Fans of Boca Juniors chanting “El que no salta, se fue a la B” in the streets of Buenos Aires, an example of a chant targeting a rival club (the chant mocks their rival team River Plate who were once relegated to the Nacional B division.)1
A football chant or terrace chant is a song or chant usually sung at association football matches by fans. The chants can be simple, consisting of a few loud shouts or spoken words, but more often they are short song verses and sometimes longer songs. They are typically performed repetitively, sometimes accompanied by hand-clapping, but occasionally they may be more elaborate involving musical instruments, props or choreographed routines. They are often adaptations of popular songs, using their tunes as the basis of the chants, but some are entirely original. Football chants are most often used by fans to encourage the home team or express their pride in the team, and they may be sung to celebrate a particular player or manager. Fans may also use football chants to slight the opposition, and many fans sing songs about their club rivals, even when they are not playing them. Sometimes the chants are spontaneous reactions to events on the pitch.
Football chants are known to have been used by fans from the late 19th century onwards, but developed into the current popular forms in the 1960s. Football chants can be historic, dating back as early as the formation of the club popularly sung down the years and considered the anthems for these clubs. They may also be popular for only a relatively short time, with new chants being constantly created and discarded. The tradition of football chants vary from country to country and team to team, but some chants are common to many clubs and popular internationally. Football chants may be considered one of the last remaining sources of an oral folk song tradition.2
Football chants may be considered modern examples of traditional storytelling and folk songs. According to folk singer Martin Carthy, football chants are “the one surviving embodiment of an organic living folk tradition.”3 It is also a unique public expression of collective identity,4 and football chants may be seen as modern examples of the folk tradition blason populaire where a group vocalise their identity as well as their rivalry against another group.5
Football chants were known since the 19th century; war chants were known to have been used as by football fans for some time from the 1880s onwards. The first known football song, “The Dooley Fitba’ Club” later known as “‘Fitba’ Crazy”, was also written in the 1880s by James Curran, although it was meant for the music hall rather than the terrace.6 It was also recorded in the 1890s that Sheffield United fans had adopted a music hall song, the “Rowdy Dowdy Boys”, while Southampton fans sang a “Yi! Yi! Yi!” chant based on a war cry.76 Blackburn Rovers were known to have sung “We’ve won the cup before – many a time” before their 1891 FA Cup Final match against Notts County.8 Composer Sir Edward Elgar wrote a football song in honour of the Wolverhampton Wanderers striker, Billy Malpass, after watching a match in February 1898 between Wolves and Stoke City. However, the anthem he wrote, “He Banged The Leather For Goal”, never caught on among fans on the terrace.9
The oldest football song in the world that is still in use today may be “On the Ball, City”, a song believed to have been composed in the 1890s by Albert T Smith who became a director of Norwich City when the club was founded in 1902.10 The song was adopted by fans of the club and it is still sung by Norwich’s fans.1112 Other early football chants still sung today include “Pompey Chimes” or “Play up, Pompey” sung by Portsmouth fans since the 1920s (an early form is believed to have been sung at the Fratton Park ground in 1899, therefore it is arguably older than “On the Ball, City”),13 and “Blaydon Races”, a Geordie folk song from 1862, which was adopted by Newcastle United fans in the 1930s.14 Some of the songs sung at football ground by the 1920s were modified from popular music hall songs, for example “Kick, Kick, Kick, Kick, Kick it” from “Chick, Chick, Chick, Chick, Chicken” and “Keep the Forwards Scoring” from “Keep the Home Fires Burning”.15 Football chants in the early years were club-specific and they were generally friendly or jocular in tone.3 Songs with sectarian overtones, however, have been sung at matches between Rangers and Celtic since the 1920s, which became more overtly confrontational in later decades, raising the possibility that sectarianism may have been the origin of oppositional chanting and singing at football matches.15 Fans of the early period also had a limited repertoire of chants, which become more varied as singing was encouraged by the use of brass bands before games and the community singing movement that arose in the 1920s (the tradition of singing “Abide with Me” at FA Cup finals started in this period).16
