Tonight two English teams, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, are meeting in the final of the Champions League, the club championship of Europe.
There’s something odd about two English teams playing each other in Madrid, but the choice of venue was established long ago, when no one suspected that our teams would overachieve so spectacularly.
The English fans of the two teams have made their way to Madrid, yet so far no full-scale riots have been reported. However, I confidently predict they’ll break out eventually, after our football lovers have drunk the city dry. (Take it easy on that San Miguel, lads, it’s quite pokey.)
Their presence in the stands of the Atlético Madrid stadium is guaranteed to give the match a nice homey feel, creating the elegant, calm, polite and humorous ambiance John Cleese believes – correctly! – to be uniquely English.
But here’s the snag: the visiting fans will only take up half the seats in the 68,000-capacity stadium. This makes me worried that the 34,000 Spanish fans will feel left out in their own city.
However, they shouldn’t fret: I’m here to help. All they have to do to fit right in is learn a few stock chants, and Roberto is your uncle, as they say in Spain.
It’s all a matter of etiquette, and who better to give advice on it than someone who has made a lifelong study of charming English idiosyncrasies?
So here are a few suggestions from an inexhaustible reservoir of the football lexicon and chants. Spanish fans should think of John Cleese and other impeccable English gentlemen when following my tuition.
If you support Spurs, sing “You’ll never work again” to the tune of the Liverpool FC song “You’ll never walk alone”. This is a kind reference to the high unemployment rate in that city.
You may then wish to enlarge on your comments about Liverpool and its inhabitants: “Your mum’s your dad, and your dad’s your mum, you’re inbred and you’re benefit scum.”
A comment on the crime situation and its causal links with unchecked immigration wouldn’t be out of order either: “Stand up if an immigrant robbed your house!”.
Now Spurs call themselves ‘Yid army’ because they are based in a vaguely Jewish neighbourhood. Hence if you’re a Liverpool supporter, if only for the night, make sure you scream anti-Semitic invective whenever a Spurs player touches the ball. Making the hissing sound of gas going into the death chamber will also help you sound authentic.
In the same vein you may want to pose the question “Where’s your foreskin gone?// where’s your foreskin gone?// where’s your foreskin gone?” – and so forth.
When the Spurs Korean striker Son is dribbling, chant: “He’ll run and he’ll score, he’ll eat your Labrador.”
Whenever a burly defender has the ball, sing: “His name is [insert player’s name] and he dances on the grass// Don’t take the ball from him, he’ll kick your f***ing arse.”
When the Liverpool Egyptian striker Mo Salah is attacking, sing: “Mo Salah! Mo Salah! Mo Salah!Running down the wing//Salah, la, la, la//The Egyptian King!”
The proper English response to a player losing the ball is to yell “You’re shit, and you know you are!”
Note that this is a ubiquitous and flexible phrase. For example, when England played France in Paris a few years ago, the English fans were singing “You’re French and you know you are!”, much to the home crowd’s consternation. Unfamiliar with the underlying phrase, they just shrugged: “Mais bien sûr nous sommes français”.
If a player doesn’t appeal to you, shout: “Stand up if you hate [insert player’s name].
If a player does appeal to you, sing: “There’s only one [insert player’s name].” If the player has recently admitted to having fashionable psychiatric disorders, instead sing: “There are only two [insert player’s name in the plural]”.
Alternatively, you may sing “[Player’s name] is here, he’s there, he’s everyf***ingwhere!”
If the opposing fans are less loud than you are, scream: “Your support is f***ing shit!”
For a Spurs supporter it’s de rigueur to bring up the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, when 96 fans were crushed to death during a match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
This must be done with the characteristic English tact: “Who’s that standing at Hillsborough?// Who’s that turning f***ing blue?// It’s a Scouser and his mates, getting crushed on Hillsborough’s gates.” (For the benefit of Spanish fans, ‘Scouser’ is an affectionate term for a Liverpudlian.)
Whenever a player has incurred your displeasure, sing: “[Player’s name] is queer, he takes it up the rear.” This, irrespective of the player’s sexuality.
If wishing to voice your displeasure at the referee in general or any particular call in particular, shout: “The ref’s a wanker!” Actually, this could be used even if you’re happy with the referee, just to keep him on his toes.
When a black player is in action, you can put forth a mature judgement on Britain’s racial policy by observing, irrefutably, “There ain’t no black in the Union Jack!” But do make sure there’s no Anglophone cop within earshot.
If one is about, reassure him by singing “We aren’t racist, we just don’t like you.”
If the other team is losing, you may thus comment on their fans’ subdued mood: “You only sing when you’re winning!”
However, if your team scores, you should add a new twist to your comment on the opposition’s vocalism: “Can you hear the [insert team name] sing? I can’t hear a f***ing thing.”
There, this should get you started. Just keep in mind that, when an English fan asks you “What you lookin’ at, sunshine?”, this isn’t a request for information. Walk away or you’ll get punched.
P.S. From the gor blime to the sublime, if any music lovers among you happen to be in London on 6 June, do attend the recital of my wife, Penelope Blackie. Take my word for it: nowhere in the world will the piano be played so beautifully on that day. For details: penelopeblackie.com