Thursday, March 08, 2007

The twelfth man

Again, to clarify for my North American readers, when Tom Hicks, the new American owner of Liverpool FC said of Anfield: “I’d heard so much about the fans, but that was spectacular. I’ve seen a lot of sporting events all around the world, but nothing that comes close to that”, he was not trying to ingratiate himself with the scousers, nor was he gloating over gate receipts, which do not generate serious profits for football clubs. He was simply stating a fact.




If you’ve never been amongst 45,000 people packed inside a close stadium, all singing the same song in unison as loud as they can, and continuing to roar, bellow and chant other songs for 90 minutes, you can’t really fathom the experience. It doesn’t happen anywhere else in human activity, except maybe Zulu warfare. No orchestra or choir or even heavy rock band makes that kind of visceral impact. You don’t hear it through your ears, it transmits directly to your intestines.

The purple-clad people in the video taking pictures and trying to join in with You’ll Never Walk Alone are Barcelona fans. Barcelona play at a much bigger stadium: the Nou Camp has a capacity of over 98,000. But they’ve never experienced that kind of atmosphere.

As Peter likes to remind us on Diversely We Sail, North American sports don’t have the problems of soccer. They are family affairs: kids fidgeting, dads gallumphing off to stock up on hotdogs.

Hooliganism is the dark side of football tribalism. Anfield on a European Cup night is the blinding bright side.

20 comments:

Peter Burnet said...

All right, I hereby doff my cap. That was indeed impressive and moving and I would have liked to have been there.

But I scanned that crowd twice as hard as I could and I couldn't identify one woman or child. The famous 1914 Christmas truce in the trenches was also very moving.

Brit said...

That stand is the Kop, the hub of the tribe.

The women and kids tend to be in the other stands. Now that the stadium is all-seater, there are plenty of women. Too many, I reckon.

Brit said...

(with about 20 seconds to go, there's a kid squeaking, obviously right next to the mike).

Peter Burnet said...

I'm sorry that when I did my post on the magic of musicals, I forget to add that they can even tame a tribe of hooligans.

Peter Burnet said...

Sorry, here is the second link.

Gordon McCabe said...

ITV did themselves proud on Tuesday night, and broadcast almost the whole of 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. It was spine-tingling.

When you go there yourself, you phone someone you know, and hold the mobile up so they can hear it as well. It's really something else.

Brit said...

Yes, in case you're wondering how a song from a musical came to be the anthem for a football club, the answer is that it was a big hit in the 60s for Gerry and the Pacemakers, a band that was part of Liverpool's Mersey Sound movement (led, obviously, by the Beatles).

The Liverpool fans sing their version, and various other clubs have also adopted it, notably Glasgow Celtic (leading to gobsmacking scenes on the rare occasions they play against each other.

Brit said...

Sorry, that Celtic-Liverpool link again.

David said...

Before just about any sporting event in the US, the crowd stands and sings the Star Spangled Banner. How many soccer fans know the words to God Save The Queen?

Brit said...

My God, your anti-soccer prejudices astound me. Seriously, it's frightening. Look, football is the national game.

And the words to the antional anthem aren't exactly difficult.

joe shropshire said...

So the way to Brit's heart turns out to be pretty simple. When he and his crowd of shaved-headed, drunken, menacing friends show up at your house you invite them in, turn the telly to their favorite channel, ply them with beer, and pretend that they're cuddly. You choke back a tear when they start singing their special song. If someone drapes an arm around your shoulder and breathes in your face: "So, squire. If you were to take one word to describe Great Britain, what would it be?" You look him straight in the eye and say: "Great. The word that leaps to mind is, Great." They'll be naming their children after you. So easy a even a dozy Yank could do it. Now if only there were some way to make money from this...

Brit said...

You'd love to know the way to my heart, wouldn't you Joe?

erp said...

Joe, As brit said in a very amusing post some time back, the answer is right in the name for goodness sake.

erp said...

Peter and Joe and Ali and Gordon -- why don't you guys post your pictures? David, you too and anyone else I forgot.

David said...

Actually, I'm pro-soccer, for an American.

Harry Eagar said...

My all-time favorite memory from my years as a sports writer was the first game of the Tidewater Wings in the International Hockey League, in Norfolk, Va.

Ice hockey was unknown there, and internationalism, too, but the city fathers were thrilled to be invited to play in the high minor leagues.

They had heard that many hockey players were Canadian, so before the first faceoff, the PA played the national anthems of both countries, "The Star-spangled Banner" and "God Save the Queen."

David said...

Hey, it's a meme.

Brit said...

Now the football chant is something I know a lot about. A dedicated post is required, however.

Peter Burnet said...

Harry:

Never mind soccer hooliganism, those American-Canadian hockey games can be life-threatening.

erp said...
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