Chanting; where do we draw the line?


By Shamoon Hafez.

This is my blogging debut, I’m more used to doing match reports or features, so go easy on me with comments. As you may, or may not know, I’m a journalist for BBC Sport but also a hardcore United fan, attending home games regularly and the occasional away game as well.

Yesterday’s game was a Carling Cup affair, the three-handled trophy no-one is interested in, play the kids and give them experience, and let the backup players get a few minutes under their belts. But this wasn’t any old opposition, it was Leeds. Dirty Leeds, the Leeds that we all hate. A revenge job was on the cards after they turned us over in the FA Cup 3rd round in January 2010. And the players duly obliged, with three goals in the first half, putting the game to bed without getting out of second gear. Michael Owen; showing why he’s a useful squad player and the evergreen Giggs the scorers.

Despite the positive result though, the talking point of the game was what occurred in the stands, not the action that took place on the pitch.

It’s always a sad and shameful moment when the media decide to focus on off-field matters at a match which saw both sets of players play (for most of the match anyway) a good game. Excellent debut performances by youngsters such as Zeki Fryers and Paul Pogba will be overshadowed by the chanting of Leeds and our supporters.

Let me make one thing clear, I do not, in any way, condone the remembrance of those that died with ill-feeling and contempt. RIP the Busby Babes, and also Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight, the two Leeds supporters who were stabbed and killed in Turkey.

I’ll give you an idea of what I saw and heard, some may have different views, but I’m giving it from my perspective.

Our supporters were making their way to entrance 15 in the south stand, being escorted by the police, chanting the usual “We all hate Leeds scum.” However, supporters behind the glass of the south stand were clearly see and heard to be shouting, “Munich, Munich.” Bottles came flying across the street from the Leeds supporters. An attempt was made by our fans to force their way inside, but police blocked this and led everyone towards the turnstiles.

As we went inside and took our seats, or our place standing in front of the seats, a chorus of, “We are the pride of all Europe..” began and the atmosphere was simmering nicely. Leeds sang, “Marching on together..” and the game began.

What unfolded after this was a disgrace to the reputation of Leeds United, once a great club, and Manchester United, our beloved club.

I’m all for banter, and taking the piss out of the opponents, even our own players but there’s a line between banter and spitefulness, a line which was long-jumped over Jonathan Edwards-style last night.

As the Leeds fans yelled, “Who’s that skidding on the runway..” and it was them that started it, our lot had to respond with “Always look out for Turks, with a knife..”

We need to know the right from the wrong, and what went on last night was totally wrong, from both sets of supporters. Granted, we get caught up in the moment and want to get back at the rivals for their chantings towards us.

But we keep going on about ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’, how successful the academy is, and the number of youngsters that the club bloods into the first team. Yet, what sort of environment are we bringing Fryer and Pogba into? What sort of example are the fans showing to their own players? Our set of supporters that claim to be “The pride of all Europe, the cock of the north..” whilst imitating stabbing gestures towards the opposition fans.

That’s not football, that’s not even hooliganism, it’s just abhorrent and repulsive behaviour that shouldn’t be associated with the great club that we follow. I know some will say, it’s only a minority, but when the minority react with vile responses, the rest join in without giving it a second thought. But why do it? Why, when we know full well what happened on the 6th February 1958, do we have to sing about the oppositions dead? Does it make people feel better?

We’ll be getting absolutely crucified in today’s newspapers for something which could easily have been avoided. The Anti-United brigade will be out in force, but this time the fuel for their outlook has been provided by ourselves.

Generally, the crowd banter, the chanting, the support for the team from the United fans is second to none, we sing all game, and tend to drown out the voices of the opposition. But when it comes to the games against Leeds and Liverpool, the hatred spills over into vicious, revolting detestation.

Will the “Murderers, Murderers” or “Munich, Munich” chants ever stop, or is it a case of the minority starting and the rest adhering in order to feel part of the crowd?

Sadly, I feel the mindlessness of the small group of chanters is something that will stay.

