All good teams need a set of passionate, loyal, vocal and slightly mad fans behind them. A good fanbase can have a direct impact in what happens during the game, and this is true of all sports. They are capable of firing up the team and helping them to play with an extra swagger and confidence, and simultaneously they can also intimidate the opposition and make them feel uncomfortable throughout the duration of the match. A good fanbase will get behind the team through thick and thin, unlike many ‘fair weather fans’ that you will find all around the world in all leagues. Cut these real fans and they bleed the team’s colours, with many of them being so fanatic that the team has become a part of their identity and personality.
Throughout sports around the world there are a number of teams that have a terrific set of supporters behind them. You can feel their presence at both home and away fixtures, and if you ever meet one then their passion is evident from the moment the sport is mentioned (it is likely they will also be constantly wearing team apparel). To be a good fan you need to be behind the team at all costs, but the great fanbases will also be able to accept defeat and know when they were beaten fair and square. In addition, although rivalries and teasing between rivals is expected, and should be encouraged, the best fanbases will never have this escalate to violence either at the games or in the streets. It is usually the minority that cause this trouble however, but there are a few teams that have fanbases with an unfortunate history of violence.
Here are 10 of the best fanbases around the world in professional sports who know how to support a team. It could be their enormous following, amazing chants at games, their attendance at away games, their ability to stick by the team through the dark days, their passion for everything related to the club or a combination of all of these things.
10 Boston Celtics
It is no secret that the city of Boston loves basketball. They have been treated to some incredible success with a league high 17 championships, and had players such as Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale and Paul Pierce don the famous white and green. It has not all been happy in Beantown however, and the team are currently in a tough spot and it will be a while before they make resurgence. You can fully expect the Celtics fans to get behind the team no matter what, as basketball is more than just a game to these fans. Celtic pride is strong not just in Boston too, with a number of die hard fans around the world wearing green and white and pledging their allegiance to this storied franchise.
9 Montreal Canadiens
One of the oldest professional sports franchises and the only existing team to pre-date the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens have been around since 1909 and have a rich history (24 Stanley Cups and 61 players elected into the Hall of Fame). They are one of the most respected sports franchises, and this also means that they have an incredible fanbase which extends well outside of Montreal and all around the world. The Habs are the top team in Canada and are consistently in the top 3 for attendance in the NHL, but also have brilliant travelling support. They may not be the dominant force they once were (last Cup win in 1993), but the fan loyalty and passion cannot be questioned and they are a great advert for the NHL and one of the most important franchises in pro sports.
8 Chicago Cubs
It’s easy to be a fan of a team when things are going well and the trophy cabinet is packed, but you can tell when a team has real fans when they stick by them throughout the darker days. This has certainly been the case for the Cubs, who have not won the World Series in a staggering 106 years. That is the longest wait any team has had in all the major North American professional sports. You would not have thought it though, as the Cubs have some of the best fans in all of sports.
Wrigley Field is an attraction in itself and is always packed with a great atmosphere with plenty of surrounding bars in the area, attracting a wide range of fans who see going to watch the Cubs as a tradition. It is much more than gameday which makes Cubs fans some of the best however; it is also their devotion to a team that are the butt of many jokes. This seems to only unite the fans even more, and their loyalty almost becomes a badge of honour. Unlike most professional sports teams, you will find no ‘fair-weather’ fans here and therefore they have one of the better fanbases in the world.
7 Pittsburgh Steelers
Nobody can deny the incredible fanbase that the Pittsburgh Steelers have, and Steelers Nation has become an important part of the city of Pittsburgh. When the steel industry plummeted, the Steelers brought the community together and gave them something to cheer for, and you can certainly feel it when they do cheer. They sold out an astonishing 335 straight games, and this spans over an amazing 40 years. This demonstrates that Steelers fans support their team no matter what and show their loyalty even through the tough days.
