Football chant

From Academic Kids

Football chants are repetitive chants generated by the crowd at football (soccer) matches, particularly professional ones. Throughout Europe and Latin America it is considered normal for the supporters to spend much of their time shouting at the players, opposing spectators, the referee, or just the world in general. They are intended to encourage the supporters' team, insult the opposition, or just make a noise.

The chants themselves can vary enormously, from the simple and repetitive to the topical and complex, encompassing tradition and vulgarity: they frequently contain vulgar or antagonistic lyrics, but it should be said that they generally contribute to people's enjoyment of a game and its atmosphere, and are an integral part of football culture

They are also known as a terrace chant - a terrace being the old standing areas in football grounds in the 1900's till around the 70-80's.

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Common chants

The simplest chant is just the name of the team shouted over and over again, often with clapping in the gap; e.g. "Oxford" (clap clap clap); "Oxford" (clap clap clap). Chants being nothing if not competitive, opposing supporters may respond by shouting an insulting word in the gap.

The next simplest chant, used when your team is ahead, is just the score repeated, e.g. "two nil; two nil", particularly if one the teams has scored recently, sung to a tune approximating "Amazing Grace".

Chants can also support particular players. A common one is "One David Beckham! There's only one David Beckham" (or whoever). When an England international squad included two players both called Gary Stevens the chant became "Two Gary Stevens! There's only two Gary Stevens"; conversely, during the late 1990s Arsenal played host to the chant "Two Ian Wrights! There's only two Ian Wrights", in reference to their new signing Luis Boa Morte who bore a striking resemblance to Wright. Both are sung to the tune "Guantanamera", as are "Sing when you're winning, you only sing when you're winning" (the variant "You don't even sing when you're winning" has been heard at Manchester United), "Twelve men, you've only got twelve men" (when the referee is perceived to be biased to one team - acting as their 12th man) and (when an easy shot or a penalty is missed) "Score in a brothel, you couldn't score in a brothel". Most chants can be adapted to the name of almost any player.

The Gap Band's "Oops Upside Your Head" was adapted by Glasgow Celtic's more hardline supporters as "Ooh! Aah! Up the 'RA! Say ooh ah up the 'RA!", where 'RA is an affectionate term for the IRA. This was adapted by Republic of Ireland fans into "Ooh! Aah! Paul McGrath!" (the "th" in McGrath being silent) and then by Leeds United fans as "Ooh! Aah! Cantona!".

The Duran Duran song "Rio" was adapted in several ways for Rio Ferdinand; in fact in 2002, fan Simon Le Bon (Duran Duran's lead singer) promised to re-record one of the football chants if the team won.

The song "Go West" by the Village People provides the melody for the common chant "You're shit, and you know you are" and many, many others, including more specialised chants such as "One nil, to the Arsenal" (which popularised the usage of "Go West" in English football), "Go West Bromwich Albion" and "Posh Spice takes it up the arse", made famous when Victoria Beckham mentioned it in her autobiography as an example of the less-than-warm welcome shown to her by fans of her new husband's team, Manchester United.

Another melody for chants is that of the hymn Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer which goes "Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me now and ever more! Feed me now and ever more". The most famous incarnation of this is "You're not singing, you're not singing, you're not singing any more! You're not singing any more!" sung when the opposition's supporters have stopped chanting as a result of conceding a goal.

A large proportion of chants have the same tune as hymns, because hymns were traditionally sung before the start of all football matches in the late 19th and early 20th century. The hymn 'Abide With Me' is still sung before the FA Cup Final every year. Very few chants are adapted from popular pop music, 'Go West' and 'Winter Wonderland' being notable exceptions.

A somewhat sinister riposte to Manchester United F.C. supporters' song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life which they customarily used to sing when leading to taunt their opposition is to be found in a song sung to the same tune Always Look on the Runway for Ice, a reference to the tragic Munich air crash of February 6 1958, in which 23 of the 43 people on board died, 8 of them Man United players. This has been countered in recent years, such as against Leeds, when the song Always Watch Out For A Turk With A Knife which is a reference to the two Leeds supporters who were fatally stabbed whilst in Turkey for an England match.

Further examples include:

  • "Who's the bastard in the black?" (meaning the referee)
  • "Can we play you every week?"
  • "Are you X in disguise?" (where X is a weak or a rival team)
  • "You're supposed to be at home" (when the away team supporters are being more vocal in their support than those of the home team) as well as the obverse of this coin, "You should have come in a taxi" sung when the away supporters are few in numbers.
  • "My garden shed" (used by away supporters to insult the size of the host ground - My garden shed/Is bigger than this/My garden shed/Is bigger than this/It's got a door and a window/My garden shed/Is bigger than this). Conversely, a poor side playing in a attractive stadium may be greeted by the simpler chant of "Nice ground, shit team", to the tune of the Pompey Chimes.