If Fergie can’t stop the crowd from singing the Arsene Wenger songs, how will anyone stop the chanting about the dead?

Then, again, “We’re Man United, we’ll do what we want!” eh? On this one, I decided to be a Gunners fan and not chant anything!

Let me know whether you agree or disagree, and if you were there, did you see anything differently?

Follow my United ramblings + other sporting views on Twitter: @ShamoonHafez

(These are all my views, not those of Stretford End Arising or the BBC)

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  1. “and it was them that started it, our lot had to respond with ”

    So when the Leeds fans ‘started it’ you all quickly got your crayons out and drew that banner that was in your end?

    That was planned and disgusting.

  2. I know some of the chants are a bit over the top (both sides) but isn’t all a bit of fun really? If we start censoring the crowd, the atmosphere will rapidly decrease. I’m a Leeds fan but (obviously) I know a few ManU fans and we’re always giving it a bit. As far as I can tell, it’s just banter…get a bloody sense of humour.

    • Danny Salford Red on

      Seriously? The death of human beings a subject for banter? You my friend are a bell end and as long as there are prats like you who hold these views it will never stop.

  3. Leeds fan – Completely agree, it is more than possible to support your football team without being a hologram or acting sick in the head. That’s what it is, its certainly not just hoolaganism

  4. I saw the “Istanbul” banner, which is disgraceful, but we have sung the Munich song for years, although until last night, has not been heard for years and is met with a chorus of booing from the sane Leeds fans.

    The author is right, we get caught up in the minority madness, it is a passionate game, but then the right minded people feel the guilt.

    I remember the outpouring of grief at Elland Road when Chris and Kevin died, and the large number of sympathy notes/scarves/shirts from Man U fans. That is more powerful than a handful of hateful morons from whichever side

  5. Couldn’t agree with you more mate. Good article! The spirit of terrace football fans is deploring, and I don’t care if you are Leeds, Man Utd, Man City, L’Pool or whoever. Supporters of teams are there to do just that, support their own teams with songs of victory and encouragement. Sadly what is happening on football terraces in England is just a picture of what has happened in our society – lunacy, rampage, destruction of other people and property. It’s a disease mate, and a reflection of our society as a whole. What do most of these vile chanters (whichever club they represent) teach their kids? They are certainly BAD role models and parents!

  6. Great article fully agree with everything you say.
    I am a leeds fan and distance myself from all those who sing the Munich songs. Am not happy with the more personal songs about individual players either, they leave a bad taste in my mouth.

    Istanbul banners well out of order!!!!

  7. I was sat where the munich chants were coming from, but not once opened my mouth during those chants. I am not a die hard Leeds fan as i support my local team Scunthorpe, and thus i don’t hold such a hatred towards man u as maybe the folks i was stood near did, so i thought the chants were wrong. However all the chants like “if you hate leeds have a go” or the jermaine beckford song were a great laugh.

  8. I agree with your article Shamoon. At 48 now, I too am guilty of singing the Munich song when I was 18 without really thinking about the content of the words – it was just a song of hate and something I am ashamed of now. Rivalry is fine, hatred – well is that acceptable? After all it’s only a game, but in a lot of ways now replaces tribal warfare so I suppose that is to be accepted. However, mocking tragic deaths, and therefore loved ones of those who died takes things way beyond that and is not acceptable. I’m afraid Bates’ reference to morons is applicable here – for fans on both sides.

  9. I was at the match last night with my 14 year old son and 16 year old nephew, it is one of those fixtures that I guess both sets of fans miss because of the pressure cooker atmosphere which you can’t beat at a football match. The chanting is completely wrong and as a professional businessman I feel ashamed that I do get caught up occasionally in the “Munich” chanting. I guess you just sometimes follow the crowd and get carried away. However I thought the atmosphere was fantastic last night but it’s a shame the teenage chavs and middle aged men feel the need to “fight” the police after the game. Pointless and mainly a load of mouth organs shouting their mouths off then running away!! MOT

