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The Sweet Songs of Soccer

English fans sing to their star, "There'sonly one Michael Owen." After a fellow Brit was rumored to be schizophrenic, opposing fans chanted, "There's only two Andy Gorams."

To say soccer fanscheer is like saying moles dig or Kennedys drink. They cheer. They chant. Theysing. First at the games. Then in the pubs. Then in the jails.

Once, at theBarcelona Olympics in 1992, I was amazed at the way thousands of Swedish fansroared one chant again and again in perfect unison. I went up to a Swede andasked, "What is it you're yelling? Is it something like 'Attack the goal!'or 'Play hard defense!' Or what?"

And this young,blond guy goes, "No, this cheer says, 'We are from Sweden, we have traveledvery far, and we are drunk!'"

Since then, I'vealways gotten the translation. At another international event, upon seeingSlovakian fans jumping up and down and ringing bells, I asked one of them whattheir cheer meant. And she said, "This is to say, 'He who is not jumping isnot Slovak!'"

If you're luckyenough to attend the most watched event in the universe--the World Cup (page48)--you've got to go to one of England's games. The French make the best wine.The Swiss build the best watches. But the English make up the best chants. InEnglish football, for instance, Blackburn hates Burnley the way tornadoes hatetrailers, so the Blackburn fans, 31,000 strong, holler:

Yer mum's yerdad!

Yer dad's yermum!

Yer inbred, yaBurnley scum!

Which is good, butnot as good as this ...

Away in amanger

No crib for abed,

The little LordJesus,

Looked up and hesaid,

We HATEBurnley!

How much better isthat than "Dal-las sucks!"

English starMichael Owen is often serenaded by this chant, sung to Guantanamera:

One MichaelOwen!

There's only oneMichael Owen!

Of course, whenfellow Brit Andy Goram was rumored to be schizophrenic, fans of opposing teamsin the Scottish Premier League chanted:

Two AndyGorams!

There's only twoAndy Gorams!

Behavior at matchescan get much, much worse than that, though. Some chants can be racist, otherspolitically charged. Germany has taken pains to remind World Cup fans that anyNazi salutes or references are against the law, and the English governmentasked its fans not to make any cracks about World War II.

Not that it helped.Sopped Brits all over Germany have been raucously singing their ditty about theRAF shooting down 10 German bombers, then nine, then eight and so on. And theywill roar, "Two World Wars and one World Cup!" referring to theirvictory over Germany in the 1966 championship game. And, of course ...

I'm English 'til Idie

I'm English 'til Idie

We will win theWorld Cup

And the Germanswill cry!

I wish America hada decent chant. Ours is lamer than Members Only jackets. All we have is thatcrappy old U-S-A! U-S-A! cheer. A stoned ferret could've thought of that one.It's so bad that for the last World Cup, U.S. Soccer held a contest to pick anew official U.S. stadium chant. Out of 1,000 entries, this was the winner:

Our legs shallnever tire!

Our hearts will seeus through!

Goals! Goals!Goals!

For the red, whiteand blue!

Ugh. Why beataround the bush? Here's my entry:

We are theYankees!

We are notafraid!

You beat ustonight!

Thursday, weinvade!

That one doesn'tmake you jump up and down with glee?

Then you are notSlovak.

• If you have acomment for Rick Reilly, send it to


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