Reply guys: From ratios to Pessi – inside the baffling world of Football Twitter

Pason Pount indulges one of his fans. Alamy

The age of social media banter between rival fans has created its own distinct dialect, where “finished players” and winning the transfer window reign supreme

By Simon Treanor

20 September, 2022

Imagine you’re idly scrolling through Twitter. A club – let’s say Liverpool – post a routine, innocuous, update from their official account. It’s the kind of thing that is only of the mildest interest even to fans of the club – a goal update from a pre-season friendly, an update on a minor injury, or maybe it’s one of their players’ birthdays. And yet, the thumbs-up emoji replies from supporters are almost equalled by another, somewhat odder kind of engagement. This is a typical exchange:
@mountfan__: “finished player”
@FSGOUT98: “warra FA Cup for Pason Pount”
@mountfan__: “warra ratio”

In 2022, Football Twitter has a level of relentlessness, repetitiveness and twisted logic that almost separates it from the game itself. To annotate the (paraphrased) exchange above: “finished player” is a reflexive response to any tweet about any player from a rival team. “Warra…” prefixes anything the club or player has recently missed out on. “Pason Pount” comes from insulting nicknames for Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo: rivals calling them “Penandes” and “Penaldo” to imply that’s the only way they can score. It’s evolved into an insulting shorthand for any player, or even a coach, unrelated to penalties. It can be used for almost anyone, although Paul Pogba is immune. “Ratio” is perhaps the most inscrutable term of all. The word has a well-understood meaning in general Twitter parlance: it refers to a tweet so bad that the number of replies criticising the author massively outweigh the number of likes and retweets. On Football Twitter, though, they just say it, regardless.

That’s just a selection of the bizarre dialect that has developed. While players can be “finished” or “mid” (average), clubs are either “banter” or “small” regardless of how true this might be. A common reply is “no one asked”, from people who reply to hundreds of similar tweets every day. What stands out the most are entire accounts set up in the guise of “honest” fans of rival players, repeatedly posting messages along the lines of “as an honest Pessi fan I admit my idol is finished”. But even the lower effort replies seem to achieve nothing. There’s no conversation to be initiated, and it’s hard to imagine anyone even getting annoyed – most people know if they support a small club or not, and whether their players or coach are good enough. As a Liverpool fan, if a Manchester City fan told me they thought Pep Guardiola was better than Jürgen Klopp, the only response I can think of is “Great, so we’re both happy then”. But maybe that’s not the point. Maybe back and forth, which seems so pointless to me, is the aim.

An honest Pessi fan; Bruno Penandes draws ridicule for scoring from the penalty spot. Colorsport, Alamy

All this is illustrative of disturbing trends in the way football fandom is expressed. On the one hand you have the relatively new phenomenon of people supporting players rather than clubs – a Mason Mount fan will spend as much time attacking rival clubs as they do Mount’s team-mates such as Kai Havertz (you can probably guess what they call him). That, though, is something we have to accept as a generational difference. What’s more alarming is the zero-sum approach to the game.

It’s obviously a competitive sport, and we all want our clubs to be the best they can be, but I’ve never felt the need to pretend that no one else is any good; one of football’s great strengths is its variety and its global reach. Football Twitter appears to see the sport purely as a way of owning people, and this is particularly apparent during the transfer window. Legacy fans like you and me would understand that the transfers a club makes are meant to drive the results, but these days it seems to be the opposite. Any update from a club that isn’t announcing a new signing is met with angry responses, and long-serving players often receive derision purely for not being exciting new arrivals.

There seems to be no love for the club – their history, locality, or even supporters. All that matters is that their club Win The Transfer Market, and can use that victory to win the next round of banter. It’s an approach that seems to miss everything that makes football great – the drama, the sense of community, the history – and any happiness that does come from owning your rivals is surely shallow and unsustainable. But I guess I would say that: I’m just a finished fan of a banter club.

This article first appeared in WSC 424, September 2022. Subscribers get free access to the complete WSC digital archive

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