The top ten fans of 2013

Ever since I began to travel Europe to join as many different sets of brilliant football supporters as possible, I have been bombarded with questions on Twitter as to who I believe the best fans in the world to be. It is a fairly impossible question to answer, finances have meant that I have so far been unable to visit South America, and even with how understanding my boss is when it comes to booking time off work, time constraints has prevented me from watching all of the teams that I would like to see such as Dynamo Dresden, Aris, Besiktas and many more.

With these disclaimers hopefully enough to prevent the comments section being full of rage as to why your team was not included, here are the top ten fan groups I have personally witnessed during 2013:

 

10. Malaga (away) – Complete with a heavy English presence from ex-pats, the Malaga fans at Borussia Dortmund were truly incredible for 93 minutes, before the most devastating moment in the history of the club saw a famous victory stolen away. Many of the top Spanish clubs have extremely dull fans, but this could not be further from the truth when it comes to Malaga. They bounced, they sang, the climbed the walls of the stands after their goals and gave a standing ovation to their team after the final whistle despite the crushing disappointment they suffered.

Match report – Borussia Dortmund 3 – Malaga 2

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9.  Wales (away) – Wales home fans, much like the team, are nothing special. These days we only sell out the stadium if we’re playing England, and you’ll almost definitely be sat just in front of a small child with a horn who will then proceed to blow it directly into your ear for 90 minutes. However, take your passport out of the drawer to follow Wales and you discover a hidden gem. The best example of this came in Brussels, when an extremely late Aaron Ramsey sparked scenes in the away end which would be difficult to replicate anywhere else in the world. It was a meaningless point at the end of an unsuccessful campaign which saw us finish fifth out of six, but somehow it was so much more than that. Wales partied with the Belgians long into the night, with the stadium turning into a rave that even Warehouse Project would be proud of. If we do ever go to a World Cup we’ll probably lose every game, but there will be few who can compete with us in the stands.

Match report – Belgium 1 – Wales 1

Soccer - International Friendly - Gary Speed Memorial Match - Wales v Costa Rica - Cardiff City Stadium

 

8. Austria Salzburg – A club that was close to my heart even before I visited them, their 5 – 2 victory over Eugendorf confirmed what I already knew. The fans of Austria Salzburg formed their own club after the evil of Red Bull ruined the original variation of the club, charging through the leagues as they chase down a return to the Bundesliga. They are currently in the third tier of Austrian football, top of the league and undefeated at the halfway point of the season. Red Bull Salzburg regularly play in the early stages of the Champions League, but Salzburg is Violet and White. As you would expect from fans who cared enough to rip it up and start again, they provide absolutely sensational support, with every game featuring pyro, huge flags, sustained chanting and a woman employed to hose down the crowd every time they score due to the over-exuberant celebrations!

Match report – Austria Salzburg 5 – Eugendorf 2

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7. FC United of Manchester – The only non-league club to make the list, I have made the most of living in Manchester by visiting FCUM on several occasions. They have many detractors (including Alex Ferguson), but the spirit of the supporters is something to behold, a genuinely touching bond between players and supporters. Put it this way, where else would you see a peaceful pitch invasion to congratulate the players after LOSING a play-off final? There are two red clubs in Manchester, one which wins the Premier League almost every year, and one with a soul. FCUM have an enjoyable varied variety of songs, thankfully steering clear of the 20 versions of Sloop John B employed by many clubs in England these days. The matchday experience isn’t perfect at FC United by any means, but once they move to their own stadium next season it may very well be close.

Match report – Trafford FC 2 – FC United of Manchester 3

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6. Leeds (away) – Certainly the best away fans in England, Leeds consistently take more fans away than many clubs in England are able to attract at home. Not only do they take big numbers and sell out allocations wherever they go, they also create a great deal of noise and sheer insanity. On my visit they danced on pub tables, got all the way to number 100 when singing a song about dreaming of a team of Michael Browns, swung from chandeliers and generally unleashed mayhem on Blackburn. The fact they lost 1 – 0 and barely had a shot on goal didn’t particularly seem to matter, and in fact they still got to celebrate on two occasions. The first was in the pub before the game, chanting “Let’s pretend we scored a goal” before counting down from ten and going absolutely mental, celebrating this imaginary goal more than most teams fans celebrate a real goal! The second came after the match, standing on Mill Hill train station waiting for an extremely delayed service so they could make their connection back to Leeds. “Let’s pretend our trains arrived” was followed by the same countdown from ten, followed by a platform of around 300 going bonkers and chanting “train train train train train”. They clearly have a great time wherever they go, what must it be like when they win?!

