As the sporting fan-zine approaches third birthday, and they show no signs of stopping.
Football is a sport that serves up a plethora of emotions, consequently there are various ways in which fans express their passion for the game, some invest their time into collectables, others devote their expertise into managing a personal fantasy team.
One pastime that transcends the beautiful game is creating your own zine. Historically these self-published pieces connect with a multitude of issues in football and can target the personal niches that the majority of mainstream publications fail to cover, most tend to be dedicated to particular clubs, but others can cover leagues as a whole, or even nationalities, the ‘bottom-up’ nature of zines provides total control to fan communities, making the possibilities limitless.
One zine that is relatively new to the scene is the English based fanzine, Halb Vier. Unlike most of the English based zines that tend to associate themselves with domestic clubs and leagues, Halb Vier pledge their content in the name of German football.
Their articles range from discussing the contemporary to the historic, debates of the controversial Red Bull Leipzig, and narrative accounts of bygone footballing institutions such as the former East German club, Chemie Leipzig are a miniscule taste of what they bring to the table.
With many popular zines being conceived before the turn of the 21st century, Halb Vier are merely a new born in this sector, however their niche can also be classed as a newcomer. Releasing their issues on a quarterly basis they have established themselves in the fanzine collective.
Editor of the publication, Feargal McEvoy, has been a long-time football fan, particularly in action surrounding ‘Deutscher Fußball’. Having attended his first Bundesliga game in the 1980s, he has always had a fondness for German football.
When asked to describe Halb Vier, Feargal said: “It’s a cultural, social sporting fanzine connected with all things German football, being that the football on the pitch to the beer on the terraces, the clothing, the fan history, so it covers all spectrums of the German game.”
Although Germany is a nation with utmost prestige in the footballing world, Feargal remarked on how the niche of Halb Vier sets them apart, stating: “What we try to do is cover the lower leagues, I think German football doesn’t get great coverage in the UK other than the likes of Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund.”
Starting from humble beginnings Feargal approached fellow football enthusiasts who reported on the German game in English, he formed their Twitter account approximately three months before the release of their first issue and was able to build a form of fan interaction that the fanzine could interconnect with.
Ergo, as the zine has grown, in turn their base of fans and writers has risen with it, the Editor explained: “We’ve had writers from Italy, Germany, the UK, Ireland, Norway… In terms of sales, 60-70% are located in the UK, and the remainder are directed outside of the UK, our biggest areas would be Ireland, Norway, Germany, and surprisingly America and Canada.”
With the first issues averaging at 64 pages, this has since increased due to the popularity, however the post pandemic age we live in has provided an obstacle for the fanzine. A rise in postal charges and printing costs provides them with hurdles and have since branched out into the digital realm of production, although they have always been set on following their frontline...
It's evident that Feargal has a passion for the wonders of German football and sought to drive and channel it into something that provides entertainment for the wider readership, but what does Halb Vier offer to those who pledge their time to write for them? Having previously mentioned that the base of writers has consistently grown, one writer who has found enjoyment from engaging and writing with Halb Vier is Anthony Russell.
Hailing from an overarching sport background, Anthony has written pieces for differing zines as well as his own Ice Hockey themed news site, Banners On The Wall. But his love for Germany derives from his days as a student at Southampton University, studying German it was required for him to experience a year abroad and would eventually find himself situated in the Northern town of Rostock.
It was here Anthony fell for the local side, Hansa Rostock, he recounted: “In Rostock, you can’t avoid Hansa, it’s everywhere… So, because of my love for football and East German history, I found Radio GDR which covers a breadth of East German topics, I began to surround myself with German themed content” This association ultimately led to Anthony getting approached by Halb Vier and he has since been involved with the fanzine.
When asked about how working with Halb Vier benefits Anthony, he elucidated:
"Writing for Halb Vier is a mental break and it's that idea of just enjoying the process of writing…
“It’s a case of having a project that’s different from everything else that I do, it’s taking some interesting ideas in my mind and unpacking them and my ability to speak German pretty much gives me the capacity to expand on the sources I find rather than looking at something at its face value.”
The fan communal production method of Halb Vier highlights its role as a product that exemplifies itself in participatory culture, that being a culture in which fans as consumers essentially contribute to their cultural form and use their voice to create products outside of the mainstream eye.
Lecturer in Media, Communication and Cultural Studies at Newcastle University, Dr Michael Waugh, explained to me the importance of participatory culture, as well as the benefits it offers to football as a wider community.
“In a sport that has become increasingly less fan orientated, and one in which football clubs and media outlets are owned by a handful of wealthy individuals, the operation of participatory culture enables fans on both a local and global scale, to have a deep personal involvement with the game.”
“Fan spaces such as podcasts, fanzines and fan videos are areas where supporters are allowed to speak more openly and explicitly, but this opens the door for others to engage with this content on a profound level, in turn this supplies football with a stronger investment and understanding on the current events and trends surrounding the sport.”
Waugh describes fanzines as a form of “curative fandom” and it derives from “having an obsession with an original text”, or in this case an obsession with German football and what is has to offer.
With the recent release of Halb Vier’s eleventh issue, they are pushing full steam ahead for future prints, giving fans the option to purchase their next three issues; set to be released in February, May and August 2023 respectively. It can be said that Halb Vier and fanzines as a collective serve as a timely reminder that we as fans all have a platform that we can use, a footballing soapbox that provide us the opportunity to raise ourselves on and attempt to proliferate our opinion with.
As stated by Dr Waugh: “There is something about the creative process and the detail that needs to go into the zine as a whole...