The supporters groups are beyond ready, their chants building from the moment the players entered the tunnel, intimidating and overwhelming in those concrete confines. Theirs is a litany they will keep up for the entire match, rising and falling with the action on the pitch as they at times seem to follow it and at others seem to guide it. This is where the atmosphere of a soccer match begins to pull away from that of other sporting events. The game’s uninterrupted nature — the way 45 fluid minutes unfurl before you with little to no intervention beyond the punctuation of goal kicks, free kicks and corner kicks — gives a match a strikingly organic feel. There’s no voice of authority exhorting you to clap your hands, no mid-inning breaks, no kiss cams. Everything is wrapped around the action on the pitch, every crest or trough in energy and enthusiasm building from the crowd out. The organic nature of it is what makes the building ring to its foundations when everyone gets behind a chant, a veritable ocean of people chanting, “M … N … U-F-C.” As it builds, it folds back on itself into something almost physical, something powerful.
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