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The impact of the twelfth man

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The twelfth man is a common football term for fans, and they are often referred to as such due to their potentially beneficial roles in a game.

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General view of fans watching Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City at White Hart Lane. Photo: Reuters


Fan presence can have positive psychological impacts on team’s performances, especially at home, through loud cheering, chants and sometimes drumming. Jeering against the opposing teams sometimes can be distracting and frustrating, which can be favourable. 


However, fan reaction can vary.

Good plays can motivate, while poor performance can be detrimental, giving fans reasons to leave early before game play has concluded. This can be seen as a declaration of disapproval and can snap a team’s morale.

While agreeing that leaving early may point towards disappointment, avid football fan Dennis Lim opines that there are other ways to perceive the act.

“Sometimes, fans leave slightly earlier to avoid getting caught in traffic,” said Lim, citing the example of Liverpool fans leaving early to avoid horrendous traffic situation around Anfield stadium.

football fans

Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard (right, front) hugs fans after his team won the 2005 Champions League final soccer match against AC Milan. Liverpool made European soccer history by coming from 3-0 down to beat favourites AC Milan 3-2 on penalties in an astonishing Champions League final that had finished 3-3 after extra time on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters


“Typically, nobody can decide for paying fans whether or not to leave,” added the 25-year-old, who laments that for a lot of fans, being on the losing end warrants a speedy exit.

“Sometimes that helps send a message to the team that they have to play better, but true fans will try to stay on till the final whistle blows, even in the face of a hopeless situation.”

Sports being uncertain as always, is riddled with tales of last minute fight backs. Liverpool fans who left at half-time during the 2005 Champions League final would never have seen their team turn around a 0-3 deficit and go on to make history.

Manchester United fans who left even five minutes before the final whistle of the 1999 Champions League final would also not be able to witness one of the most heart-stopping comebacks in European football.

While it might be easier to cut our losses early after having spent good money on a football ticket, fans may very well miss the emotional roller coaster rides that is the reason why everyone loves sports.


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