Sportsmen either love them or hate them, respond to them or are crushed by them, rally to their call or fail miserably in the face of huge expectation. Home crowds, full of patriotic pride and rampant tribalism, give so much of themselves and expect to be rewarded in kind. No less than 100 per cent will do when playing in front of home fans and that demand can either freeze the body, mind and soul or fire the passions. Mary Pierce knows what it feels like to be loved, and loathed, by her 'own' fans at Roland Garros in Paris. When she wins, as she did in the French Open, she is French 'Ma-ree', everybody's darling. When she losses, as she has done so often and so dramatically in the past, she is American 'Mary', the girl with the foreign father ostracised by the establishment. Belgium, boring Belgium, are a no-names football team tolerated, rather than admired, by their countrymen. But in the opening game of Euro 2000, played on home turf, the co-hosts opened the Swedish defence and the hearts of their supporters. The Red Devils became Gods. Golfer Ian Woosnam revels in his nationality and he was so proud to be leading the Wales Open at the appropriately named Celtic Manor. The support was overwhelming and, in turn, Woosnam was overwhelmed. The expectation proved too much for the former Masters champion. Pierce, born in Canada to a French mother and American father, has never quite known what to expect at Roland Garros. Her ability is plain to see and she plays under the flag of France, but Parisians are notoriously fickle and undeniably haughty. A Frenchwoman who speaks the native tongue with an American accent and places her volleys with more accuracy than her verbs is always going to be treated with suspicion. The fans took to her in 1994 when she reached the final, only to lose to Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, but turned against her four years later when she lost in the second round. Pierce wooed the crowd this year by dropping her usual theatrics and exhibiting a strong desire to win the trophy for France. But the honeymoon was short. She switched from French to English during her acceptance speech, to acknowledge her father Jim and Cuban boyfriend Roberto Alomar, and there were hoots of derision from some sections of the crowd. C'est la vie, c'est la guerre. Belgium are still enjoying their honeymoon period. After their 2-1 win over Sweden, during which they were given tremendous backing, a crowd of 5,000 turned up to watch training. As one gobsmacked player said: 'This sort of thing does not normally happen in Belgium football - people regard us as boring.' Woosnam could never be described as boring and his image as 'one of the lads' has won him total support in his native Wales. That backing was amazingly apparent during the Wales Open with huge roars of approval greeting every shot by wee Woosie, even the bad ones. And there were a few wayward strikes in the final round as he shot five bogeys to stumble out of the lead. 'I felt the pressure a lot - winning in Wales would have meant so much to me,' said Woosnam, who has not triumphed for three years. 'I was in so many bunkers, I thought I was in the desert.' At least in the desert, Woosnam would not have had to carry a home gallery on his shoulders.