While various elements of football chants were already present in the early period, it was in the 1960s that the nature of football chants started to change and modern football chants emerged to become an integral part of fan culture and experience. The catalyst for the change may be due to a number of factors; one suggestion is the growth and evolution of youth culture in this period which, together with popular music started being played over the public announcement system at matches instead of brass bands, encouraged fans to start their own singing based on popular tunes. Another suggestion is the mixing of fan cultures from different countries through international football competitions that started to be broadcast internationally – the exposure to intense chanting by South American and Italian fans during the 1962 and 1966 World Cups may have encouraged British fans who were previously more reserved to do the same.1718 They also picked up different type of chants from other countries; Liverpool fans for example, may have used a Brazilian hand-clapping chant “Brazil, cha-cha-cha” from the television broadcast of the 1962 World Cup, and turned it into the “Li-ver-pool, clap, clap, clap” chant.19 Chants became more extensive, and popular songs became increasingly common as the basis of chants as fans adapted these songs to reflect situations and events relevant to them. Chanting the name of the team, chants for players and managers started to become prevalent.20 Liverpool supporters, particularly those on the Kop, were known for modifying popular songs in the early 1960s to suit their own purposes, and this practice quickly spread to fans of other clubs who created their own versions after hearing these chants.17 Fans of many clubs now have a large and constantly evolving repertoire of chants in addition to a smaller number of songs closely associated with their club.
A more controversial aspect of this period of change was that abusive chants targeted at rival team or fans also became widespread.20 Concerns over the abusive nature of some of these chants later led to measures in various countries to control them, for example, the British government made racist and indecent chants an offence in the UK in 1991.21 Despite efforts to stop them, some chants remain an issue around the world, such as the “Eh puto” chant used by Mexican fans,2223 and racist chants in many countries.242526
As the sport of football spread to other country, so did its associated fan culture of football chants. Many countries, however, have developed their own tradition of football songs and chants; for example, most Italian clubs have their own official hymns, often written specially for the club by a prominent singer or composer who is a fan of the club.27 Many countries also have football chants dated to the early part of the 20th century,28 and football chants created in different countries may be specific to the local culture. Hand-clapping chants were popular in South American countries such as Brazil before it spread to other countries.17 Some chants originated from other sports; for example, the “two, four, six, eight!” chant that was used for sports in the United States from the early 20th century was adopted by football fans in the UK in the 1950s.1529 and the “Olé” chant from bullfighting is believed to be first used in Brazil for Garrincha in 1958.30 As football fans travel to other countries on away international matches, and international broadcasts of football matches are common, fans from around the world often picked up chants from other clubs and countries, and some chants spread in an organic manner and become popular internationally. An example is the chant based on “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes — it was first adopted by fans of Belgian Club Brugge KV in 2003, their chant was then picked by Italian fans, and it was made an unofficial anthem for the Italy national football team in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, following which it spread to other football clubs around the world as well as beyond football into other sports and events.3132
The supporters of the football club 1. FC Union Berlin are known for their chant “Eisern Union” (Iron Union).
Some chants are spoken, sometimes accompanied by percussion. These chants may simply consist of the name of the team and/or words of encouragement. The chants may also be in a call-and-response format. For example, Chile national football team fans will do a routine whereby one group of fans will chant “Chi-Chi-Chi”, and another group will respond “Le-Le-Le”. For the Indonesia national football team one group of fans will chant “In-Do-Ne-Sia” with an air horn and hand clap in response. “Garuda Di Dadaku” is sung by fans when Indonesia plays at home.citation needed
Popularised at the Sydney Olympics and used by Australian football supporters everywhere is the “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi” chant between two groups of supporters. It is a derivation of Welsh rugby chant “Oggy Oggy Oggy”, which was also adapted by Chelsea supporters in tribute to Peter Osgood.3334
Other examples include the United States’ “I believe that we will win!” and FC Metalist Kharkiv’s “Putin khuilo!”.
