Over Land and Sea: A look at what makes a true football fan

By on August 12, 2019

Traditionally, football fans would choose to support their local team or join their family in following a particular club. Stadiums would usually be full of local people from the surrounding area. Everybody would look the same and talk the same.

However, things have changed dramatically over the years and football is now a global game with Premier League clubs boasting supporters from all corners of the world. Globalization, the internet, easy worldwide travel and satellite television have all played there part in football becoming one of the most popular sports in the world.

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Now, fans are able to follow whatever team they like, even if they live on the other side of the planet. Many Premier League clubs have fan groups based in countries all around the world and the fans gather every week to watch their team – even if it means getting up at 3am. We’ve seen a huge rise in clubs going on pre-season tours to the likes of American and Asia to engage with their growing fan-bases and to give these supporters a taste of what it’s like to watch their team in the flesh.

Some supporters even travel hundreds and thousands of miles to watch Premier League games here in England. However, can these supporters be considered true fans? Do they really live and breathe the club like season ticket holders based in the UK?

To find out, West Ham’s principle sponsors Betway have created a documentary called ‘Over Land and Sea’, which explores what constitutes being a ‘true fan’ and looks at the lengths some supporters go to follow the Hammers.

The documentary tells the story of Pan, a West Ham supporter based in Shanghai, China, who become an internet hit after midfielder Mark Noble posted a photo of him on Twitter a couple of years ago.

Pan explains how he became a West Ham fan and why he chose the Hammers over other successful English teams such as Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool. He also reveals who his favourite player is, how much West Ham mean to him and the lengths he has to go to in order to follow the club week-in, week-out.

Pan also recalls the time he visited Rush Green while in London on his honeymoon and the documentary features an exclusive contribution from West Ham skipper Noble as he comes face-to-face with Pan to discuss what it was like to have such an impact on someone who lives on the other side of the globe.

Fellow West Ham stars Declan Rice and Pablo Zabaleta also feature in the documentary while two English fans put the shoe on the other foot as they travel to China to watch West Ham play in the 2018/19 Premier League Asia Trophy.

It’s a fascinating watch and really gives you an insight into what fans such as Pan go through just to follow a Premier League club like West Ham. After watching it, it’s difficult to argue that Pan – and thousands more like him – aren’t ‘true fans’. In fact, you could argue they sacrifice a lot more following a foreign club than some fans who live here in England.

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