Saturday, July 15, 2006

Let the People Sing

Who started it ? Who was the bright-eyed besuited pencil-chewing genius who decided, that what would be good, that what we really wanted, after a thrilling Cup Final win, is a 7,000 decibel broadcast of "We are the Champions"?

I'd like to meet him. I bet he likes ice hockey. I bet that he was inspired by a trip to America. I bet he doesn't really get football. I'd like to explain things to him.

I would tell him, that for a lot of people, the fans are just as important as what is happening , on the pitch. The various types of fan express this in different ways. The quasi-hoolie will look straight for the away support as soon as he enters the ground. He doesn't check whether the length of the grass will suit his team's passing style, he just wants to know how many boys they have brought ? (The real hoolie will already know this by calling his spotters at the station.)

For away fans, it's a case of chanting louder and more frequently than the home support. Just read the internet fan reports. "It was a great atmosphere and we outsung them throughout."
Most people will cite "atmosphere" as one of the great things about watching professional football with big crowds. The new brand of Tannoy DJ is ruining the very atmosphere that makes football what it is.

I remember my first ever away game at Crystal Palace in 1976. I remember it vividly. I know now that Cardiff won 1-0 with an Adrian Alston goal to help the 3rd Division Promotion push, but that's not what sticks in my mind. What has never left me is the sight of 2,000 blue and white scarves twirling in the away end as I looked on from amongst the Selhurst Park Grandstand.

The pencil-chewing git should have been in Moscow, 2003. Wales had earned a 0-0 draw, which was a better result than anyone had hoped for. The game itself was pretty drab, but you should have heard us sing Hey Jude. Long after the players had left the field, we stood there and sang constantly to the utter bemusement of the locals. They had been pretty aggressive throughout the game, but suddenly and spontaneously they began applauding us from all four corners of the ground. It was an life-affirming moment that will live long in the memory.

The lead gnarler would have it otherwise. He would have drowned out our singing and celebrations with booming music of his own choice. Tina Turner maybe, but probably Queen.

It's beyond a cliche now, it's tedious. I happen to follow a team that rarely wins things. But when it does, I like to think that we know what to do. Nobody needs to tell us. There is only one song that everybody wants to hear at the end of a hard won victory. It goes like this: Are you ready?
Arms spread wide and look to the heavens with a tear in your eye and a croak in the voice:

"And it's **********, ******** FC,
We're the greatest team in football
The World has ever seen." *

That's it . Says it all. And with it's singing, we become part of the victory. We've done our bit and we rightly share in the moment in the only way we know how.

Alternatively, we may choose to goad. Perhaps we'd like to serenade our opponents with "You'll Never win F*** All." Maybe threaten them with "You'll Never Make the Station". Is this what they're trying to stop by blaring their happy-clappy Euro-pop?

A few years ago, my team won a play-off Final. On the final whistle, so began a selection of football tunes that played like a K-Tel Compilation. My enduring memory of what should have been a cumulative and emotional victory salute, was the sight of thousands of beery men wobbling their arses and twisting away to the tune of "Hey Baby!"

The Germans played "You'll Never Walk Alone" as they went out of the World Cup. Have they no dignity ? As Robeson said, "Let the People Sing".
Stop the music. Now.

(* I know that your lot probably sings "By Far the Greatest Team", but for some reason, Cardiff City like to emphasise that we make no claims on being the greatest team in lacrosse, hurling, or baseball. Just football.)

1 comment:

Ray said...

Da iawn, Eric!

Nice to see you back in print after all these years!