spatial contexts. During the England vs USA match (12 June), Heinz claimed that he supported neither team, but by behavior he supported England. Under the circumstances, it seems that Heinz’s role as a football fan was not necessarily the only aspect of his identity that was salient at the time of the match. The flexibility or permeability of one or more of the active roles he was experiencing may not have been great enough to allow for him to support England openly in the social context at that time.


With regard to nationalism and nation building, Anderson[23] looks at the way in which the nation is a form of imagined community which explains the way in which people can consider themselves connected to people with who they have no face-to-face contact. Perceptions of the nation are also bounded (usually based on language[24]) as ‘no nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind.’[25]  Croucher[26] considers the impact of globalisation on nationhood and comes to the conclusion that nations and nationhood have not become obsolete (they are still used as forms of identifying or belonging), but neither have they remained unchanged by the process of globalisation. It is also possible, however, that ‘the cosmopolitan ideals of global civil society may work to discard old prejudices that were nation specific, but they may also [… contribute to] struggles over identity and a sense of belonging,’ as Marden[27] argues. The importance of the nation is particularly salient during World Cup matches where, as Rowe[28] observed, ‘the emblems of nation were everywhere to the fore, and few seemed to take the opportunity to adopt a position of neutrality in the role of global cultural citizen.’

Patriotism plays a great role in people’s team choices. The majority of fans chose their first team patriotically (76% of sample); they chose their own nationality, but if they could not (like Claire who is Zimbabwean), they often chose the closest team to home. Claire chose to support England because of her English ancestry and supported South Africa because she lives in this country as well as the fact that it is the only Southern African country that participated in the tournament. This example indicates how it is the perception of where one belongs that guides the decision behind which team to support during (or at least at the beginning of) the World Cup tournament. This example confirms Rowe’s[29] statement that ‘[t]he nation, present or absent, is […] still crucial to the experience of the World Cup.’

In an interesting twist, Turner’s[30] concept of communitas is also useful in understanding the unifying nature of the World Cup. Communitas encompasses a perception of the equality of humans based on their human-ness and is considered in opposition to social structure (ranking according to reified categories usually determined at or even before birth). During a World Cup tournament, the general public becomes unified in the knowledge of the event which is constantly re-iterated by matches being screened in almost all public locations. Even those individuals who do not have any interest in the sport will be exposed to it at some point or other during the course of the tournament.

Thus, football has the effect of both strengthening national ties as well as strengthening the perception of all humanity sharing the same experience. Based on this, we can further say that the Football World Cup encourages both inclusion at the level of communitas and exclusion at the level of nationalism.


The argument that women are purely interested in footballers for their attractiveness[31] ties in with the soap-opera-like[32] presentation of world class football and players. Perceptions that Kaká (Brazil) is the perfect family man and that Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) is an arrogant, yet to some ‘sexy,’ man are influenced by their presentation in the media. Elena’s perception of the Italian team as consisting of ‘delicate boys’ is another example of how media representations of a team can become internalised in the way that people perceive such teams.

The perception of the athlete (in this case the football player) as a hero is important in this respect. Calhoun[33] lists a number of characteristics that have been associated with the athletes as heroes: they possess exceptional talent and often have flair or charisma. In addition, a sense of ‘awesomeness’ (‘the ability possessed by an individual or team [that is] more than merely mortal’[34]) is necessary. Based on this understanding the hero ‘need not die to be heroic, but a choice of values involving self-sacrifice helps.’[35] Finally, what Calhoun calls the ‘underdog factor’ (which involves a ‘David versus Goliath situation’) is also useful in elevating an athlete (or a team) to the hero pedestal. One aspect, which interestingly enough is ignored by Calhoun, is the ‘rags to riches’[36] story of many athletes and the majority of footballers (particularly African ones); the fact that athletes are ordinary human beings, who have ‘made it’, could be particularly resonant for many of the fans. However, one must bear in mind that not only heroes are created on the pitch; villains emerge as well.

Suárez’s (member of Urugay team) presentation as the villain was fuelled by the media which contradicted his own statement and called his handball foul (in the Ghana vs Uruguay match, 2 July) the ‘hand of the devil.’ In the case of Suárez’s foul, the deviance was further imposed on the rest of the team as many informants stated that they were behaving in a particular way ‘because of what Uruguay had done,’ rather than what Suárez had done. This collectivisation of the imposed guilt is likely  based in the nature of the sport as a team endeavour. Support for the Netherlands during their semi-final match against Uruguay was emotionally fuelled because many South Africans wanted Uruguay beaten as a result of the quarter final match against Ghana.