Iceland fans performing Viking Thunder Clap
Some chants consist simply of a loud shout or whoop with a hand clap, sometimes led by a drum beat that gets increasingly faster, such as the Viking Thunder Clap made popular by fans of Iceland. Similar chants have been performed by fans of teams such as Motherwell and Lens, and a version called “Boom Boom Clap” has been used by fans of North American clubs such as Seattle Sounders and Toronto since 2008 as well as the American national teams.35363738
Chants based on hymns and classical music
Several football chants are based on hymns, with “Cwm Rhondda” (also known as “Guide me, O thou great redeemer”) being one of the most popular tunes to copy. Amongst others, it has spawned the song “You’re not singing anymore!”.39 “We can see you sneaking out!”,40 “We support our local team!” and “I will never be a Blue!”.
Various teams have used the “Glory Glory” chant (used by “Tottenham Hotspur”, “Leeds United”, “Manchester United”, etc.), to the tune of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Hibernian were the first team to popularise the song with the release of a record by Hector Nicol in the 1950s (“Glory Glory to the Hibees”).41
The Stars and Stripes Forever is often sung with the words “Here we go, here we go, here we go!”.
There have been various adaptations of “When The Saints Go Marching In” (e.g. by fans of Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur), and the tune of Handel’s Hallelujah chorus.
Many football crowd chants/songs are to the tune of “La donna è mobile” from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto, for example the chant by Derby County fans in honour of Fabrizio Ravanelli of “We’ve got Fabrizio, you’ve got fuck allio”.42
Italian tifosi employ various operatic arie, especially those by Giuseppe Verdi, for chants. For Parma’s home matches at the Stadio Ennio Tardini, during the entry of the teams in the field, Aida’s triumphal march resounds as Verdi is a symbol of the city.
Italian Torino fans sing their signature chant Toro alè to the tune of French anthem “La Marsellaise”. The anthem theme was first popularized as a chant by A.S. Roma’s curva sud after a 3-1 match win against Juventus on 30 January 1977. The anthem has also been modified by the RC Lens fans.
French PSG fans sing a rendition of “Flower of Scotland”.
Chants based on spirituals and folk songs
Some chants are based on spirituals. “We shall not be moved” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” are both used by fans. An example of the latter’s use was “He’s got a pineapple on his head” aimed at Jason Lee due to his distinctive hairstyle.43 The song was later popularised by the television show Fantasy Football League.
Christmas carols have also been used as chants like with the theme of “O Tannenbaum” by the likes of Manchester United or Chelsea fans.
The tune to the Shaker song “Simple Gifts” has spawned many terrace chants including “Carefree”, a chant associated with Chelsea, though it was originally Chesterfield fans who adapted this.citation needed It was also used for a Tottenham song abusing Sol Campbell after his move to Arsenal in 200144 and was sung by Manchester United fans, in honour of Park Ji-Sung.
“Sloop John B” has been popular amongst English football fans since the mid-2000s. It was adopted by the supporters of English non-league team F.C. United of Manchester as a club anthem in 2007.4546 Since then more high-profile teams have followed suit, usually with different lyrics for their own teams, most notably Watford, with Newcastle, Blackpool, Middlesbrough and Hull also adopting the song as their own. It was perhaps most famously sung by Phil Brown,47 the manager of Hull City FC, shortly after Hull had avoided relegation from the Premiership in 2009. The tune from the song’s chorus is often sung with alternative lyrics, particularly “He scores when he wants”, “You know what you are” and “We know what we are”. Some Rangers fans sing a version expressing Anti-Irish sentiment in the lyrics, with the chorus notably replaced by “Your famine is over, why don’t you go home?”.
