West Ham Supporters in Shanghai Show How Fandom Transcends Boundaries

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In the old paradigm, what sports team you rooted for was dictated by your geographic location, where you grew up and what your family was into.

In today’s day and age, it’s more up to the individual to decide and fandom transcends the barriers of times zones, national boundaries, culture and language. All you need is the will to find a way to watch the team’s games and the interest in keeping up on what’s going on with the club.

“Over Land and Sea: What Makes a True Football Fan,” is a new documentary produced by Betway that focuses on this very topic. West Ham United Team Captain Mark Noble appears in the doc, and he reflects on what it’s like to have fans all over the world.

“With all the players out there that he can follow – Messi, Ronaldo – he took a real liking to me,” Noble told Betway Insider after meeting Pan, a West Ham supporter who was born and lives in Shanghai, China. “That’s pretty special.”

Betway, a company primarily based in Malta and Guernsey, is a corporate partner of the London club, and has previously served as their shirt sponsor. The short film, embedded above and just under six minutes in length, answers the questions people have about whether or not fans on the other side of the world are just as true and devoted as the local, match-going supporters.

It does so by focusing on Pan, and his revelations on how he became a Hammers supporter and why he chose them over the more brand name and historically successful sides like Manchester United, Liverpool or Chelsea.

The internet, online streaming services and the expansion on international touring by English football clubs has led to tremendous growth in foreign support.

“The first time I went to London with my wife was on my honeymoon. I waited at Rush Green for about five hours.” Pan says of his meeting Noble in person. “When I saw him, I was like a child!”

In addition to Noble, the film also features exclusive interviews with England international Declan Rice and former Manchester City full-back Pablo Zabaleta. The project also profiles two London supporters of the Irons who travelled to Shanghai to see their heroes play in the 2018-19 Premier League Asia Trophy.

At the end of the day, the question remains, can worldwide fans match the zeal and acumen of the locals? Well, if you watch “Over Land and Sea,” you’ll see that the answer is a resounding yes.

“We dress in the same uniform, and we sing the same song, we support the same club,” Pan concludes.

He’s right- whether you call it football, futbol, soccer or something else, love for club and the beautiful game is never lost in translation.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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