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Posted 05/27/2022 in Category 1

Feeling connected, feeling part of it! Good feelings from a World Cup win.

Feeling connected, feeling part of it! Good feelings from a World Cup win.

Sport stirs up the strongest feelings. Feelings that can run our lives, especially when we are following our national team in a sport that grips nations across the world in a frenzy that occurs but once every four years. When sport fans speak to sport fans, they know that their attachment to their team is real, overwhelming and justified, but also only other fans can appreciate what it means to follow your team. To those outside sports, this attachment, identity and passion to support your nation’s football team, seems fanciful – even unfathomable. What could draw thousands and millions of people to their television sets, phones, radios, stadia so quickly and fervently? Above all other things – only sport, and possibly only football at the World Cup. So what is going on here? What explains our association and identity to our national football team? What explains our feelings before, during, and after a game. 

To answer these questions, we know we need to belong. It is a human need that has supported our survival for millennia. And today, we still need to belong. One way in which we can belong is through our association with others in sport. Membership of a group can establish and maintain our social identity, and we can meet this need through sport. When we find ourselves as a sports fan, we know we are following a team, supporting a team but doing so at a distance. What this distance means is that we cannot control any (or little) of what happens on the field of play during a competition like the FIFA Football World Cup. When we cannot control the circumstances, we experience a range of emotions and all we can do is manage them. In life, emotional control is all we can do when situations are outside our direct control. 

We often think about our emotions or feelings as being good or bad. We might have a bad feeling – a sense of foreboding – about an upcoming game or a good feeling about who might play well and score the winning goal. But our emotions are much more fine-grained than good or bad and much more short-lived that we might believe. Our moods, however, can live with us much longer. We might be in a foul mood for a few days when our team loses an important game or gets relegated from its current league.

Jones and colleagues took data from fans of two international soccer teams – Spain and England during the 2010 World Cup to explore the magnitude and duration of emotional responses and how these emotional responses relate to one’s identity with a team. Being a sports fan can bring positive social connections and well-being, but of course, losing games can also affect how we feel. For example, research showed clinically significant levels of distress in fans within two weeks of their teams being relegated from the English Soccer Premier League. Jones and colleagues gathered data before, during, and after the World Cup from 59 England fans and 32 Spain fans. Spain won the 2010 FIFA Football World Cup. The Spain fans had a more positive emotional state than the England fans four days after the World Cup Final. The Spain fans also spent more time socialising than England fans and spending more money than usual. Being a part of a group matters. Being a fan influences emotional states and positive emotional experiences associated with being part of a group success lasts longer than the negative experiences when a group fails. 


Jones MV, Coffee P, Sheffield D, Yanguez M & Barker J (2012) Just a game? Changes in English and Spanish soccer fans' emotions in the 2010 World Cup. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 13 (2), pp. 162-169. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2011.10.008

Image by Damon Nofar from Pixabay

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