Vilification, however, can take on a different form.  Some people criticised the Ghanaian striker, Asamoah Gyan, for missing the penalty shot, rather than Luis Suárez who committed the foul. One informant called Gyan a ‘cunt,’ indicating the viewer’s consideration that the missed penalty was an indication of Gyan’s de-masculinisation and thus he used the ultimate insult in the hyper-masculinised[37] environment of football.

Interestingly, the majority of informants recalled violence and losses rather than positive aspects of the matches that they watched. Many cited the violence in the final match between Spain and Netherlands as well as the rest of the tournament, which confirms Calhoun’s[38] statement that the media and supporters collaborate in making the sport violent.  Violent acts are perpetuated through its discussion by spectators and in media forums while non-violence is forgotten.

The football World Cup does not only lend itself to the vilification of players. Some players do truly become heroes. It is certain that, in Uruguay, Suárez has become a hero for contributing to Uruguay coming fourth place (the closest that nation has come to winning the tournament in a very, very long time). The heroes are more commonly those who score particularly good goals – such as Özil and Müller on the German team, and Tshabalala from South Africa (who scored the opening goal of the tournament). It is noteworthy, though, that these heroes are often seen as such for a shorter period of time than the villains. The only case where the hero status has remained long after the actual heroes have retired is the case of the famous Brazilian team which has become mythologized.[39]

These subtle forms of fans’ consumption of media representations are paralleled with more overt forms of consumption: buying items to display support for a team is very important to many fans. But how is this consumption affected by the individual’s identity and how does the pre-established identity inform consumption? Lewis supported Argentina because he considered them a ‘good’ team (a decision largely informed by that team’s ranking in the FIFA listing and its representation in the media), but he failed to watch all the matches they played. Evidently, this did not conflict with his identity as a football fan.

A more important example is the case of a young woman who wore a Spain jersey during the Spain vs Uruguay match. Her behavior indicated that she was not actually interested in the match or even the team. So why does she own a Spain jersey? Perhaps it is because Spain was considered a ‘good’ team and was represented as very fashionable in the media at the time. This particular individual’s behavior indicates that she is not a football fan, but that her identity as a fashion-conscious individual was salient on the day of that match.

Lewis supported both Brazil and Argentina despite the fact that they are notorious football rivals; similarly, a Uruguayan supporter joined the Argentinean fans against Mexico despite the fact that these two teams are also rivals. How is it possible that fans can ignore such rivalries? Distance may play a very important role in this situation and therefore, the rivalries may become dimmed. Furthermore, Argentina and Brazil (and also Uruguay) are South American, so regionalism can be used to explain this. Supporters from Africa are also not socialised into the particular rivalries of these teams and therefore, with the help of the media representing these teams as all being really good, both Brazil and Argentina can be supported  simultaneously without any conflict of identity arising.


The majority of South African informants in Grahamstown (73%) supported more than one team from the start of the tournament. This phenomenon is, however, not a purely South African thing. Toby (from the USA) and Lewis (from Zimbabwe) both supported three teams. The majority of foreigners from Europe and Latin America, however, supported only one team at the start of the tournament. To a certain extent, it seems possible to say that the competitive nature of the sport encourages fans to support another team if they consider their own national team not competitive. Supporters who only support one team from the start of the tournament often pick another team to follow after their original team has been eliminated. Thus, one can generalise that people from countries with notoriously weak teams (South Africa and USA) find it acceptable to support several teams from the beginning of the tournament.

Supporting more than one team seems to be a continental trait as well; football supporters from Africa do not seem to have any problem supporting more than one team. Lewis supports two clubs and Ntobeko and Sipho both considered it normal for South Africans to support more than one PSL club (their local one as well as one of the successful and famous ones). Interestingly, some foreign supporters showed this tendency too. Stefano usually only supports Italy, but for this tournament he decided to support South Africa and Brazil as well. This can be attributed to the fact that Italy was uncompetitive for the 2010 tournament. Because Stefano was in South Africa, rather than in Italy, that likely contributed to his decision to support more than one team. Wolf and Franz (both German) supported Germany, but for the first time also supported another team.  Here the explanation that the first (national) team was not competitive did not occur (Germany came third in the tournament). Evidently, foreigners living in African countries may find it acceptable to support more than one team for the World Cup tournament, rather than only their national team as they do at home.

