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Chants would be a fine thing

Chants would be a fine thing

It`s amazing what partisan football supporters will fight over in an attempt to establish some form of tribal superiority which doesn`t depend on what happens on the pitch. Several times this summer I have found arguments on different blogs that cover every conceivable point of contention, no matter how trite, from who has the best matchday program to whose is the most attractive kit. Routinely now supporters will argue about all manner of things; the number of supporters - both local and overseas, wage bills, transfer fees, average player ages, debts, owners as well as the usual trophy count, most attractive style and performance over whatever convenient time frame suits the argument.

One of the more pointless debates is that of stadium atmosphere. What constitutes atmosphere? The continuity of noise, it`s volume or the diversity and wit of chants? The atmosphere can vary from game to game depending on the opposition and the way the game plays out. A defensive nil each draw isn`t going to create the same response from the crowd as a second half come back from 3 goals down to win 5 - 3. The conditions for heightened atmosphere changes constantly. It`s a little like sticking a flag in a sea. Winds, currents and tides will move it straight after you plant it. Challenging for the title or a nail biting struggle to avoid relegation are likely to excite the crowds more than a benign challenge for a Uefa club place.

At times there is a sense of people trying too hard out of a misguided belief that atmosphere is created to order. The guy behind me at the Real game was making a lot of noise at the wrong time, perhaps believing that he was leading by example. A noble aim but it is the spontaneity of response to events on the pitch when everyone reacts in unison that creates the buzz. A lone voice at the wrong point is more of an irritant.

It is often claimed that the atmosphere at stadiums is less than in the past but a tendency to mythologise the past is as evident amongst football supporters as any other group. A truly ancient, but still active, gooner , who has attended games since the 30`s tells me that singing and chanting really only emerged in the 60`s. Prior to that rattles, whistles, groans, cheers and claps, as he recalled were the chosen method of expression. While not quite as long, I have been going to football games for many years. It is easy to look back and imagine that every game was a riot of excitement but I suspect the truth is if it were possible to go back in time, dull games would have just as unenthusiastic a response as they do now. The difference is that few felt compelled in the past to agonise about it or prove support by acting independently of what took place on the pitch.

Changes in the way we watch games and the 'matchday experience` all may impact on the noise we make. It seems easier to sing standing up hence you don`t see too many sedentary choirs I guess. The removal of terraces has affected numbers at some grounds as has the need to prebook a seat. In the past crowds would build up early as supporters got to the ground early enough to claim their favourite spot on the terraces. That seemed to build up atmosphere slowly as the stadium gradually filled anticipating kick off. Now the stadium buzz is confined to the concourses within the stadium as supporters park themselves in front of TV monitors or at the drink and food bars. Many seats only being occupied just as the match kicks off.

There have been a few attempts to measure noise levels in grounds to try to establish which club has superiority. For the reasons I have given nothing of any scientific validity has ever been established because noise varies from game to game. The telephone company 118 118 carried out a survey of one game at each premier league ground at the beginning of last season. The conclusion was that Sunderland were the noisiest at 129 decibels and Fulham the quietest at 115 which may not be surprising given the size of the gates but even so Sunderland were just 12% noisier. The average was 122 decibels which is exactly where Arsenal registered. The library is yet another football myth. It doesn`t prove too much because you could carry out the same exercise at another time and get a different result but it does show that by and large noise levels are pretty similar around the premier league.

But noise isn`t atmosphere. You can`t really measure that other than as an individual. The atmosphere to an away supporter at Millwall back in the '80s or amongst the wild-eyed fraternity in a NLD at White Hart Lane could seem much less pleasant and acceptable than it does to those 'quiet` supporters at Craven Cottage. Just as the atmosphere at a home ground isn`t improved with a noisy fan behind you continuously bellowing 'shoooooooooooot` or booing the current season`s whipping boy. Atmosphere is what you prefer as an individual, which makes the argument between supporters superfluous.

Those competing to come up with the best chant whether for its mellifluous resonance or the sharpness of its wit do positively effect everyone`s enjoyment. There is no doubt that a successful chant adds to the atmosphere at grounds and the entertainment of crowds. It is the invention of people acting spontaneously but in unison that creates atmosphere I feel. Chants are good for atmosphere. Even then the most memorable are the spontaneous ones even if they are often cruel but you have to take your chants when it comes. Andy Goram, former Rangers keeper, having been diagnosed with mild schizophrenia, being greeted with "There`s only two Andy Gorams" would have added entertainment value to a partisan appreciation of atmosphere.

