It’s that time of year again. Manchester United play Arsenal so Sir Alex Ferguson feels the need to try and placate our fans and stop us singing songs about Arsene Wenger being a paedophile by likening them to Munich chants.
I’m not for one second suggesting that United fans should call a grown man and father a paedo. It’s an awful thing to say and a horrible accusation to be thrown at someone.
It’s also pretty horrible that Everton fans wish death upon Wayne Rooney and his son Kai when they play against us. It’s also horrible that Arsenal fans sing about married man Ashley Cole being homosexual and shagging countless men. It’s not nice that Everton fans sing about Steven Gerrard’s children not being his. It’s not nice that Robbie Fowler had fans chanting at him that he was a smack head. Football fans sing horrible and often totally false things.
We can create a spectrum of horrible chants, if we feel the need, and acknowledge that some are more acceptable than others. Some are pretty vile but the offence caused to the player probably doesn’t even register. Is Gerrard going to go home and get upset because people sing that he’s not his kids’ dad? Possibly, but you would imagine he probably takes it with a pinch of salt. It’s imaginary.
But chants about the dead, real people who had their lives taken away from them, take things to a new level. It’s gone past the point of trying to wind someone up.
Whilst they don’t get aired en masse inside Old Trafford, United fans have songs about Hillsborough. Liverpool, City and Leeds fans have songs about Munich. Arsenal fans hiss to imitate the sound of the Holocaust’s gas chambers when playing Spurs, with a large Jewish fan base. These songs are sick and people in well respected positions should say something about them. This isn’t calling someone a nasty name, an embarrassing name or wishing death on someone… this is actually mocking the dead. It is using the deaths of innocent people to poke fun at their rivals.
So, whilst I applaud our manager for speaking out in the press about our fans who sing these songs, as it is rare for a manager to criticise his own fans, I abhor the fact he tries to compare calling Wenger a paedophile with laughing at the deaths of innocent people. If we’re talking scales of unacceptable behaviour, the paedo chant doesn’t come close.
“We have gone on the record several times about this disgusting chant. We don’t condone it and have appealed to fans several times in the past but to no avail. There are many chants that opposing fans find objectionable and this is certainly one to which all decent supporters should object. We will take strong action against people who chant in that way. Season tickets will be revoked and we will remove people from the ground for it.”
So, credit for trying to have our fans set the example, but why not bad mouth the truly disgraceful fans in the press, the ones who sing about Hillsborough, Munich and the Holocaust?
This country applauded Manchester City fans for respecting the one minute’s silence for the Munich dead in February 2008. I mean, wow, they actually stood there in silence on the 50th anniversary of what gives United fans, according to them, our namesake, “Munichs”. ‘Carlos Tevez is a blue, he hates Munichs’ they sing every week. Still, on that day, well done, they were silent. We then played them at their ground in November 2008 and guess what, the Munich songs were back. The aeroplane impressions were back. The paper aeroplanes were back. And nobody batted an eye-lid.
Did Fergie come out after that victory in November and drag media attention to it, in a bid to stop it? No. Did the press say anything? No. Have the press said anything about every derby day since where they’ve sang Munich? No.
It’s out of order to call a married man gay, and use being gay as an insult. It’s out of order to call a father a paedo, it’s out of order to wish death on a player’s child, but the players have thick skins and they get on with.
THIS IS NOT A JUSTIFICATION of United fans singing about Wenger being a paedo. This isn’t saying it’s ok for United to sing the Wenger songs because Arsenal fans sing about the Holocaust. The clue is in the title.
I cannot abide our manager likening the Wenger chants to songs about Munich. He is making light of the Munich songs and the Munich Air Disaster itself by bringing them to the same level.
I would much rather hear Wenger condemn the Arsenal fans who mock the Holocaust, Moyes condemn the Everton fans who sing about Kai Rooney dying and Fergie join in criticising the Hillsborough songs, and Hodgson and Mancini having a word about the Munich songs. It will never happen though. Ridiculously, it’s easier to turn a blind eye to the truly disgusting chants, but let’s make a big song and dance about Wenger’s song.
Fergie’s motive is acceptable enough but I’d far rather he tackled the bigger problem and I’d far rather he didn’t make light of Munich to achieve his goal.
Made in Manchester is available for just £5. It includes 30 articles from the country's best football writers about graduates from the Manchester United academy. Everyone who buys a copy enters a competition to win the new home shirt. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.