This indicates that, in South Africa at least, the way in which football is consumed by the fans is different from the way in which it is consumed in other parts of the world. For many supporters in South Africa, it seems admissible to support the national team as well as a team that is expected to do well. Thus, South Africans demonstrate aspects of ‘fans’ as well as flâneurs. A conflict in identity, however, does not occur through these conceptually conflicting forms of support. This lack of identity conflict as a football supporter is likely because that different reasons are given for the support of different teams. The majority of supporters chose their primary team based on patriotism (76% of sample). Other informants chose teams based on regional ties (63%) and yet other supporters chose teams (primary and secondary) based on ancestry (16% of sample, but 33% of white informants).

The other form of choosing teams (usually secondary ones) is based on the perception of how good they are (reason given by 36% of sample). The perception of whether a team is good or not is enhanced by the media representation; in particular these perceptions can be attributed to what is said about the teams in the pre-match coverage (this was the case with Spain, Germany, Brazil and Argentina in 2010). Of course, these reasons for supporting teams do tend to overlap especially towards the end of the tournament.

It has becomes evident that the distinction Giulianotti has made between fans and flâneurs is particularly limited in the World Cup situation because people are both fans and flâneurs in different aspects of their fandom for the duration of the tournament.


In the context of the FIFA Football World Cup, fan identity is closely linked with the way in which the football is consumed.  Consumption practices inform and guide the form that the support takes and hence consumption is an important context in which to situate World Cup football fan identity. Furthermore, consumption and its impact on identity are clearly implicated in performativity and its influence in different spaces.

Within this broader context of consumption, we see that, in the South African situation, it is permissible for fans to support more than one team from the start of the tournament and it is apparent that these multiple teams are chosen based on different criteria. The majority of informants also continued to watch the tournament after their original team(s) had been eliminated and in the majority of cases, these informants chose to support at least one more team; thus, the importance of the team doing well increased as a decision-making factor as the tournament progressed.

Finally, the fan career trajectory established by Crawford is useful in considering the identification of particular fans with the teams of their choice as well as with the sport itself. However, because this particular paradigm looks specifically at club football, its usefulness is limited in this context. Similarly, the ideal categories established by Giulianotti have a limited applicability in the FIFA World Cup context. This limitation is predominantly based on the distinction made between fans and flâneurs which are mutually exclusive in Giulianotti’s paradigm. In the case of the FIFA Football World Cup, this mutual exclusiveness is not applicable. In South Africa, it is acceptable to support more than one team for the duration of the tournament (and most particularly from its start); therefore, World Cup football supporters can be both fans and flâneurs simultaneously without a conflict of identity arising.


[1]Giulianotti, R. (2002) ‘Supporters, Followers, Fans, and Flaneurs: A Taxonomy of Spectator Identities in Football’, Journal of Sport and Social Issues: 26-45.

[2] Crawford, G. (2004) Consuming Sport: Fans, Sport and Culture. London: Routledge

[3] Butler, J. (1993) Bodies that matter: on the discursive limits of sex. New York, NY: Routledge.

[4] Chávez, K.R. (2010) “Spatializing Gender Performativity: Ecstasy and Possibilities for Livable Life in the Tragic Case of Victoria Arellano”. Women Studies in Communication, 33:1-15.

[5] Giulianotti, 26-45.

[6] Giulianotti, 33-40

[7] Crawford

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] Extract from a follow up interview with the informant in August 2010.

[11] Rubin, M. (2009) “The Offside Rule: Women’s Bodies in Masculinised Spaces”. In Pillay, U., Tomlinson, R. and Bass, O. (eds) Development and Dreams: The Urban Legacy of the 2010 FIFA Football World Cup. Cape Town: HSRC Press, 266-280.

[12] Rubin, 269

[13] Rubin, 271

[14] Butler

[15] Chávez, 1

[16] Chávez, 4-6

[17] Rubin, 266-280.

[18] Alegi, P. (2010) African Soccerscapes: How a Continent Changed the World’s Game. London: Hurst & Co.

[19] Extract from a follow up interview with the informant in August 2010.

