Part of what makes football so remarkable as a sport is its capacity to touch all sections of society, uniting rich as well as poor, household names and the households that admire them. Every club can count on a rich mixture of supporters, with the massed ranks in the stands and the occasional celebrity fan joined together in willing their team on to victory. FIFA.com now casts a glance at some of the game's more famous aficionados.
Perhaps the most prestigious follower of Premier League football in England is Queen Elizabeth II herself, who is said to have a soft spot for north London giants Arsenal. That could well provoke a few jealous glares from fellow capital outfit Queens Park Rangers, but the side with the regal name count at least a couple of famous fans of their own in singers Pete Doherty and Robert Smith. The bond between music and football has long been a strong one too, with Elton John having spent 32 years at the head of Watford. A Hornets fan since his childhood, he bought the club in 1976 and helped take the club from the fourth division to a top-tier runners-up finish in 1983, not to mention an FA Cup final in 1984.
Those successes were perhaps on Robbie Williams's mind back in February 2006 when the former Take That member bought shares in Port Vale, a third-division outfit from his hometown of Stoke-on-Trent. "I live in Los Angeles but my home will always be Stoke-on-Trent," he explained at the time. "This is a way of showing that my heart is still over there and I'm still a huge supporter."
Liam and Noel Gallagher have never taken the step of investing money in their beloved Manchester City, by contrast, but the brothers never pass up a chance to nail their colours to the Sky Blues' mast. At a recent Oasis concert in Milan, in fact, the duo dedicated the song 'Don't Look Back in Anger' to erstwhile transfer target Kaka, lending the line "Don't you know you might find a better place to play?" special resonance.
As for Rod Stewart, who shares a love for Celtic with the likes of Bono and Billy Connolly, he went one step further by including the line "You're Celtic, United, but baby I've decided you're the best team I've ever seen," in the song 'You're in my heart'. Asked to explain his allegiances, the singer, a talented footballer as a youngster, explained: "I met the late Jock Stein in the early '70s and, once you met him, you were a Celtic supporter. He made football sound like poetry and I've been a big fan ever since."
Lord of San Lorenzo
The acting community also has a proud history of declaring allegiances, with Aston Villa fans having witnessed Tom Hanks brandish a club scarf a few years back, while Everton supporters once greeted Sylvester Stallone on the Goodison Park turf, a Toffees scarf draped around his shoulders.
As for Kevin Costner, the two-time Oscar winner began a love affair with Arsenal while filming in England in 1990. Seduced by the Highbury atmosphere, Costner has been a fervent Gunners fan ever since and went to great lengths to watch his heroes in action in 2004. Having thought Arsene Wenger's men were playing in London, he was dismayed to discover they were actually scheduled for a match at Villa Park - before simply booking a last-minute helicopter to hurry him to Birmingham.
I met the late Jock Stein in the early 70s and, once you met him, you
were a Celtic supporter. He made football sound like poetry and I've
been a big fan ever since,
Few thespians can match the dedication of Viggo Mortensen, however. A global star since his turn in Lord of the Rings, he could easily lay claim to the title Lord of the Nuevo Gasometro, the stadium home of Argentinian side San Lorenzo de Almagro. Having grown up in Venezuela and Argentina, the American actor fell in love with El Ciclón (the Cyclone) at a young age and now carries their shirt with him wherever he goes.
"I don't remember exactly how I became a San Lorenzo supporter but I always have their shirt with me," he said. "I follow their news on the internet every day. I don't want to miss a single thing; I'm crazy about them." Crazy enough that he went to the Oscars with a club flag, in addition to once organising an asado - a traditional Argentinian barbecue - to which he invited the Azulgrana talents who lit up his youth.
Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal has similarly impressive fan pedigree after slipping various references to his favourite team, UNAM Pumas, into his films. In the 2001 feature Y tu mama tambien, for example, the 30-year-old succeeded in aiming a few barbs at Los Pumas' eternal rivals Club America, before portraying a Pumas player in the 2008 film Rudo y Cursi. "I'm at the place where the team of my heart trains," he said during filming. "The Pumas mean everything to me."
While playing the role of Che Guevera in The Motorcycle Diaries, Garcia Bernal will have had plenty of opportunities to discuss his favourite sport with the director, Walter Salles. The Brazilian film-maker is a passionate Botafogo fan and takes almost as much pleasure from watching his team in full flow as he does from recording masterpieces with his camera.
"I'm from a generation that grew up in Rio [de Janeiro] when a local team like Botafogo could have players like Garrincha, Gerson or Jairzinho," he stated. "My first match at a stadium, at 12 years of age, was the final of the Campeonato Carioca at the Maracana in 1968: Botafogo 4, Vasco [da Gama] 0 and 120,000 supporters! That's how you become a Botafogo fan forever."
For their part, Italian actresses Sabrina Ferilli and Sophia Loren have opted for a different approach to spur their teams on. Fans of Roma and Napoli respectively, Ferilli promised to perform a striptease if the Giallorossi won the UEFA Champions League in 2008, while Loren made a similar vow to encourage the Azzurri to gain promotion to Serie A in 2007.
The Roma faithful were ultimately to be disappointed as their team fell to Manchester United in the quarter-finals, however Napoli did end the season by earning their return to the top flight. So far, Loren has yet to fulfil her side of the bargain, but few tifosi are likely to complain given that the iconic star is now 74 years of age!
Have Your Say
These, of course, are just a handful of the famous names who have attached themselves to football clubs over the years. What about your team? Click 'Add your comment' to share with us which celebrities share your allegiance.