Futbol soccer fan face paint from Argentina photo by Monte Isom

We get it. You really do love football. A recent study has found that the emotional connection to football fans have and the sensation of love can trigger the same kind of chemical reaction in the brain; there’s a reason why it’s the most popular game in the world. A three year research study at the University of Coimbra in Portugal found that the brain circuits and neurotransmitters for both emotions have similar effect on the ol’ melon.

The study involved 54 men and two women aged between 21 and 60 years old, mainly fans of Porto and Académica de Coimbra. The two teams played in the Portuguese First League at the time of the study. During the study the participants’ cerebral reactions were monitored when watching clips of their teams scoring and conceding goals.

One investigator, Castelo-Branco explained that during a monumental moment in football, for example a goal get scored or winning a match, the brain’s frontal cortex releases dopamine, a.k.a the feel-good hormone. This reaction is replicated when that lovey dovey feeling takes hold of our ticker, “both passion for football and love are transient madness”, stated psychiatrist Harry Cervera Campos.

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The investigation also found that passion prevails over negative feelings, such as when experiencing a defeat against a rival team. Such negative emotions are suppressed from emotional memory. In some cases football can trigger a stronger emotional reaction than love. The study found that the cerebral amygdala, which regulates emotions, is more active in football fans than in people who are in love.

“In the football the love is spiritual, mystic. In the the other it is more physical, more carnal. In the two cases one feels “a part of something”, but in different ways”, said a researcher to Clarín.

However it was also revealed that, this kind of passion for football, as with romantic love can become an obsession and damage rational behavior patterns, to the degree of fanaticism. So watch out! The study was published in one of the most prestigious neuroscience journals in the world, SCAN. You can read the whole study, “Tribal love” here.