Some football teams also have songs which are traditionally sung by their supporters. Probably the most famous of these are Liverpool's (or Rodgers and Hammerstein's) "You'll Never Walk Alone" and West Ham's (or Jaan Kenbrovin and John Kellette's) "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles". Inevitably, these have become targets for parody by opposition fans; "You'll Never Walk Alone" has been adapted to "You'll Never Get A Job", a reference to the high unemployment in Liverpool during the early 1980s.

Some chants form part of protest by the fans against the management of the club, usually if the majority of fans believe the manager should be sacked. Some chants might be a protest to the chairman not to sell a star player.

Another chant is "Who ate all the pies?", to the tune of "Knees Up Mother Brown", which is aimed at a supposedly overweight player or official.

Very often chants are abuse directed at an opposition player, particulary if an incident has happened that has irritated fans of the other team, for example if the player has appeared to have cheated to get a penalty kick. Abuse is also commonly directed at match officials, usually only the referee after a controversial decision has been made. Common variations include "You don't know what you're doing" and "You're not fit to referee."

It is believed that one of the earliest chants was written by Edward Elgar (a fan of Wolverhampton Wanderers). Elgar set the words "He banged the leather for goal!" to music in praise of Wolves player Billy Malpas. Elgar reused the tune in his oratorio Caractacus. It is not thought that his chant was widely used on the terraces.

Songs associated with football teams

List of football teams whose chants are described in Wikipedia

Chant Laureate

On 11 May 2004, Jonny Hurst was chosen as England's first 'Chant Laureate'

Barclaycard set up the competition to choose a Chant Laureate, to be paid £10,000 to tour Premiership stadiums and compose chants for the 2004-5 football season. The judging panel was chaired by the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, who said "What we felt we were tapping into was a huge reservoir of folk poetry."

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Chants in North American sports

Organised chants in North American sports are rarer then in their European counterparts, but some teams have their special routines. Common chants include "Let's go -team name-, let's go clap-clap clap-clap-clap; or in case of a single syllable nickname, "Go - team name- Go". Chants of "Bull-Shit" and "Ass-Hole" can be heard in some arenas/stadiums after calls unfriendly to the home squad. If the home team is leading a heavily favored team, or has defeated that team, the home fans will often mock the favored team with repeated choruses of "O-ver-ra-ted! clap-clap clap-clap-clap."

Most teams have a scoring song played on the PA system, and some professional American football teams sing a fight song after scores. The use of fight songs after a score is universal in college football. Since scoring in basketball is more frequent, and does not generally cause breaks in the game action, scoring songs are not employed in that sport. However, in college basketball, fight songs are universally played during prolonged breaks in game action (timeouts, halftime, and overtime breaks if any). Baseball fans traditionally sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" in the middle of the 7th inning. After 9/11, many professional teams chose to use "God Bless America" during that break, either supplementing or replacing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", but this is only true of Yankee Stadium now.

Some routines for specific teams include:

  • Denver Broncos fans shout "IN-COM-PLETE" after opponent's incomplete passes.
  • Montreal Canadiens fans shout "Olé, Olé Olé Olé, Olé, Olé!" like many European football teams.
  • University of Kansas basketball fans often repeatedly shout their traditional yell "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk, K-U" during home games.
  • Kansas City Chiefs fans shout 'We're going to beat the hell out of you, you, you-you-you' following a touchdown. This is illustrated by the home crowd pointing at the opposing bench throughout. It traditionally provides some difficulty when games are on national television, as announcers will cut the sound away from the field.
  • After a football win by West Virginia University, the players, backed by the school's marching band, lead the crowd in the state's de facto anthem, "Take Me Home, Country Roads".

Rugby union

Chants are less extensive in Rugby Union but the Oggy Oggy Oggy chant first became popular on the terraces at Welsh rugby matches. England supporters sing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", a song long popular in rugby clubs since the words lend themselves readily to a sequence of obscene hand gestures. The Welsh sing "Cwm Rhondda", which is the tune of the hymn "Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer", as well as the chorus of Max Boyce's "Hymns and Arias". The Fields of Athenry is often sung at matches by supporters of the Irish rugby team. The New Zealand team (the All Blacks) are known for engaging in a ritual Maori haka before international matches. The Fiji team performs the cibi; the Samoa team the siva tau; and the Tonga team the sipa tau. The Pacific Islanders rugby team, a joint Fiji/Samoa/Tonga representative team that played for the first time in 2004, uses a specially composed chant combining elements of each nation's traditional chant.

Chants are also used in Cricket, the Barmy Army has a collection of songs and chants.

The oldest football massed cheer recorded at football games in the United States was called "The Rocket" in the 1880s (earlier?). The crowd cried in unison: "Ssssss... boom! ah!" which was eventually converted to "Sis Boom Bah! Rah rah rah!" memorialized by The Beach Boys' "Be true to Your School" (1963):

So be true to your school
(Rah rah rah rah sis boom bah)
Just like you would to your girl or guy
(Rah rah rah rah sis boom bah)

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