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5. Eintracht Frankfurt – If Borussia Dortmund are the loudest fans in Germany, Eintracht Frankfurt are certainly the craziest. I was lucky enough to get hold of a ticket on their hugely impressive terrace, and the scenes after each goal were truly something to behold. Frankfurt is also the only place where I have walked into a bar containing at least 100 people and been the only one not to have a tattoo on their face. They didn’t win the game (Hamburg scoring a last minute equaliser), but they do win a place in my personal top five. If Borussia Dortmund are too mainstream for you, get yourself to Waldstadion instead. At 10 Euros a ticket and one of the best German Ultras groups, can you afford not to?

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4. Sunderland – Perhaps the biggest surprise on the list, and I certainly did not expect to include an English club in my top five when it came around to writing this list. However, Sunderland are not your average set of English supporters, having seemingly avoided the modern football curse of the middle-class customer who sits down and waits to be entertained. It helped that I visited on derby day, but the Mackems should be commended for keeping the spirit of English support alive. If you’re planning a trip to a British derby and can’t wait two years for Rangers vs. Celtic to return, make it the war on Wearside.

SAFC

Match report – Sunderland 2 – Newcastle 1

3. Borussia Dortmund – Borussia Dortmund fans created the ‘Supporters Not Customers’ banner which gave this website its name, and have become widely recognised as some of the very best around. The amount of love around Dortmund fans on Twitter becomes fairly unbearable at times, but the truth is they really are that good. Standing on the Sudtribune was my first ambition when I began my football travels, and it remains one of the best things I have ever done. When it comes to the Yellow Wall and BVB, you really should believe the hype.

Match report – Borussia Dortmund 2 – Wolfsburg 3

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2. Feyenoord – Ajax are the most famous and successful team in Holland, but nobody comes close to Feyenoord when it comes to support. From the fan drinking twenty beers to himself before the game to the wildly dangerous celebrations stood on top of the seats every time they scored, Rotterdam is the place I have felt most at home watching football since losing my club. Nothing can replace the love I felt for Cardiff City before they rebranded, but Feyenoord Rotterdam come extremely close. I still follow their results every week and plan to return many times in the future.

Match report – Feyenoord 4 – Den Haag 2

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1. Red Star Belgrade and Partizan Belgrade (away) – It would be unfair to separate these two at the top of the list, as they both combined to create an atmosphere which is impossible to compare to anything else I have seen. When it comes to the standard of football the Eternal Derbi cannot come close to many other fixtures around Europe, but purely on passion, atmosphere and intensity it stands alone at number one. If you only ever visit one game that does not involve your team, make it Red Star vs. Partizan.

Match report – Red Star Belgrade 1 – Partizan Belgrade 0

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With many more trips planned in 2014, this list is sure to change in the near future. I will be attending derbies in Rome, Krakow and Istanbul next year, in addition to a return to Rotterdam when the despised Ajax ( or 020 if you’re a Feyenoord fan) come to town. Feel free to leave your suggestions for places to visit in the comments below and next year I may well be reporting from a stadium near you!

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Posted on December 1, 2013, in General. Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. Hi Ben

    Love your work! I’ve got a handful of questions regarding clubs I’m planning to attend matches at this season, am I able to email you?

  2. Nice post man. Of course I would have loved to see Feyenoord number one in this ranking, but I got to admit that the images from Serbia I’ve seen are impressive. I do miss Panathinaikos in the list. Gate 13 always puts on a nice show, but since they returned to the old stadium this year it’s really good. No modern arena, no stupid Olympic stadium with running track. Real fans in a real stadium: history all the way!

    On a related matter. Since alcohol and football go so well together, what do you guys consider to be the nr 1 drinking country?
    http://lordsofthedrinks.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/whats-the-number-1-drinking-country-in-the-world/

    Cheers,
    Micky

  3. Support from Belgrade, city of real fans 🙂

  4. I’d recommend visting FC St.Pauli in Bundesliga 2- based in the Red Light District of Hamburg. Great club with over 120 non Deutsch Supporters Clubs. Great vocal support- 28,000 sell-out crowds every home game- anarchist supporters ethics at a supporter led club

  5. Ben,

    We have a similar passion, and from my experiences of football abroad so far, I would without doubt recommend a trip to Thessaloniki to see the Aris v PAOK derby (at Aris). This would be similar in intensity and passion to what you experienced in Belgrade. In addition to this you could do worse than take in a Legia Warsaw game and witness the Źyleta in full voice! 90 mins of non stop chanting, singing, bouncing and unconditional support for their team. If you have time visit my blog to check out some images / info from these two games and more. Cheers, Jeff

