The word fanatic takes on a entirely different meaning for soccer fans outside of the US. For Americans, it’s one of the best ways to get an idea of the passion for the beautiful game and to add a unique stop on your travels abroad.

Soccer fans around the world sing, dance, chant, and curse in unison before, after, and during the entire 90 minutes of the game. It’s a great experience, but for Americans who are used to spectator sports in the US you’ll need to follow this advice so you don’t inadvertently offend anyone.

Tomorrow I’ll have a list of the best places around the world to catch a soccer game, but first here are some tips on how to stay safe.

  • Wear The National Colors or Jersey – Unless you are supporting one side or the other, wear the national colors which effectively makes you neutral. If you do support one side, let the ticket booth know so they can seat you accordingly. Fans of opposing teams don’t sit together at games which could provoke violence.
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  • Stand For The National Anthem – Here in the US, it’s common to see people sitting, eating, and talking during the singing of the national anthem. This can be a bad idea in particularly nationalistic countries such as Greece, Italy, and Turkey.
  • Get Seats Close To The Field – Though they may be more expensive, these seats not only get you a better view but put you closer to security personnel in case a fight breaks loose.
  • Cheer With Your Peers – Sitting down at all won’t cut it and you’ll look completely out of place. Standing also lets you see more of what is going on around you and makes it less likely someone will fall on top of you or think the seat is empty and try to move forward.
  • Wait 30 Minutes To Leave The Stadium – Keep in mind that fans for each team enter the stadium from opposite ends (this is done to reduce fights and other trouble). The most volatile time is after the game not during it. Hang around 30 minutes afterward to give the crowds a chance to disperse – there will be less fans around for either side 30-45 minutes after the game, reducing your chances of getting caught up in trouble.
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For the most part however, despite what you’ve seen on the news, soccer games are friendly and safe affairs. If you can’t get tickets to a game, look for a fan zone – large outdoor gatherings of supporters for both sides who watch the games on large movie screens. Food and drinks are available and there is usually no limit on the time or amount of alcohol you can purchase.

As always, do your best to blend in and avoid international faux pas to get the best experiance to avoid fraud and have fun!

[photo by: Mertol]