The Geordie folk song “Blaydon Races” is associated with Newcastle United.48 Other folk songs to have their lyrics altered include “The John B. Sails” to “We Won it 5 Times” by Liverpool fans, “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” to “We’ll Be Coming Down the Road” by the Scotland national team and Liverpool fans, “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean”, “The Wild Rover” and “Camptown Races”, which is used for “Two World Wars, One World Cup”, whilst Birmingham City fans sing “Keep Right on to the End of the Road”.
The melody of “Bella ciao” is often used as a chant by Italian ultras groups of Salernitana, Cosenza Calcio, A.S. Livorno and also outside of Italy like with Aris Thessaloniki, AEK Athens F.C. or Paris Saint-Germain F.C. fans, as well as the Timbers Army of MLS’ Portland Timbers. The song was also adapted by Brazilian fans during World Cup 2018 to tease and taunt Argentina about their possible exit in the first round, which eventually did not occur, with references to Argentinian players Di María, Mascherano, and Messi (Brazil and Argentina have a well-known football rivalry).49
Italian tifosi are strongly used to sing mocks based on national, and internationally famous folk tunes, like L’uva fogarina, Oh! Susanna and Alouette.
“The Fields of Athenry” is a widely used anthem by Irish sports fans, sang particularly at rugby and football matches.50 The song was adopted and reworked by Liverpool fans as “The Fields of Anfield Road”.51
Chants based on popular music
Popular music is the most common source of football chants. In the United Kingdom, music hall songs such as “My Old Man (Said Follow the Van)”, “Knees Up Mother Brown”, “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”, “I Came, I Saw, I Conga’d” and “Two Little Boys” have long been used as the basis of terrace chants. Popular standards such as “Winter Wonderland”, Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”, and the 1958 Eurovision entry “Volare” are also widely adapted to suit players and managers.48 The Cuban song “Guantanamera” became popularly used as a chant in the UK as a version by The Sandpipers charted soon after the 1966 World Cup, commonly in the form of “There’s only one player’s name”.52 The tune “Tom Hark” is often played at many stadiums following a goal by the home team and for chants such as “Thursday Nights, Channel 5”, whilst “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” by Doris Day is generally reserved for matches where the venue of the final is Wembley Stadium.
The rhythm, rather than the melody, of “Let’s Go (Pony)” by The Routers is widely used for clapping, drumming or banging by fans worldwide.
Music of the 1960s influenced terrace chants. “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash and “That’s Amore” by Dean Martin have been used by several sets of fans.5354 “Lola” by The Kinks, and “Hi Ho Silver Lining” by Jeff Beck have been adapted by several clubs – most prolific of these include Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Wolverhampton Wanderers.55 “All You Need Is Love”, “Hey Jude” and “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles are often used.5556 Songs from musicals have become very popular as football chants, such as “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from the 1964 musical Mary Poppins.57 Some early songs became popular as football chants later, for example the Venezuelan song “Moliendo Café” popular in early 1960s first became used as a chant in Argentina in late 1970s, which spread to Italy as “Dale Cavese” chants in 2006 and then later to clubs around the world.58
The emergence of funk and disco in the 1970s also made its mark on the terraces with songs such as “Go West” by the Village People59 and “Oops Up Side Your Head” by The Gap Band remaining popular amongst fans. “Ain’t Nobody” by Rufus and Chaka Khan has been used by Arsenal fans and others.60 Music popular in the 1980s and 1990s is also used widely. Chants have been based on “Just Can’t Get Enough” by Depeche Mode,61 “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division,62 “Pop Goes the World” by Men Without Hats, the Band Aid song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag” by Pigbag and “This Is How It Feels” by Inspiral Carpets.48 Other chants have used tunes from on pop songs include “Three Lions”, the official England anthem for Euro ’96 and Manic Street Preachers song “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next”.63
