Man City starts its Europa Cup venture against Romanian club FC Timişoara which is not exactly the original city club- that club moved to Bucharest and its owner has tied up the club that moved in its place in legal challenges. This is a rare example of its kind in football. It gets you thinking about the various causes of the partisanship phenomenon.
In the USA, clubs move a lot in part seeking out better city financing or development of stadiums. Case in point, the Oakland Raiders in the NFL moved to LA in 1982 and then moved back in 1995 due to owner Al Davis’s proposal building luxury boxes in the Oakland Coliseum which was rejected.
No club has changed more addresses than the St Louis Rams who have relocated three times – from Cleveland, LA, Orange County CA, and finally to their present location. Or they completely reinvent themselves as the Houston Oilers morphed to the Tennessee Titans.
These moves which are driven mainly by economic interests represent a less explored factor in the comparative lack of partisanship seen in the US. With some notable exceptions, clubs here have less roots with the communities they are located in. Even the most celebrated rivalry had to do with a curse.
In football, clubs form themselves on the basis of cultural, sectarian, social and class differences, or the degree of regional autonomy of the places that they inhabit. Apart from the celebrated derbies for e.g., Celtics vs Rangers, Boca Juniors vs River Plate, Spurs vs Arsenal, we have fierce rivalries between more remote locations, as in Barca and Real Madrid purely as a reaction to the autonomous state of Spanish principalities.
Many of these schisms are channeled through these clubs and have to do with an atavistic urge to redress old grievances. Football leads to an acceptable mitigation of these desires which occasionally spills into violence and bloodshed. Over the years, the differences have leavened but the intensity remains just as fierce. A relocation of Celtics or Boca Juniors would be unthinkable.
In Big Fan, Patton Oswalt plays a NY Giants fan consumed by his passion for the game and his hatred for the Eagles. His faith severely tested, he redeems himself in the end by spraying his target, an Iggles radio jock with a paintball gun in a mock execution. But this is stuff of movies.
In football, this is real. There are a dime a dozen stories of such personal hatreds. Betrayed partisans continue to stalk Sol Campbell years after he switched to Arsenal making life on the pitch and beyond a hellish experience. He will not hear the end of it when the Toons visit White Hart. And he is just one of them – in the world of football partisans who see things in black and white terms buttressed by years of schisms, of history that are unimagined in the American sports landscape.