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Date:Thursday August 7 2008
Time: 12:18PM


Adebayooor, Adebayoooooooorrrrrr, pay him some more, and he will score ;)
07/08/2008 12:59:00
Some good points Amos. However it's no coinsidence that going away normally has a better atmosphere (ie being an Arsenal fan in the away end), and a higher percentage of fans contributing vocally. I love the Emirates, but sometimes our very own 'new fans' kill things a bit!
07/08/2008 13:06:00
The Andy Goram chant was bloody hilarious, even the commentators on the radio commented on it! There have been so many great chants over the years, West Ham seem to come up with many of them, a classic i remember was Bobby Zamora to the tune of It's Amore "He was a yid for a bit, till he knew they were **** its Zamora!"
07/08/2008 13:10:00
It's all in the spontaneity, the Adebayor chant going up at Fulham last season was great fun because it built up slowly until everybody learned the words (people ended up getting lighters out). At Everton a few years ago, there was a story in the enws about a whale being stranded in the Thames and some guy in our end got everybody singing, "we saw Lampard in the Thames." What football clubs and people don't get, is atmosphere cannot be contrived. When I was younger and me and my friends first started doing the away matches, we used to really try and get things going, but now I realise that, as you say, it depends on the mood of the game. Unless of course you've got something original in the locker, in 2002 me and a good friend did manager to get 3,000 people singing "Oleg Luzhny is the hooooooorse, he's the hoooooorse, he's the hooo-ooo-ooorse" at Filbert Street. For some reason I can't fathom it struck with people. As did a habit of bellowing "Timmmy" at Tim Flowers every time he took a goal kick in front of the Clock End in the late 90s, it caught on and we're not sure why. These are things that resonate.
Little Dutch
07/08/2008 13:29:00
LD, Craven Cottage last year was awesome. It was 2 guys in front of me that started the Adebayor song. After five minutes one turned round to the other and said: "see, I told you it would catch on!" He was so pleased with himself. It was brilliant. Too bad rival fans found an alternative (although secretly it is funny).
07/08/2008 13:41:00
I also fondly remember City fans screaming out for Goater to be introduced from the bench at Highbury in 2000 when we beat them 5-0. They were 5-0 down and finally got their wish, with "feed the Goat and he will score" booming out from their end. So of course he promptly missed an open goal, cue amusing variations in the shape of "did you know your Goat can't score" and "your goat's a ******** donkey!" The fact that I remember it so clearly 8 years on proves that handing out free flags and song sheets and measuring crowd decibels is no indicator of what constitutes true atmosphere.
Little Dutch
07/08/2008 13:49:00
I think to an extent the type of support you're talking about, Amos and LD, is almost unique to Britain. The witty chants that are come with on the spot to make fun of or glorify team or player are not found in many other places in the world and in that sense I would agree that yes in England, what happens on the pitch often effects atmosphere, and that is also why it seems when a match is dull or seems out of reach often the atmosphere suffers (this is only observed through television though). In most other countries the die hard support still group together, standing, and that facilitates more continuous chanting, as you can see with away fans in England. One of the biggest differences though between British style support and continental/South American support is that the organised nature of the latter facilitates more consisitent chanting, and therefore more consistent atmosphere, regardless of match quality or scoreline. Granted the fans will still be louder for Derby's or important matches in a campaign or cup but the spontaneous and sporadic atmosphere in football grounds does seem largely a British phenomenen.
Ozi Gooner
07/08/2008 13:56:00
Another memorable one from last year was the "Liivveerrppooll.....HOOF the Ball!" chant from Anfield. You could just sense how much it was winding the Scoucers up. Also, a few years ago, "Roy Keano Oooo, Roy Keano Oooo.... for fifty thousand quid..... he scores for Real Madrid". That was when £50,000 was a huge amount a week!!
07/08/2008 13:59:00
I'm wary of any thing given out for free at a football ground these days. You can almost guarantee it will have a sponsors name on it somewhere and make you feel like a walking advertisement.
Ozi Gooner
07/08/2008 14:00:00
I remember that survey about noise levels in PL stadiums -- Spurs were 2nd behind Sunderland, while the famous "best fans in the world" Anfield came in way down below the rankings, below the Emirates even. One of my granduncles once told me that in his day there were no chants in Brazilian stadiums either and that he'd enjoyed seeing the chants start to becoming popular some time in the late 50s. In Brazil the best chants are incredibly rude and vulgar. My favorite is a very simple one (against a team I actually like). Flamengo fans at Maracana shout it to with incredible gusto against rivals Fluminense: "Flu, Flu, Flu, vai tomar no cou!" (literally "go take it up the ass!")
07/08/2008 14:01:00
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