FC Barcelona, Spain
A trip to Barcelona’s Camp Nou is like visiting Mecca for any ardent football fan. The club with arguably the most glamorised, mythical reputation in world football boasts the stadium, and the fans, to match. Barcelona boasts over 1,300 officially registered fan clubs worldwide, but it’s inside the Camp Nou where the real passion can be felt.
SSC Napoli, Italy
Napoli fans are known for their strong mafia links, making matches at the Stadio San Paolo an intimidating place to travel as an away supporter. Although the club went bankrupt in 2004, it was re-born in Italy’s lowest professional tier, and still attracted attendances of over 50,000 at home games. Considered one of the best supported teams in Italy, despite its recent turbulent history, Napoli are on the rise again.
Anfield is one of those special football arenas, where the history hangs thick in the air, and the atmosphere is stirred by intensely passionate support. Liverpool supporters have an indelible bond with the club, a sense of belonging and community rare amongst the upper echelons of the English game.
FC St. Pauli, Germany
Not Germany’s biggest club, but St. Pauli are notorious as a symbol of counter-cultural values, reflected in their largely left-wing fan following. The club has become a “kult” symbol since moving into Hamburg’s red-light district in the 1980s, and the fans from all backgrounds are known for the party atmosphere they create at home games in the unique Millerntor-Stadion.
Celtic FC, Scotland
Celtic FC is not just a football club to its supporters, it’s a way of life, a symbol of cultural and religious heritage, and their fierce rivalry with Rangers FC is one of the most bitter in the world game. The mobilisation of Celtic fans to Seville for the 2003 UEFA Cup Final has gone down in history, with 80,000 supporters descending on the city for the game, a 3-2 loss to Porto.
Boca Juniors, Argentina
One of the world’s great football clubs is also known as having some of the world’s greatest fans. As many as 40% of Argentines claim to follow Boca, and their cauldron of a stadium, La Bombonera, is one of the most intimidating football stadia in the world. A group of die-hard supporters, known as La Doce (the twelfth player), dedicate their time to supporting the team, and Boca’s rivalry with River Plate is one of the most famous in world football.
West Ham United
Situated in the heart of London’s east end, West Ham is a club with working-class roots, a historic ground and a vocal, die-hard support. Though the glory days of the club may be a distant memory, the club is still treated with great reverence by its fans, who make the Boleyn Ground an intimidating stadium to visit as an away supporter.
Lech Pozna?, Poland
The fans of the most widely supported club in Poland have gained an incredible reputation in recent years. Known for their inspired goal celebration of turning their backs to the pitch, linking arms and jumping up and down in unison, these supporters epitomise passion for the cause. Pozna? fans have been known to show their support by turning up en masse to junior games, where matches have been abandoned due to the intimidating atmosphere caused for visiting players as young as eight years old.
Galatasaray SK, Turkey
The most supported team in Turkey, Istanbul’s Galatasaray hold a notorious reputation worldwide. The club is part of a bitter three-way rivalry along with Fenerbahçe and Be?ikta?, and fans have been known to clash violently. Their old stadium was known “affectionately” by visiting supporters as “Hell”, and Galatasaray fans recorded the “loudest crowd roar at a sport stadium” in 2011 – a Guinness World Record. Still, it's well worth grabbing some cheap flights to Turkey just to experience this crowd!
Cardiff City are known for having some of the hardest supporters in the British game, and though they recently moved from their historic home of Ninian Park to a purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility, the passion and enthusiasm of the fans remains a key feature of any Cardiff home game. On their travels they’ve been known to scuffle with the best of them, sustaining their fearsome reputation for die-hard support.
Al-Ahly SC, Egypt
Africa’s best supported club, Al Ahly are said to have 50 million supporters in Egypt alone. The first African team to have organised “ultras” fan groups, they pack out the 75,000 seat Cairo Stadium for home games and join in unison, jumping and singing for their team, to make the Egyptian champions the most formidable team in their country, and continent.
SL Benfica, Portugal
The most successful club in Portuguese football history also boasts the most club members of any team in the world (over 160,000), and is said to have up to 14 million fans worldwide. The club’s home, Estádio da Luz, is one of the finest football stadiums in the world – setting the template for many modern stadia to follow – and provides a fitting home to a grand club with a legion of fanatic supporters.
Olympique de Marseille, France
Marseille’s Stade Velodrome is one of the most famous and notorious football arenas in Europe. The atmosphere created by the ultras at each end of the ground, in the huge “curva” style stands, is renowned the world over. Marseille are historically one of the greatest teams in French football, and their die-hard support has made away teams dread the moment they step onto the turf in this theatre of football on the Cote D’Azur.
The most popular team in Brazil, the adopted home of football, Flamengo has a history of fanatic support. Although the club has flitted between stadiums in recent years, the iconic Maracanã is thought of as the club’s spiritual home. Registering attendances of over 150,000 on multiple occasions in the past (before tighter stadium restrictions), the team can rely on the vast and passionate support to lift the players’ performances to the exceptional standards that are expected.
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