Football fans

With Boxing Day marking the 157th anniversary of the first ever club football match, Forces Network looks at one of the best-known off-field traditions to develop since - football chants.

Often described as one of Britain's last remaining sources of oral folk songs, they're a constantly evolving musical method of communication, usually used to slight opponents or affirm support of a team.

But where did they come from?

 

Founded 160 years ago, Sheffield F.C. is the oldest club now playing association football

It could be argued that the origins of football chants date all the way back to the sport's humble beginnings.

While no report exists for the 1860 match between Sheffield F.C. and Hallam F.C., the return fixture - known as the 'Battle of Bramall Lane' - was covered by the Sheffield Independent.

Taking place two years after Sheffield's 2-0 win at Sandygate Road ground, the feisty encounter - the first English football match to be covered by a newspaper - set the tone for things to come.

Hallam brought a lively travelling support:

"[They] appeared to have many partisans present, and when they succeeded in "downing" a man, their ardent friends were more noisily jubilant."

At one point things appeared to be bubbling over.

After an on-field tussle with Sheffield's Major Nathaniel Creswick, a Hallam player "threw off his waistcoat and began to "show fight" in earnest... and for a few minutes there was every appearance of a general fight amongst players and spectators".

In the end, though, "the advice of older and cooler heads at length prevailed".

So some things never change...

 

Neymar
Neymar's transfer to PSG is set to cost almost £200m. Picture: Alex Fau

Although other things do.

Football has become massively popular since those early days. The World Cup is the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world (a ninth of the population of the planet watched the final in 2006).

It's a truly global sport, with professional leagues in numerous countries across the world, while its popularity is reflected by finances.

See the transfer of Barcelona star Neymar (above) to Paris Saint-Germain, which is set to cost the French side almost £200 million, or the Premier League's £5 billion television rights deal.

Polls, meanwhile, have shown that football is by a distance the most popular sport in the UK.

But what's the best chant?

 

Amongst our favourites is the fantastically ridiculous 'Yaya Kolo' chant celebrating the Toure brothers...

 

Or what about Everton celebrating their city's heritage with a Beatles 'cover' relishing Chelsea's failed bid to buy young England defender John Stones?

(Money ultimately could buy the centre back - he moved to Manchester City the following year)

 

And of course, the 'Will Grigg's On Fire' chant that was absolutely everywhere last summer.

Started by a rogue tambourine-wielding Wigan fan, it covered Italian singer Gala's Eurodance '96 classic Freed From Desire, becoming a national sensation.

One of the most popular songs of Euro 2016, it became the unofficial chant of Northern Ireland during the tournament - despite the fact the striker didn't play a single minute.

 

Chants have even been used as a gesture of defiance in the face of tragedy.

Manchester United fans came together after the terrorist attack on an Ariana Grande concert in their city, which killed 22 innocent people, to sing an anti-ISIS song.

They did so while clapping and chanting in solidarity with the victims of the atrocity, ahead of their team's success in the Europa League final against Ajax.

Thousands of fans, meanwhile, sang "there's only one Bradley Lowery" in the fifth minute of a game with Everton last year, in honour of the terminally ill youngster, who sadly passed away last month after battling a rare form of cancer.

 

One chant with a claim to top spot won't make this man too happy though...

Rio Ferdinand

To celebrate the launch of a fantasy football game in 2014, 1,500 British football fans were asked what they thought was the funniest football terrace chant of the last decade.

The winner, with 24% of the vote, was West Ham's Rio Ferdinand, who faced the following chant after receiving an eight-month ban for missing a drugs test in 2003:

(To the tune of 'Rio', by Duran Duran): "His name is Rio and he watches from the stand" 

And a personal favourite...

Bobby Zamora

"When the ball hits your head and you're sat in row Z, that's Zamora"

To the tune of Dean Martin's 1953 hit 'That's Amore', this self-deprecating chant is believed to have been started by Fulham fans during Bobby Zamora's time at the club.

And then there's this...

 

 

Think we've missed any out? Let us know your favourite in the comments section below!

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