More recent releases to have their music appropriated include “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes, which became highly popular across nations.64 A number of songs became popular in the 2010s, an example being “Freed from Desire”, which is used to celebrate particular players – it was first popularised as “Will Grigg’s on Fire”, then used for others such as “Vardy’s on Fire” and “Grizi’s on Fire”.656667 An Italian disco song “L’estate sta finendo” became popular among European clubs such as Napoli, Juventus, Porto, Atlético Madrid and others as “Un giorno all’improvviso”, later picked up Liverpool fans, who created their own version as “Allez Allez Allez” for their 2017–18 UEFA Champions League campaign,68 and it then spread to other British clubs in the 2018–2019 season.6970 In late 2017, “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire had a big impact in English stadia.71
Chants based on advertising jingles, nursery rhymes and theme tunes
Football crowds also adapt tunes such as advertising jingles, nursery rhymes and theme tunes. “The Farmer in the Dell” known in some regions as ‘The Farmer Wants A Wife’, provides the famous chant of “Ee Aye Addio”, a tune which also provides the first bars of the 1946 be-bop jazz classic “Now’s The Time”, by alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. The marching tune “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” is also used a basis for songs, such as “His Armband Said He Was a Red”, sung by Liverpool fans in honour of Fernando Torres while he was still at the club.72 Chelsea fans then adapted the chant to match their own colours when Torres was transferred to the London club in 2011, with “He’s now a Blue, he was a Red.” The children’s song “Ten Green Bottles” became “Ten German Bombers”, to the tune of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain,” both songs used by English fans to their main rivals, Germany. The nursery rhyme “This Old Man” is sung by both supporters of Manchester United and Manchester City.
Theme tunes which have been used as chants include Heartbeat and The Banana Splits.73
Some football teams also have songs which are traditionally sung by their fans. Birmingham City adopted Keep Right on to the End of the Road by Sir Harry Lauder after the team sang it on the coach before the 1956 FA Cup Final Versus Manchester City , it was heard by the fans outside Wembley Stadium . The song was a favourite of Alex Govern and has been the Blues Anthem ever since.
The song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” has become closely associated with Liverpool F.C.
The song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel is associated heavily with Liverpool. In 1963, the song was covered by Liverpool group Gerry and the Pacemakers, which prompted the song’s adoption by the Kop. At this time, supporters standing on the Spion Kop terrace at Anfield began singing popular chart songs of the day. The mood was captured on camera by a BBC Panorama camera crew in 1964. One year later, when Liverpool faced Leeds in the FA Cup final, the travelling Kop sang the same song and match commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme commended the “Liverpool signature tune”.74
Fans of West Ham United are said to have sung the song “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” at both home and away matches since the 1920s, although no record of West Ham fans singing the song existed until 1940.75 Supporters of Hibernian are known for singing “Sunshine on Leith” due to the song’s composers and performers The Proclaimers being well known Hibernian supporters and the song’s reference to Hibernian’s home in Leith and as such the song has become an unofficial club anthem. The club has in the past also played other songs by the pair at its home ground Easter Road, such as “I’m on My Way”, though none have the same association with the team that “Sunshine on Leith” does.
Manchester City has been strongly associated with the classic popular song “Blue Moon” since the late 1980s.76 The song is now an established and official part of the club’s brand and culture: ‘Blue Moon’ is also the name of the club’s leading fansite, images of a blue moon (a moon that’s blue in colour, not the astronomical phenomenon) appear on licensed and fan-made clothing and merchandise, and the team’s mascots are a pair of blue aliens from the moon named ‘Moonchester’ and ‘Moonbeam’.
Stoke City fans often sing “Delilah” by Tom Jones.
“Go West” by the Village People has been co-opted by fans of Arsenal F.C., using the words “1-0 to the Arsenal” as a reference to the club’s defensive style of football under former manager George Graham. The same “1-0 to the Arsenal” was also often sung, in ironic spirit, by fans of opposition by way of mocking their perceived boring style of play during this time.citation needed. The tune is also used by supporters of Leyton Orient with the words “Stand Up for The Orient”
Fans of Tottenham Hotspur sing Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You”.77
Brighton & Hove Albion play “Good Old Sussex by the Sea” before each home game at Falmer Stadium, a tradition continued from their time at the “Goldstone Ground.”
