Last weekend, I went to Germany to watch a game in the Bundesliga.
More often than not, such trips are taken as quasi-pilgrimages to a land which, if most accounts are to be believed, will offer some kind of balm from all the ills of modern football.
Truth be told, I hadn’t given it too much thought.
I have, over the course of the last couple of years, covered the German top division for a number of news outlets and it felt like high time I actually attend one such match in person.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the effect that watching the game would have on me.
Arriving an hour before kick-off, the stands were already filled with fans who, being able to drink alcohol on the terraces, had been making it their business to create an atmosphere within the stadium before the game started.
This atmosphere continued through the whole game, despite the home team going a goal down. But when two headed goals put them ahead of a side second in the league, it became electric.
After the game, what struck me most was the levelling which has been retained within German football between the fans and the club.
Where in England, a trip to a football match feels little different to a trip to the cinema – you arrive, you watch your film, you leave - the Bundesliga is different.
The players celebrated with the fans afterwards, involving them in a post-match ritual which saw the supporters’ designated Man of the Match join them in the Kop end and lead the singing.
Milling around the stadium after the game, the opposition players came out to meet their fans and, as the Baden-Wurtemberg sky grew dark, the home players wandered through the remaining clumps of support to their cars, stopping for pictures and autographs along the way.
Of course, it is all too easy in these moments to slip into a sort of false reminiscence where we over-narrate our experiences into what we expect them to be rather than what they actually are.
But there is an important difference between the German context and the football that we encounter within England.
There is, in Germany, a policy, helpfully named the 50+1 Rule, which designates that the majority voting rights for the club must be controlled by the fans.
It is as a result of this directive that German football has managed to avoid a stark binary emerging between its supporters and its clubs: a football club, so the rule infers, must be run by the fans in the interest of fans.
Modern football, though, is caught in the perpetual struggle to entertain but also to create money.
In time, then, the 50+1 Rule in Germany has gradually been eroded away as the need to compete with an emerging European nouveau riche has seen the bigger clubs in the Bundesliga look for ways to get around the requirement.
RB Leipzig, a relatively new club bankrolled by the soft drink giant Red Bull, is a case in point here: conforming with the letter of the 50+1 Rule if not its spirit by opening its membership to a clientele almost exclusive on the board of the company.
Here in England, whatever ship of fan ownership ever existed, it has undoubtedly sailed.
This, though, is why we need supporters’ associations more than ever before.
In the face of global capital’s devouring of the world of football, it is easy to roll over and let the oligarchs have their way. And in many respects, who wouldn’t want an injection of much-needed cash into their club?
Football, so the adage goes, is nothing without the fans. But unless the fans stand up for themselves, no one else is going to do it.