Decoding in the Viennese Context (Negotiated Position)

It has become very common to be a fan abroad in Europe and beyond (cf. King 2000; Sandvoss 2012). Being a Manchester United fan in Berlin or a FC Bayern Munchen fan in Beijing has become a widespread phenomenon in modern football fandom. The popular clubs sell their merchandise in fan shops in many cities around the world (I tried on a Werder Bremen jersey in a shop in Buenos Aires). Even if fans do not have access to merchandising shops, the Internet is a reliable partner when it comes to the purchase of fan products. Almost everywhere in the world fans can wear similar Ronaldo jerseys or fan scarves of their beloved club. The crucial element is that the meaning people attribute to wearing mostly identical products can differ tremendously depending on the socio-cultural background and context of the fan.

Wearing a Manchester United jersey in Vienna is quite uncontroversial, probably not even interesting to people in the city because the sign, what it represents, causes rather few controversial associations. Wearing a Fenerbahqe or Galatasaray jersey on the other hand, carries many layers of signs and codes regarding the discussion of how Turkish migrants or postmigrants should ‘assimilate’ to an Austrian culture, for example to cheer for an Austrian club instead of a Turkish one. In the following, I will discuss three relevant ways to decode the message ‘football shirt’ in Vienna. After that, I will shortly refer to the way fans in Vienna can change the message itself.

As we have learned, the biographies of the interviewees are quite different in regards to where they grew up and also how often they travel to Istanbul to attend matches. One aspect many of them have in common is that football constructs a space where strategies of doing home, belonging and kinship are common and therefore legitimate. This also applies for strategies of transnational support. Interestingly, for some Galatasaray and Fenerbahqe fans in Vienna the antagonism between these two clubs becomes negotiable, but the conditions under which one can shift one’s loyalty temporarily are very specific. As we have seen, Metin’s central item to handle this is the football shirt. For him, the football shirt becomes an important sign of how much he can alter his support for a certain amount of time. He cheers for the arch enemy Fenerbahqe, because it is a Turkish team. This is when the football shirt becomes important. Metin accepts the dominant-hegemonic code of the Fenerbahqe shirt which is ‘loyalty to Fenerbahqe’ and consequently he strongly objects to wearing it. He does not identify with Fenerbahqe itself, he identifies with Fenerbahqe being a Turkish club. This is why he wears the jersey of the Turkish national team instead, hoping that other fans will decode the national shirt as he has encoded it: Turkish support/loyalty to Turkish teams.

Metin reported that in Sopron he wore his Galatasaray shirt to a friendly match against Fenerbahqe. Thereby, he underlines that this is acceptable to do so in Austria and Hungary, but would be quite dangerous in the Fenerbahqe stadium in Turkey. Both incidents show how abroad and in a diasporic context, trajectories and rivalries become newly negotiated as other layers of identification can become more relevant. This surely does not apply to all fans but is strongly dependent on a fan’s background. Anti-nationalist, leftist fans in Vienna would certainly not shift their club loyalty, even if temporarily, because of a (Turkish) national identification.

 
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