If you watch soccer regularly or ever attended a game, you probably noticed a lot of scarves in the stands. Scarves with the club logo and/or colors, the city’s name, half and half designs and even some with players or managers’ faces on them. What’s the deal with the scarves? Why do fans care so much about them? Why on Earth would someone wear a scarf when MLS is played in the warmer months of the year? Fear not, we will explain all of this now.
Picture the early years of the 20th Century, people used to wear a lot of clothing, with hats and dark coats being a must and soccer jerseys nowhere to be seen in the stands. In England, the soccer leagues are being played without skipping the winter, fans have to deal with some serious cold and someone comes up with a bright idea: Let’s use scarves! But not any scarves, but some which represent our club!
Thus, the soccer scarves were born.
MORE THAN JUST A PIECE OF FABRIC
The early designs were pretty simple, just stripes with the clubs’ main colors. With time, technology allowed for more intricate designs, like emblems or faces. The fans began to see scarves as a mean to show their support and pride anywhere, and soon enough they developed tradition to hold your scarf up to from a sea of their club colors while singing an anthem or a support chant. It was just a matter of time before soccer scarves appeared all over Europe.
Just think about how much you treasure your club or national team’s jersey; some fans treasure their scarves even more. It is a symbol of their undying love for soccer and their team, a link to the other fans and part of their identity.
Liverpool and their wall of scarves and flags held high during the singing of the club anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone, is probably the most familiar to fans. Reds fans began singing the anthem in the early 1960’s and it really took hold after Liverpool’s 1965 FA Cup title win over Leeds where commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme referred to the song as ‘Liverpool’s signature tune.’
But the anthem is not exclusive to Liverpool. Scotland’s Celtic is said to have adopted the tune after playing Liverpool in the Cup Winners Cup semifinal in 1966. They tend to reserve the singing of the anthem for European matches.
And the tune can be heard at other grounds around Europe and the world with fans of Bundesliga sides Borussia Dortmund, FSV Mainz 05, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, SV Darmstadt 98, Eintracht Braunschweig, Borussia Mönchengladbach, VfL Osnabrück, Alemannia Aachen, FC St Pauli, TSV 1860 Munich; Dutch teams Feyenoord, FC Twente and SC Cambuur; Belgium’s Club Brugge; Portuguese side Sporting Portugal singing the anthem as well as Japan’s F.C. Tokyo.
The Sudtribune (South Stand) of the Westfalenstadion is transformed into the famous ‘Yellow Wall’ when Borussia Dortmund plays matches. The fans and their scarves, flags, and banners form an imposing wall daring anyone to challenge them or their club.
In recent years a new kind of scarves showed-up to the dismay of hardcore fans: the half-and-half scarves. Street sellers realized that important games attracted a lot of foreign fans or local people who just wanted to experience a big match day; some of these fans had an urge to prove they were there, just like when you buy a commemorative shirt for a concert or take a picture to share on social media. Scarves, as popular as they are, were undoubtedly a big opportunity, and half-and-half designs began to appear in the kiosks around the stadiums.
It is definitely a nice thing to have souvenir to remember that day or be able show to it to your friends at home and say “I was there”. However, not everyone is that enthusiastic about half-and-half-scarves, the most hardcore fans dread to see their club crest or colors sharing space with the rivals’ symbols. Some sellers even get insulted for selling those scarves, and sales aren’t that high compared to the regular one-team scarves, but it is an existing market and they are not going to miss that opportunity.
Commemorative scarves not only cover big games, but also championships or important dates (like a club icon retiring). The possibilities are endless.
SOCCER SCARVES IN THE UNITED STATES
With the continuous growth of soccer in the U.S., it is no surprise that scarves already made their way to American soil. National team and club games are attended by quite a lot of scarf-wearing fans who inherited the European traditions.
MLS has adopted the scarf as part of the annual SuperDraft handing draft picks a scarf of their new club similar to how the NBA uses draft caps.
The warm weather has not deterred fans. They want to take their scarves to the stadium because of what they represent. Not only do they look cool, they are also cheaper than jerseys and have an equal or higher meaning. And let’s not forget that the season runs into November and there are some traditionally cold weather cities among the MLS clubs.
HAND OF GOD
And there is a divine intervention on the sporting culture of scarves. Pope Francis is a known fan of Argentine football team San Lorenzo and not surprisingly has been seen showing pride in the club with a scarf.
JUST A GAME
In March 2016, when Juventus and Porto where playing in the UEFA Champions League, a Porto fan jumped the security fence to exchange scarves with a Juve fan, receiving a standing ovation from both sides. The video became viral on social media and sports fans around the world praised the action. It shows that scarves can also be a symbol of peace, union and respect between rivals. Soccer is, after all, just a game.