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The Twelfth Man: Key to Victory

NOTE: This is not a post related to JRNL 1220. This is a post related to COMM 1100.

by Xin Li (Stephen)

The term “twelfth man” is usually used to refer to the fans of a soccer team who are watching the game in the stadium. With the cheering and noise they make, they can usually raise their supporting team’s morale and potentially become the “twelfth man” on the field. Therefore, there is a saying that the strongest team has the strongest “twelfth man”; it means the bigger the stadium the team owns and the more fans it can contain, the stronger the team will become. I fully agree with that, and that rule influent club teams much more deeply than national teams. In a soccer game, the audiences are so active that they can influence the game greatly.

If you look at the ranking according to the capacity of soccer clubs’ stadiums, you will find that the top ten stadium owners are all top clubs in the world. Barcelona, which is called the “dream team” currently, owns the biggest stadium “Nou Camp” with a capacity of 98,500 seats. Others in top ten such as Read Madrid who owns “Santiago Bernabeu”, Manchester United who owns “Old Trafford” and Juventus who owns “Delle Alpi”, are all among the strongest teams in the world.

However, compare with Spanish clubs and English clubs, Italian clubs are not performing well enough in European Champion League these years, although there are three Italian clubs that owns the top ten biggest stadiums in the world. But you may also want to pay attention to the attendance rate. According to statistics in season 2009-2010, the English Premier League has the highest attendance rate at 91.9% while the attendance rate in Italian serie A is only 55.7%. This poor attendance rate is even lower that 69.2%, the one which English Champion League has, which is the secondary league in England. Because of that, Italian clubs were doing badly in continental games against clubs from other countries.

Some may say that things are in the opposite way that a club’s strength determine how popular it is, and I have to fully disagree. Although it is one of the factors that determine a club’s popularity, it is not the only one; others such as star effect, propaganda, history and location, all help the club to become stronger. Therefore, the popularity of a club is a decisive factor to determine how strong it is.

photo 1 by austinhk

photo 2 by Keven Law



The Power of Soccer: Binding People, Cities and Countries

NOTE: This is not a post related to JRNL 1220. This is a post related to COMM 1100.

by Xin Li (Stephen)

Soccer probably became the most popular sport in the world from the day it was born, but watching soccer was not easy for people in the past. Before TV came into fashion, the only way to watch a soccer game was to attend the stadium and try to watch the game with a telescope, if you were not rich enough to buy those VIP seats at the front. However, technologies have made soccer games so easy to watch in different ways nowadays, and all these ways bring different paces, spaces and bindings to our lives. At present, people not only go to the stadiums and watch live games to experience the traditional sensation, they also go to the bars or plazas to watch the games with other people who can share their excitements with each other. For some soccer fans, going to public places like bars and plazas for game watching is more exciting than watching them in the stadiums, and of course watching them at home alone cannot even compare with it.

Yiu-Fai Lam is a die-hard Manchester United fans in Hong Kong and I knew him in a bar in Hong Kong when we were watching a soccer game 2 years ago. “Bar is like my office,” said Lam, “I spend every weekend nights here.” Due to the time difference, most English Premier League games are broadcasted from evening to mid-night in Hong Kong, and bars become the most popular places for soccer fans. Just like what Canucks fans spending their night in bars with friends, drinking glasses after glasses of beer and cheering for their team during play-offs, soccer fans in Hong Kong do the same thing. Watching the games in the bar not only brings them great atmosphere, but also allows them to meet new people who have the same interests. The game itself is not that important, what is more important is the experience of knowing each other and building bonds. On the other hand, in order to meet customers’ needs, most bars in Hong Kong installed huge Plasma TV so that people can watch their games more comfortable. The bar owners also arrange entertainment shows and lucky draws in half-time breaks and after-game periods so that people will not feel bored when the game is not playing. “They make the half-time break seems much shorter,” said Lam, “it actually helps us enjoy the second half better, as we feel that the half-time break doesn’t exist.”

In Europe, people also love the bar, but more people who cannot attend live games prefer gathering at a plaza and watching the game in the open air. This happens especially often when national matches are on. Compare to bars, plazas are bigger places that have greater capacity and allow more activities.Hundreds of street venders sell food and drinks, and there are also some buskers. “The whole city is our stadium,” said Yu, an international student who studied in Birmingham, UK. “We sing all the way to the plaza, watch the game and celebrate the victory. Then we sing all the way home.” However, the biggest problem of watching games in a plaza is the risk of riot. Most Canucks still remember the pain they went through the 2011 playoff riot in Vancouver downtown. Watching the game in a plaza delivers cohesion among people, but it may bring conflicts and chaos as well.

But even facing possible riots and chaos, the passion of soccer always unites people together. No matter they are in the bars, in the plazas, or even in the stadium, soccer is always binding people together. No wonder journalist Austin Merrill praised the power of soccer when Didier Drogba, the star striker of Ivory Coast, helped unite the warring sides of his motherland together and stopped the wars which had been lasted for 5 years. Thanks to communication technologies that help everyone watch the game outside the stadium, Drogba’s feat can be done.

I have attached a Youtube video about Drogba’s feat. It is not in English, but you will read all the sensation inside.