Football undoubtedly inspires passion from many of its fans, but some clubs seem to attract more fanatical support than others. We rounded up five clubs who, for better or worse, really took following a sports team to the next level.
1. Manchester United
While Manchester City may be having a moment at the moment, we’re giving this one to Manchester United due to its generational fan love. While all fans like to think their club is the greatest club ever, the Red Devils’ remarkable legacy may actually give the team’s fans true bragging rights to this distinction.
This isn’t to say the fans blindly go along with club leadership—quite the opposite, in fact. For the past few years, United fans have staged many public demonstrations objecting to the club’s current owners, the Glazer family. In one instance, protesters were so riled up that they stormed the pitch at Old Trafford before a match with Liverpool leading to the game’s cancellation for safety reasons.
These same fans had tried to block the Glazers’ purchase of the team, and were so outraged when the sale went through that they formed their own breakaway club, FC United of Manchester.
Those that stuck around, meanwhile, implored Elon Musk to abandon his plans to take over Twitter and use his $41 billion to buy the club instead.
Speaking of Liverpool, they’ve got some truly fanatical—and creative!—fans of their own.
If you take in a match at Anfield, prepared to be wowed by its awe-inspiring crowd mosaics. The idea of one longtime super-fan, Andy Knott, they involve thousands of fans coming together to create a cohesive living piece of art.
These massive displays may look seamless, but it’s a true labor of love—and the embodiment of the lengths Liverpool fans go to again and again.
No roundup of fan bases would be complete without mention of Chelsea Football Club, AKA the Blues and the Pensioners. True diehard supporters, Chelsea fans have passionately—and loudly!—backed their team for decades with cheering, chanting, singing, and seas of blue flags.
They’ve also backed their team with death threats. In 2005, top referee Anders Frisk quit his job after he and his family were inundated with threats for Chelsea fans.
They’ll also go to the ends of the earth for their team—or nearly so. In 2019, two Chelsea fans went above-and-beyond to make it to the Euro final: They took four flights, a train, a taxi, and a total of 8 days to make it to the match.
Europeans love their football…and their football teams. Barcelona FC’s iconic Culés are the embodiment of fervent fans. According to a Sport+Markt study, the Blaugrana has more fans than any other club in Europe—and nearly twice the fan base of rival Real Madrid.
Just how crazy are Barcelona fans? On the 10-year anniversary of Barcelona’s Champions League victory over Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United, the shirt Lionel Messi wore when he scored the game’s second goal was going for a whopping $3,500 on eBay.
And then there’s how they react when players move on. Take in 2002, for example, when Barcelona fans hurled the severed head of a pig at former player Luis Figo during a match against his current team Real Madrid.
5. Real Madrid
While Barcelona may outnumber Real Madrid in European fans, Real Madrid reigns supreme in the teams’ home country of Spain.
This is no better evidenced than by the tens of thousands of crazed Real Madrid fans who swarmed the Bernabeu in the hours before the team’s Champions League semi-final against Manchester City in May. It’s hardly surprising that the crowd—and city!—went absolutely wild when Los Blancos took home the victory in extra time.
When things don’t go their way, they can be equally rapid. In 2015 after a loss to Barcelona, three Real Madrid fans attacked Gareth Bale’s car. (They were each fined and banned for their actions.)