[20] Brown, R. (2000) “Social Identity Theory: Past Achievements, Current Problems and Future Challenges”. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30:747

[21] Ashforth, B.E., Kreiner, G.E. and Fugate, M. (2000) “All in a Day’s Work: Boundaries and Micro Role Transitions”. The Academy of Management Review, 25(3):472

[22] Ashforth, et al., 485

[23]Anderson, B. (1983) Imagined Communitites: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.

[24] Anderson, 140

[25] Anderson, 16

[26] Croucher, S.L. (2004) Globalization and Belonging: The Politics of Identity in a Changing World. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield.

[27] Marden, P. (1997) “Geographies of Dissent: Globalization, Identity and the Nation”. Political Geography, 16(1):60

[28] Rowe, D. (2007) “Sport and the Repudiation of the Global”. In James, P. (ed) Globalization and Culture, Vol 3: Global – Local Consumption. London: Sage:119

[29] Rowe, 118

[30] Turner, V.W. (2005) “Passages, Margins, and Poverty: Religious Symbols of Communitas”. In Vincent, J. (ed.) The Anthropology of Politics: A Reader in Ethnography, Theory, and Critique. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

[31] Rubin, 266-280.

[32] Blackshaw, T. and Crabbe, T. (2005) “Leeds on Trial: Soap Opera, Performativity and the Racialization of Sports-related Violence”. Patterns of Prejudice, 39(3):327-342.

[33] Calhoun, 329-332

[34] Calhoun, 331

[35] Calhoun, 330

[36] Campbell, J. (1949) The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

[37] Rubin, 266-280.

[38] Calhoun, 329-332

[39] Giulianotti, R. and Robertson, R. (2007) “The Globalization of Football: A Study in the Glocalization of the ‘Serious Life’”. In James, P. (ed) Globalization and Culture, Vol 3: Global – Local Consumption. London: Sage. 91-109.

Alegi, P. (2010) African Soccerscapes: How a Continent Changed the World’s Game. London: Hurst & Co.

Anderson, B. (1983) Imagined Communitites: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.

Ashforth, B.E., Kreiner, G.E. and Fugate, M. (2000) “All in a Day’s Work: Boundaries and Micro Role Transitions”. The Academy of Management Review, 25(3):472-491.

Blackshaw, T. and Crabbe, T. (2005) “Leeds on Trial: Soap Opera, Performativity and the Racialization of Sports-related Violence”. Patterns of Prejudice, 39(3):327-342.

Brown, R. (2000) “Social Identity Theory: Past Achievements, Current Problems and Future Challenges”. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30:745-778.

Butler, J. (1993) Bodies that matter: on the discursive limits of sex. New York, NY: Routledge.

Calhoun, D.W. (1987) Sport, Culture, and Personality (2nd edition). Champaing, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers

Campbell, J. (1949) The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Chávez, K.R. (2010) “Spatializing Gender Performativity: Ecstasy and Possibilities for Livable Life in the Tragic Case of Victoria Arellano”. Women Studies in Communication, 33:1-15.

Crawford, G. (2004) Consuming Sport: Fans, Sport and Culture. London: Routledge

Croucher, S.L. (2004) Globalization and Belonging: The Politics of Identity in a Changing World. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield.

Giulianotti, R. and Robertson, R. (2007) “The Globalization of Football: A Study in the Glocalization of the ‘Serious Life’”. In James, P. (ed) Globalization and Culture, Vol 3: Global – Local Consumption. London: Sage. 91-109.

Giulianotti, R. (2002) ‘Supporters, Followers, Fans, and Flaneurs: A Taxonomy of Spectator Identities in Football’. Journal of Sport and Social Issues:26-45.

Marden, P. (1997) “Geographies of Dissent: Globalization, Identity and the Nation”. Political Geography, 16(1):37-64.

Rowe, D. (2007) “Sport and the Repudiation of the Global”. In James, P. (ed) Globalization and Culture, Vol 3: Global – Local Consumption. London: Sage. 111-123.

Rubin, M. (2009) “The Offside Rule: Women’s Bodies in Masculinised Spaces”. In Pillay, U., Tomlinson, R. and Bass, O. (eds) Development and Dreams: The Urban Legacy of the 2010 FIFA Football World Cup. Cape Town: HSRC Press, 266-280.

Turner, V.W. (2005) “Passages, Margins, and Poverty: Religious Symbols of Communitas”. In Vincent, J. (ed.) The Anthropology of Politics: A Reader in Ethnography, Theory, and Critique. Malden, MA: Blackwell.


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