Many say that the removal of terracing has caused the atmosphere in top and second-tier football stadia to fade, and in many ways I agree. But is there a new threat ready to kill off the soul of English football?
After the recent televised Championship Play-Off Semi-Final between Swansea and Nottingham Forest, there was a lot of commotion heading the way of a group of Swansea fans who celebrated their three goals by doing the so-called “Poznań”. The fuss was directed by a few Manchester City supporters who claimed that the Welsh fans had stolen their celebration.
Now if you don’t know what a “Poznań” is, it is a dance of sorts – usually after a goal is scored – where the crowd turn away from the pitch, huddle together and jump up and down. It is also known as a “Grecque” in parts of Europe, and supporters in France, Holland, and many other countries have done it for years. The Manchester City fans “adopted” it when the fans of Polish side Lech Poznań performed it during a Europa League game at Eastlands earlier this season, and when it’s done properly, it can look absolutely fantastic.
However, my gripe with the “Poznań” is not that fans are trying to improve the atmosphere inside the stadium by copying a group of Polish Ultras, or even that there are some supporters who seemingly refuse to acknowledge that there were other clubs who did the celebration before them; I have heard some fans say that others shouldn’t steal “their celebration”, even though they clearly “stole” it themselves. My problem with the English supporters doing it – and this may sound petty – is that they use it as a goal celebration.
When many clubs in Europe do the “Grecque”, they proceed to pound up and down for minutes on end, not to celebrate a goal, but to celebrate their mutual support for their club. It can usually be seen as a part of the visual displays that many continental clubs’ ultras put on during every game. They are spectacles that most English clubs have failed to recreate in our stadia.
Watching the Polish supporters – as well as many other European ultras – chant, wave flags and jump around for 90 minutes makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand up; yet watching the English fans celebrate goals by doing a special dance seems rather cringe-worthy, especially when most supporters are seemingly unprepared to show their support for a whole game, and are more than happy to boo something as little as a misplaced pass.
If the fans are looking to take a leaf from their foreign counterparts, they should be getting behind their teams for 90 minutes rather than for 30 seconds after their opponent’s net bulges. With this “part-time support”, The Man City (as well as many other English sides’) “Poznań” seems to have almost devalued the act in some way. There almost seems a lack of passion throughout the stands for the majority of a game, and yet because they do a special goal celebration, the fans feel that they deserve some sort of special accreditation for a dance during the short time that they are in the spotlight.
As soon as the ball hits the net, fans should be sporadically jumping around, whilst falling over the seats in front in some sort of spontaneous outburst; not looking for their neighbour to turn away, link arms and bounce up and down in co-ordination, in time with the goal music.
Ah, yes… Goal Music. Another reason to hate modern football. At the Walkers Stadium, I have actually seen grown men watch the ball fly into the net and wait for the goal music to start, almost waiting for confirmation, before performing some kind of strange monkey-dance celebration.
We know from watching numerous YouTube videos (Stuart Fuller has a great piece over at The Ball Is Round) that many German, Dutch and Scandinavian fans can create a fantastic atmosphere, without the threat of violence. And even in countries such as Poland – which is regarded to have some of the best ultras in Europe – it is only a small handful of hooligans (who are usually unrelated to the Ultra groups) that tarnish their clubs’ names’, and these clubs are working hard to eradicate the hooliganism without harming the fantastic matchday atmosphere. As well as the fans, the message needs to be spread to the clubs that “Fanaticism doesn’t have to mean Violence”.
So please remember the next time that you head off to the stadium, if you can create an atmosphere during the rest of the game, you won’t need a special dance to show everyone that you have the best fans.