Are you typically an apathetic soccer fan but then the World Cup starts up and suddenly you are an avid “futbol fan”? Do you find yourself sporting the colors of your team every day and getting into heated conversations with other fans via Facebook? Are you sneaking around watching the games during office hours? If so, it’s okay. You are not alone. Many people get a rush of excitement with the opportunity to watch their country perform against the world and in turn join in on the World Cup festivities. Are you wondering why this sudden urge occurs? The answers can be found by exploring the concept of intergroup dynamics.
Groups form when individuals develop a psychological bond and/or common interest. During the World Cup, a natural and obvious formation occurs based on an individual’s home country. There is an instant bond and understanding between those that share a similar culture, religion, and belief structure. Moreover, being part of this group further clarifies an individual’s own identity, thus strengthening the commitment to the team.
Us against the World
A result of intergroup dynamics is the phenomenon of in-group vs. out-group. The idea is that an individual makes comparisons based on the concept of their own group membership versus everyone else’s group membership. These comparisons are typically biased and may focus only on the positive qualities of their own group versus the other groups. This might result in a comment such as, “Our team is the only team that plays by the rules in the World Cup but the referee never sees that.” Sound familiar? The in-group focus further strengthens the bond between group members or fans.
Fighting for a Common Goal
Groups breed competition. It’s that simple. Members of a group want to prove that they are better than any other group out there. Add the possibility of winning the FIFA World Cup Trophy and now there is a common and clear goal. Fans can easily understand the process it takes to accomplish the goal and know the joy and satisfaction of world bragging rights for four years. Why not feverishly support a team that you know will win it all?
Turns out you are hard-wired to enjoy the World Cup! So why fight it or feel guilty of being a casual fan during the off-season? It’s completely natural to wear your team colors with pride, trash talk to the opposing team (only a little), and cheer after every goal with the passion typically reserved for lottery winners. Carry on and enjoy the World Cup!
Photograph by Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images