Heinz Field is far from the biggest, which ensures for a raucous atmosphere, but it also means that the waiting list is over a staggering 40,000 fans long. In addition to their strong fanbase in and around Pittsburgh, they also have incredible road support ensuring that they can be heard at stadiums all around the country.
Even rival supporters have to admit that Anfield is a special place, and the entire stadium singing "You’ll Never Walk Alone" whilst waving banners before kick off is something to behold and must give Liverpool fans goosebumps each time it rings out. This support in a relatively small stadium seeps through to the players on the pitch, and clearly unites both the team and the fanbase. Liverpool have enjoyed great success over the years, but they have also had dark times with the Hillsborough disaster being a painful tragedy, but one that has brought fans and the team closer together. In addition to support in Liverpool, the team is also one of the most widely supported around the world largely thanks to their history and passion.
5 Boca Juniors
The Boca Juniors fanbase is admired all around the world and puts a number of the more popular teams to shame, as the passion that these fans have for their team is remarkable and their home game support is something all sports fans will find extraordinary. This is particularly true anytime their fierce rivals , River Plate (whose fans get an honourable mention), visit La Bombonera, where the sound is deafening and the stadium is rocking with chants, firecrackers, giant flags and plenty more. The fans at games are proudly known as the 12th man, as they play a key role in intimidating the opposition and not allowing them to hear their own thoughts properly. Amazingly loyal, passionate and ever so loud, Boca Juniors have one of the greatest fanbases in sport.
4 Boston Red Sox
You will struggle to find a fanbase that is as devoted as Red Sox Nation, who have their own official citizenship where fans can get official cards that entitle them to exclusive merchandise and offers. It is rare to see any spare seats at Fenway Park, and the Red Sox fans are also famous for their incredible travelling support. Road attendance is always a clear sign as to how dedicated and wide spread your fanbase is, and often you will find that many teams have little support on the road, but this is not the case for the Red Sox. Their fanbase polarizes many, but you certainly can’t deny the passion and dedication that Red Sox Nation show for their beloved team.
3 Celtic F.C
Lionel Messi once stated that he had played in a number of amazing stadiums in Europe, “but none compare to Celtic” thanks to its incredible atmosphere and die hard fanbase. This sentiment was shared by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who claimed that he could hear nothing besides the deafening support from the home fans. Celtic have strong ties to Scotland’s Irish Catholic community, but their fanbase extends much further than this with a huge following around the world and particularly in North America. Celtic have enjoyed huge success over the years which has helped them to grow in popularity, and their appearances in the Champions League ensures that the top players in the world get to play at one of the greatest stadiums in football in front of one of the best fanbases in all of sport.
2 St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis is a baseball town where the fans love the game, have a great knowledge and of course absolutely love the Cardinals. The Cardinals have been one of the more successful teams in Major League Baseball, and this is been a large part of what attracts so many fans to this franchise. The fan support, or Cardinal Nation, is different to other teams' fanbases, and it is so devoted that many players want to play in St. Louis. It is not just in St. Louis that you will find Cardinals fans however, as they also have a large following throughout the Midwest and the South with the games broadcast in 10 different states. Their away support is also excellent, but as with many great fanbases it does mean that they have their haters. Whatever your stance is, St. Louis is a special place for baseball and the Cardinals fans are unlike any others.
1 Green Bay Packers
Being the only non profit, community owned major league team in the U.S., the Packers are owned by the fans and have an exceptional following. They are also the only remaining “small town team”, giving them a unique character but they are also one of the most popular teams in the NFL. Getting tickets to their home games is no easy feat, with one of the longest season ticket waiting lists in pro sports, with some saying the wait is over 30 years. The community support and non-profit structure is what has kept them in Green Bay, a very small market, but they have enjoyed great success as well as huge popularity, with a record setting 13 NFL World Championships (4 Super Bowl victories). Their unique ownership structure and the community aspect is refreshing to see in professional sports, and attributes a lot to the team’s identity and popularity.
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