    Aris: http://lookatthesescenes.com/2013/02/10/aris-the-god-of-war-its-more-than-a-passion/

    Legia: http://lookatthesescenes.com/2013/08/11/legias-white-wall-aka-zyleta/

  6. I love your feedback on the Leeds away support but you need to get down to a home game and the atmosphere will take your breath

  7. Ben love reading your blogs, think I might go watch feyanord since you compare them to (the old) Cardiff city. Fuck I miss the grange end…

  8. Ben,
    You should visit Moscow (Spartak – CSKA), Greece , Athens (Olympiacos – Panathinaikos, or Olympiacos – PAOK), also Polish games with Lech from Poznan, Legia… Support from Belgrade (Hellgrade) 🙂 I hope you will come and visit again 😀

    Cheers mate 😀
    Uros

  9. I’ve traveled to see my team play the likes of Spartak Moscow, Zenit, Fenerbahce, Olympiacos, Hertha Berlin, etc and recommend all of these.

    One that I am surprised no one has mentioned here is Hajduk Split. One simply cannot miss Split from their list! Home to Europe’s ‘oldest’ supporters group.

    Great blog and wish you good travels.

    Against Modern Football.

  10. Zeljeznicar V FK Sarajevo

  11. This article is brilliant – it probably helps that I’m a Sunderland fan and can’t help but think we’re the best supporters out there.
    But we do stick with them through thick and thin. 5-1 at the end of our game against Spurs, and the fans were still cheering and singing even after the final whistle. You don’t get passion anywhere like you do at the Stadium of Light (and wherever else our fans go!)
    P.S. LOVE the photo of you at the SoL!

    • Thanks Sophie! Whenever I lose all faith in English football I just think about Sunderland fans and remember that it isn’t ALL bad. I’m actually coming back soon for the game against Swansea, I just hope results before that day mean that there is something to play for…

    • Load of tosh, Lets see how mant epty seats there are at SOL on Saturday….As the man seaid he was lucky that it just happemed to be the Derby the only time most of you bother to turn up.

      • Deluded mag alert – whats the matter sunshine are the greatest club in the world ( who havnt won a trophy for 50 years) not on the list !! Better go and do your homewirk before the easter holidays are over !! FTM

      • and this coming from the fickle, deluded “fans” in the country the 92′ ers.

      • Must be a mag, dont let truth get in the way of your drivel.
        safc have been in the bottom three practically all season and still average 40,000 turning up week in week out.

    • That was a photo in the south stand of one of our Swedish supporters who travel over to the matches ,he posted it on twitter and Ben has used it on his reports

    • The atmosphere at the stadium of light is like that of a morgue. Are you being serious? Leeds United support eclipses that of Sunderland, They don’t even have a half decent away following

      • Are you mad. Sunderland have the best away support in the country. We travel hundreds of miles more than yous every year and hey the last time we were in the championship we took 11k down to barnsley. 11k away for a championship game. Yet you call us ahir

  12. Ben – great report – i also think SAFC fans should be number 1 in your report- certainly as the scenes in London over the weekend of the league cup final at the start of March would back up, and will never be forgotten.

  13. Sunderland best in the world

  14. Sunderland and Feyenoord are 2 clubs joined together, there was 82 Feyenoord
    @ the game you attened

    • They certainly are Mick – very strong link between safc and feyenoord plus many other of our dutch friends. I have dutch cousins who support Sunderland – and dislike NUFC !! iam being polite there !! FTM

  15. Michael Black

    Hahaha the mags 🙂 just cos yous are not on the list and you fill the council ground ev week hahaha get over it man mackems more passion kidda 0-3 2-1 0-3

    • this has got the mags rattled hook line and sinker- even if we go down this season we still have the most loyal fans in the country – could have filled wembley on our own a month ago, tesco’s in covent garden will never be the same – nor will my wallet but keep the faith everyone .

  16. Cristian camilo Español Cañon

    Hi ¡¡¡ just reading your blog and its fascinating, good reads im supporter from a team calle MILLONARIOS F.C, its located in BOGOTA, COLOMBIA South America, hope one day you will came and see how is do it here

    cheers¡¡

  17. I think Hajduk Split ultras should be on this list. Without a doubt.

  18. Man where is besiktas supporter group carsi

  1. Pingback: Top ten fans of 2014 | Supporters Not Customers

  2. Pingback: Top ten atmospheres of 2015 | Supporters Not Customers

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