  10. The sick chants didn’t start with Leeds fans, as soon as the whistle went for ko some scroates in the middle of re south stand behind the goal unravelled a banner stating ISTANBUL this in turn warranted the response from Leeds.
    Also what was that dick doing with the green lazer pen pen, not o mention the bottles thrown on the pitch towards our keeper, utter fucking scumbags
    I was at in the kop end towards the corner flag and yeah man u players got grief from Leeds fans as every teams players do, but there was nothing thrown at them
    Result was fair at the end of the day and scum have strength in depth and we weren’t at the races.
    Just pisses menoff that Leeds are usually always to blame for starting shit, when clearly other teams need to look a bit closer to home……


  11. I am continually horrified by the behavior of both sets of fans, but to bring Turkish flags is premeditated and not getting carried away with the game. That is clear evidence and individuals should get life bans. I will not attend this fixture as I do not the Millwall games. Football is the loser

  12. There’s a world of difference between singing songs to “bait” the opposition in the heat of the moment, and having the forethought to design and manufacture “Istanbul/Turkey” banners to wave as I’ve seen recently by Man U and Millwall fans.

  13. As a Leeds fan I’d just like to say chants about Munich are totally unacceptable as are chants about Istanbul or Hillsborough. Anyone with an ounce of compassion or humanity would realise this. I’ll always hate Man Utd it’s in my blood, just as my brother, a glory hunter who went over to the dark side, will always hate Leeds. I guess that’s the irrational passion and rivalry of football fans but there is a line of decency that shouldn’t be crossed not even in the heat of the moment. MOT

  14. Mightywhite83 on

    I was at the game last night and been honest I hardly heard any Munich or Istanbul chants… On the one occasion I did there were a quick number of Leeds fans who drowned out the minority of idiots with the chant of “WE ARE LEEDS…WE ARE LEEDS” the only time I heard anything from YOUR LOT was when I was leaving the ground which as the stadium was more or less empty I thought was extremely cowardly!! Totally agree with the banner comment that was pre planned just like the orange flair that was lit ( galatasaray colours coincidentally) also the number of items I saw been hurled from the scum end at lonergan was shocking… So come on don’t right articles saying Leeds fans started it cos let’s be honest…. On the night far worse things happened in the south stand than anywhere else around the ground.

  15. Rivalry is all well and good but there is no place for such disgraceful chanting – wherever it comes from. That said the provocation from the manu fans went well beyond normal ‘banter’ and that banner should have been removed by the Police. Same thing happened at OT in the FA Cup – but manu are allowed to do anything they want without censor aren’t they.

  16. @REVIE – you may think it is just banter and acceptable – RELATIVES of the dead loved ones they have lost don’t though. No consideration for their feelings in your philosophy is there REVIE?

  17. Quote:
    As the Leeds fans yelled, “Who’s that skidding on the runway..” and it was them that started it, our lot had to respond with “Always look out for Turks, with a knife..” Unquote

    The Istanbul banner produced by the MU fans shows prior intent, and was nothing to do with any level of response! I hate all this so-called ‘banter’, no matter whose club is being supported, and feel there is no place in modern football for this. We have, in the main, managed to stamp out racism in the stands, why not this?

  18. Although what a fantastic atmosphere there was inside the ground last night with both sets of fans at each other for 90mins! Proper football atmosphere that seems to be lost in football now a days!

  19. On a positive note there were lots of Cantona chants and from the TV watchers perspective, seemed to be coming from both sets of fans simultaneously 🙂

  20. Mike in Malaga on

    I’m a Leeds fan and stood on the scoreboard end as a kid and sang the runway song to hundreds of livid Man. U. fans above ‘cos I knew it pissed them off. I’m ashamed of it now. The majority at our club did the same and now feel the same shame. The Munich songs on our Kop apparently were quickly shouted down by sane fans.

    Our ‘disaster’ was after yours. It took us a while to wake up to what we were doing. Now it’s your turn. The desire for revenge after years of abuse is understandable if abhorrent. However, there’s no doubt that Man U is bigger than that and will rise above it. Articles like this help that. Comments from managers, players and supporters’ spokespeople would help too.

