English Football: Spurs, Arsenal and Chanting

There are no Premiership game this weekend, as there is a break for International fixtures, so instead of the usual review/preview, I wanted to address something that has come to the fore this week.  In the analysis of last Sunday’s North London Derby, one theme has been discussed more than any other, the chanting that happened between the two sets of fans. Tottenham’s win over their arch-rivals, despite having not played as well as they can, has been overshadowed by a discussion about the unacceptable nature of the chants that came from the stands during the game, with all of the coverage condemning both sides equally for what was sung:

Tottenham Fans

There’s only one Arsene Wenger

There’s only one Arsene Wenger

With a packet of sweets and a cheeky smile

Wenger is a fucking pedophile

And to the Arsenal manager every time he stood up, until he retook his seat:

Sit down you pedophile, sit down you pedophile

Arsenal Fans

It should have been you

It should have been you

Killed in Angola

It should have been you

I understand that I could be seen as having a bias here, being a Spurs fan, but I would not blindly accept songs that are in any way racist, homophobic or involve tragic events.  During the Champions League games against Real Madrid last year, the Spurs fans directed this to their now striker:

Adebayor, Adebayor

His father washes elephants

His mother is a whore, Adebayor

This is not something I would have ever sung and would not defend, it is obviously offensive, racist and involves a personal slur against the guy’s mother – at their best, chants are tribal, provide a group identity for the fans, and are sometimes witty, this was none of these, just hateful.

Someone's tired

Perhaps the Wenger chants can be described in the same light, but there is actually a footballing reason that these songs started.  The Arsenal manager pursued an aggressive youth recruitment policy when he was new to the club, which culminated in him signing 15 year old Jermaine Pennant from Notts County for £2m in 1999.  In contrast, the Arsenal fans song was relating to this incident last year, when gunmen attacked a bus carrying the Togo national team in Angola, 3 of the party died including someone sitting two rows in front of Adebayor.

What bothers me most is the hypocrisy of the coverage – whilst Spurs fans have been singing the songs about Wenger in every derby game for more than 10 years, they are only mentioned now that the Arsenal supporters sang something even worse.  On Grantland this week, Chris Ryan’s recap talked about how all he could think about was the chanting and how distasteful it was from fans of both clubs, moments after he eulogised the 3-3 game last season – a match at which those same Wenger chants were sung as always.  Also, they are not based on anything real – if Spurs fans actually thought the Arsenal manager was a pedophile they would want him to be sent to jail, not simply to sit down.

I am confident most Arsenal fans are right-minded enough to realise that singing about a tragic incident is way beyond the line and would not join in with such songs anyway.  There is plenty of good rivalry between the two clubs without needing to resort to celebrating murder, and this goes for fans of all teams.  Manchester City sing about the Munich Air disaster, which took the lives of 23 people, including 8 Manchester United players, in 1958.  Numerous chants are directed towards Tottenham fans relating to the holocaust, due to the club having a traditionally Jewish fan base, the worst of these being opposition supporters hissing – alluding to the gas chambers that the Nazis used to murder 6 million people during World War II.  I have heard this in a few different grounds, but the most surprising was West Bromwich Albion – a club from the Midlands who Spurs have no natural rivalry with and very little recent history of even playing against.

While I would never want to eliminate the chanting – a great part of football, particularly in Britain – there needs to be a line drawn between what is acceptable and what is not.  Just because you pay to enter a stadium, it does not give you the right to be racist, homophobic or down right evil.  Perhaps it is time for the Wenger chants to be stopped also, the original reasoning having been long forgotten by many.  There is plenty of material available to sing at any club without needing to rely on these vehicles of hate – a few examples us Spurs fans have sung in recent years:

To Chelsea fans – a club who are now rich but in the late 1980s got only 8,000 people to their home games:

Where were you when you were shit?

To Arsenal fans – who fail to generate much noise at home:

In church, it’s just like being in church

To Manchester United fans – many of whom live in Kent, not Manchester, at White Hart Lane

Home in ten minutes, you’ll be home in ten minutes

And to Sol Campbell, who defected to Arsenal in 2001 and who has been the subject of so many hateful, homophobic songs (even though he is, in fact, not gay, as if that matters) – but this song, to the tune of She’ll be  Coming Round the Mountain When She Comes, celebrated his replacement, Ledley King:

You can stick Sol Campbell up your arse

You can stick Sol Campbell up your arse

You can stick Sol Campbell, stick Sol Campbell

Stick Sol Campbell up your arse

Singing we’ve got Ledley at the back

Singing we’ve got Ledley at the back

Singing we’ve got Ledley, we’ve got Ledley

We’ve got Ledley at the back.

Admittedly, none of these lyrics are particularly clever, nor are they appropriate for fans of all age, but they are fairly innocuous and refer to football-related happenings, not murder or hate. The best chants are obviously the ones that are good-natured and celebrate your own club, like this.