“Marching on Together” is played and sung at Elland Road by supporters of Leeds United, and is one of the few club songs specifically written for the football club in question, being an original composition by Les Reed and Barry Mason. It was first released as the B-Side to Leeds United to coincide with the 1972 FA Cup Final.citation needed
Supporters of Sheffield Wednesday regularly sing the words “Honolulu Wednesday” to the tune of “Honolulu Baby”; a song which featured in the 1933 film Sons of the Desert starring Laurel and Hardy. Across the city, Sheffield United F.C. fans celebrate the start of home games with a chorus of The Greasy Chip Butty Song.citation needed
Before every match, Nottingham Forest fans sing “Mull of Kintyre”, replacing “Mull of Kintyre” with “City Ground”, and “Mist rolling in from the sea” with “Mist rolling in from the Trent”. “Mull of Kintyre” has also been adopted by Charlton Athletic, with Valley, Floyd Road and the Thames similarly being referenced.citation needed
“Can’t Help Falling in Love” has been adopted originally by Sunderland as well as several other teams including Huddersfield Town, Hull City, Preston North End, Rotherham United, Swindon Town, Swansea and AFC Wimbledon.citation needed
The Dave Clarke Five’s “Glad All Over” has been sung since the 1960s by Crystal Palace and is also used by several clubs after a home goal is scored, including Swindon Town.citation needed
“Sailing” (originally by the Sutherland Brothers, but most commonly associated with Rod Stewart) is sung by Chesterfield fans, usually whenever the Spireites look to be ‘sailing’ to victory. A much faster-tempo version of the melody is used by Millwall F.C. fans for their famous chant “No one likes us, we don’t care”.citation needed
“I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” is used by West Ham United supporters. The pop standard was adopted by supporters at Upton Park in the mid-1920s.78
Gateshead supporters sing “Trail of the Lonesome Pine” from the film Way Out West.citation needed
Sydney FC supporter group “The Cove” sing “Rhythm of My Heart” by Rod Stewart in the 23rd minute of every game as tribute to supporters who have died.citation needed
Feyenoord fans sing an adaption of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” after the team scores at De Kuip.citation needed
Dundee United fans have been known to sing Daniel Boone’s single “Beautiful Sunday”.citation needed
Coventry City former chairman and manager Jimmy Hill, adopted the “Eton Boating song” as the club’s official anthem to create Play up Sky blues in the early 1960s. The song has been sung on the terraces ever since and remains one of the most recognisable in English football.
“Vamos, vamos, Argentina” is a chant sung by Argentine fans in support of their national team.79 At the 2014 World Cup, “Brasil Decime Qué Se Siente” (“Brazil tell me how it feels”), sung to the tune of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” and first used by San Lorenzo fans,80 became a popular song chanted by Argentine fans directed at Brazil.8182
“Cielito Lindo” is a song popularly sung by Mexican fans as an unofficial national anthem.83 Brazilian songs popularly sung by the country’s fans include “Eu Sou Brasileiro” (“I’m Brazilian”). Similarly Spanish fans may sing “Yo soy Español” (“I’m Spanish”).38
Songs commonly sung by fans of England national team include “Here We Go” (with “England” enunciated as a three-syllable “Eng-ger-land”),84 “Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home)” and others.8586 A few songs are directed against specific teams, such as “Ten German Bombers” usually sung at their matches against Germany.87
Fans of the Wales national team have adopted the song “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli as an anthem since 1993.8889
“Contigo Perú” is a famous song that is often sung by Peruvian football fans during their National Team’s matches, even in the Russia 2018 World Cup match vs France.
On 11 May 2004, Jonny Hurst was chosen as England’s first “Chant Laureate”. Barclaycard set up the competition to choose a Chant Laureate, to be paid £10,000 to tour Premier League stadia and compose chants for the 2004–05 football season. The judging panel was chaired by the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, who said “What we felt we were tapping into was a huge reservoir of folk poetry.”90