    The Busby babes will have turned in their grave last night. Let’s hope they don’t have to do it much more.

    Well played on an easy win. Was like watching men against subbuteo men.

  21. Mike in Malaga on

    Just one more thing:

    – A bloke doing Munich gestures on a vid for a Crawley town FA Cup song last year before they played Man U got a six-month suspended jail sentence.

    – People inviting others on facebook to come round and burn their villages down during the riots were quickly sentenced to three years in jail, even though it wasn’t proved if they were serious or messing around. None were even involved in any violence.

    – The people holding the bannerlast night, let alone chanting are on camera, in photos and on CCTV. Isn’t it piss easy to find them and just mete out similar punishments? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

  22. I am a Leeds season ticket holder. Moronic chanting about munich or Leeds fans murdered in Turkey are a complete disgrace. They have no place in football. For my part I have nothing but admiration for Manchester United. They will always be a great club. As for the Busby babes I was not born when they died but I know all about them. It was a truly sad day not just for Manchester United but the country as a whole.

  23. Totally, totally inaccurate.

    The unforgivable chants all started before kick-off because of the disgusting flags and banners that arrived with your supporters.

    The Manchester United “fans” came prepared with ‘Istanbul’ banners, Leeds didn’t do anything of the sort. There were no problems at Old Trafford the last time round either – the travelling Leeds fans didn’t sink to similar depths. The entire thing was pre-meditated and started by Manchester United supporters.

    Trying to pass this off as reactionary when you already had banners made before the game is laughable. I have no doubts that as a member of the press you will report otherwise, because it’s fashionable to blame Leeds and sympathise with Manchester United for the Busby catastrophe, but it’s about time you all accepted you have a sickening element of idiots amongst your fanbase equal to those present at every club.

  24. The problem is that fans have let other fans get away with this shit for years…..its down to the supporters of your own club to control your own fans…….. its called PIER preassure….. Any guy who chants about people dieing as a joke isnt a real fan because hes bshaming his own club !!! UNDERSTAND that and you will go far !

    • pier pressure! would canal pressure be as effective?

      the only effective peer pressure most of these creatures understand involves a bat, some derelict ground and the loss of some teeth.

      too much sheeping as well. 50 blokes would not be heard if 3,000 simpletons didn’t join in. baaaaah.

      agree with most of whats being said.

      how hard is it to take a banner from somebody? cctv? the club is also partly at fault.

      if those people were as generally inventive in life as they were in banner making, they wouldn’t need benefits or to have to hang around free car parks by the MEN trying to scam non locals out of £7 for a parking space 🙂

  25. The scratching shed is spot on, the most articulate and well informed post thus far. Cannot argue with the evidence. I have not read one passage in the nations press w.r to the Istanbul flag. That is just as bad, how they can put a bias on such a strong and emotive topic. State the facts!

  26. To me Man U sum up everything that is wrong with Premiership football and I hate them with a passion. However, I would never lower myself to the level of singing about Munich because I have a brain and some moral fibre.

    To arrive at Leeds with your Turkish flags sums up the tossers who follow your club and it was good to see the press highlighting it.

  27. mark mattinson on

    as a leeds fan in piece can i say i’m disgusted by fans from both sides singing the disgusting songs that were heard on tuesday evening. i wasn’t at the game, curently boycotting elland road in protest at ken bates, but have been to hundrewds of leeds games and heard the munich song far too many times. it disgusts me whenever i hear it, normally being sung by young lads who probably don’t even understand what they are singing about. but i have been to leeds man u before and been witness to united fans singing about istanbul as well. i’ve met the uncle of kevin speight and he described the pain his family went through, this stuff is real and the fans on BOTH sides need to get a grip and think about what they are singing. and people need to realise that not all leeds and man united fans are idiots, theres plenty of leeds fans who don’t sing the munich song and vice versa. good luck for the season, hopefully we’ll be playing you more frequently and with less of the garbage coming out of the stands

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