The purpose of this study was to interpret the institutional characteristics of organizing sport enthusiasts from the viewpoint of 4 Japanese soccer players in Germany, based on the theoretical framework of the subjective theory of sport organization. In this study, the institution of soccer in Germany was determined to be one that enables the organization of its enthusiasts. By clarifying its institutional characteristics, we demonstrate the direction through which the Japan Football Association could create and transform the organization of enthusiasts.
The methodology used for our analysis was the life story interview method; the life stories of 4 Japanese soccer players in Germany were constructed based on interviews, and the institutional characteristics of soccer in Germany as recognized by those players were interpreted.
Our analysis showed that, compared with the institution of soccer in Japan, the following are institutional characteristics of soccer in Germany as reflected in these players’ life stories: (1) A “Sport Ideology” component that emphasizes soccer play (practice) and separates evaluations in soccer from evaluations in everyday life. (2) A “Sport Rules” component, securing the opportunity for enthusiasts to play in official games and spending less time in practice. (3) A “Sport Symbols” component, such as rewards for enthusiasts. (4) A “Sport Behavior Patterns” component, such as promoting playing styles that respect individuals, and focusing on playing games, as well as drinking beer after practice and games. (5) A “Sport Civilization” component of such as guaranteeing the playing environment (soccer field) of enthusiasts. (6) A “Sport Organization” component such as a regional club league system (i.e. separation from school).
These institutional characteristics can be interpreted as those that affirm the social character of enthusiasts, i.e. the institutional characteristics that give enthusiasts legitimacy. Therefore, it is a remaining challenge for Japanese sport organizations to create such institutional characteristics.