A happy memory for me from the Highbury days was when the FA pleaded with supporters to refrain from “offensive language” in their songs and chants.
The next match was about ten minutes in when the man in black gave a contentious decision. As one, the crowd bayed, ‘The referee’s a bounder!’
I’m reminded of this because of something that happened on the steps up to the Ken Friar Bridge (from the Arsenal tube) before the WPL match against Chelsea last year, and I’m re-posting it with a PS below, after recent matches at Meadow Park.
Women’s matches traditionally attract a large number of young supporters, maybe because it is (or used to be) easier to get tickets, maybe because parents feel the environment is more family friendly. The atmosphere can be great and matches no less exciting than the men’s. And chanting devoid of ‘offensive language’. I fondly recall this exchange:
What do you think of Tottenham?’
Sadly, wth the increase in attendances – recent record crowds seeming to fulfill previous manager, Joe Montemurro’s ambition of tens of thousands of supporters – while the atmosphere is still loud and euphoric, the language has changed.
Walking up those steps yesterday, a high pitched, young voice piped up,
‘What do you think of Tottenham?’
There was no response. So she tried again.
‘What do you think of Tottenham?’
This time, back came the response most commonly used. It might have been a fellow supporter, it might even have been her dad.
The little girl, maybe eight or nine years old, giggled, excited that she’d not only got a response from grown-ups. but also that it was a naughty word.
And at Meadow Park of late, there’ve been chants and jeering at opponents that would at best be described as salty or earthy, at worst not what I’d want my young child to hear being uttered out loud and randomly.
Maybe I’m just too old-fashioned and that what was ‘offensive language’ is now ‘everyday language.’ And I’m aware that the origins of words related to excrement and copulation are steeped in history, mostly from the Middle Ages, and it’s only after the late 18th and 19th centuries we became more prudish. But back then, they were being used as adverbs, not as stand alone exclamations to convey dislike and hatred, a million miles away from what they really mean.
And I acknowledge you hear it all the time on the streets, buses and at men’s matches. But for me, it’s a shame it’s now infecting women’s games.
As for the match itself – Arsenal 4 – Chelsea 1. What a dashed good result!
POSTSCRIPT, FEBRUARY 2024:
I’ve re-posted this after recent games at Meadow Park, where every time the opposition goalkeeper kicks the ball, she is greeted with, “You’re S**t.” Even an elderly lady next to me, who would surely fit into the Senior Discount category, chanted it, using the same voice as singing “One of our own” about Leah Williamson. The call used to be common insult (I use the word loosely) in the men’s game, but it didn’t put any player off their game (it may even have had the opposite effect yesterday) and largely the crowd grew out of it, leaving it to fester in the playground. It’s almost as ignorant as crying ‘”Who?” when an opposition substitution is made (something common to both men and women’s games). Maybe it’s just jealousy that these players are good enough to wear the shirt of a professional footballing team, unlike the people making the call.
There’s good atmosphere and there’s this. I hope the novelty wears off.
A personal opinion from Richard Smith 11/12/23 and amended 12/02/24 More blogs are on our Members’ page