THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

11 August ~ One of the main complaints about the vuvuzela was that its ongoing monotone bleat failed to reflect the changes in the patterns of play. Perfect through pass – parp! Contortionist reflex save – parp! Studs-up attack on an opponent’s shin in the centre-circle – parp! The same could be said for choreographed chanting, which in many modern stadiums has become the preferred method of creating a decent atmosphere. But while it's impressively co-ordinated and far more pleasing to the ear than the plastic horn of hell, this Germanic phenomenon lacks an ingredient crucial to football – spontaneity.

I was at a German third division match last Saturday between Dynamo Dresden and Vfb Stuttgart’s second string. Dynamo’s impressive new stadium was around one-third full, with just over 9,500 fans in attendance on a rainy afternoon against reserve opponents who traditionally bring few or no away supporters. But there’s no such thing as a quiet game in Germany any more, thanks to the official sanctioning by most clubs of an approved chant-leader who stands in front of the terrace on a purpose-built platform with a bullhorn to lead the afternoon’s choral noise. At Dresden he was accompanied by a drummer and an assistant halfway up the terrace.

There’s nothing wrong with this, up to a point. It ensures that the teams are welcomed vigorously, and that the initial chanting doesn’t fade away once the game starts and the fans quickly realise they’re watching the same old crap as last week. But the megaphone fan takes his duties very seriously, ensuring that the singing is kept up for the full 90 minutes. Any slight lull feels unnaturally quiet, like when an unruly kindergarten is called to order by a stern matriarch.

The problem, though, is that just like the vuvuzela, choreographed singing tends to ignore the actual game. Applause in appreciation of fine play is generally lost, and overall excitement at a player getting through on goal takes a few more seconds to register. Worst of all, though, is the continued singing when the opposition is on the attack. It’s just not right to be chanting what a fantastic, world-beating team you’re supporting when they’re defending a corner. It should be quiet and tense until the danger is cleared. But when Dresden, leading 1-0, were defending a corner just before the hour mark, their fans at the other end were in full voice. As an unmarked Sven Shipplock headed in the cross, the singing continued. Gradually it faded, with the embarrassment of a novice at his first classical concert who's applauded at the end of the wrong movement.

The singing defiantly resumed a few seconds later, though Dresden never regained their lead and the game sauntered towards an unimaginative 1-1 draw. Towards the end, the singing became far more hypnotic and enjoyable than the football, and I almost tranced out into slumber. At times like that, when the players have run out of energy and ideas, well-organised singing comes into its own. But when the game itself is offering action enough to provoke a crowd response, I wish the chant man would drop his megaphone for a few minutes and watch the game too. Football’s greatest moments are generally unrehearsed. Ian Plenderleith

Comments (10)
Comment by The Exploding Vole 2010-08-11 11:09:02

Reading stuff likes this makes me almost as upset as the blast of music over the tannoy that accompanies every goal.

Comment by jappell 2010-08-11 11:25:41

Not sure I agree entirely.

At the risk of generalisation, there's a difference between the fan choreography you see in Germany and that which you see in other parts of the world - particularly Eastern Europe - where the terrace atmosphere is more anarchic, and rules of behaviour less stringent.

I've always found the atmosphere at matches in, say, Russia to be much better than in the UK, precisely because of the choreographed element to proceedings.

Besides which, another positive aspect of the organisation of support on the Continent is visual, as opposed to aural. I've always been impressed with the fan displays ("perfomansy") in Russia - unfurling of large flags or banners, meticulously designed and superbly humorous/artistic.

Comment by Hugh Fatbastard 2010-08-11 19:22:13

I think I may have to agree with the author. When taking in a TFC game at BMO Field you quickly realise that there are only so many OLE OLE OLA's that you can stand.

Comment by Moonlight shadow 2010-08-11 19:31:52

You don't understand ultra culture Ian...

Comment by Alex Anderson 2010-08-11 21:15:08

And tonight, as we're losing 3-0 in Sweden, the Scotland support - sorry - the "Tartan Army" is heard going through a repertoire of attention-seekingly "brave" ditties which isn't so much choreographed as mentally pre-programmed decades ago.

Agree 100% with your point, Ian - and enjoy how you make it - but there is a far darker example of faux-atmosphere: the one which tells the second oldest national side in the world it never has to worry about its performance.

Not being a hooligan isn't a boast, oh kilted ones - it's the least you should expect of yourself. And repeatedly celebrating defeat isn't the opposite of hooliganism anyway - it's half the bl**dy reason our national team hasn't qualified for a tournament in what will be 14 years, minimum.

Sorry - tenuous use of a good article for a knee-jerk rant ...

Comment by Houdi Elbow 2010-08-12 08:37:59

Quite right Ian. Why do you need some self-important idiot with a megaphone telling you how to behave? Not quite as bad as goal music, etc, but hope it never catches on here.

Comment by diabloingles 2010-08-12 09:41:38

Sorry to be a pedant but choreography refers to movement not sound.
Maybe synchronised chanting then?

Comment by imp 2010-08-12 16:14:24

Myself, Shakespeare and Sazza Palin like to re-shape and re-define the English language.

Comment by Lincoln 2010-08-12 18:07:35

It is starting to get this way at Lincoln City with the "pasionistas". Backed by a fan site which has spewed out quite a bit of rubbish in its time about the team made them instantly dislikeable to me. That they continually chant throughout the game fairly rubbish songs no matter what is happening throughout the game is annoying. That they then complain about other attendees who don't do this aggravating

Comment by cris franco 2010-08-13 04:29:41

Agree 100%. Still, over here in Rio de Janeiro, and all over Brazil actually, I'd say the "organised" chanting are not that "german" really, can be fun to listen to, specially the unique chanting dedicated to each player entering the pitch. The organised ones try to but don't "own" our terraces (they can be scaring at times, though). Most of the time what you will hear will be the non-organised, non-rehearsed individual ooohhhs, ahhhhs, laughter, clapping and the swearing (at referees, at players, at coaches, at our disorganised, corrupt football association...you name it). All very, very sponteanous.
(God knows how we'll host a world cup, but please do come over. We should have Ganso & Neymar playing in 2014 and our lack of everything might be compensated by football’s unrehearsed greatest moments.)

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