Sunday, 23 May 2010

Was the Bernabéu's DJ on loan from Carrow Road?


Norwich City, one of the country’s best-supported provincial football clubs, secured promotion back to English football’s second tier at the first attempt this season. The upturn in the Canaries’ profile does not end there though. Their re-elevated league status has coincided with some of football’s bigger powers seemingly looking to the Norfolk club for style tips.

From the beginning of the year Manchester United fans turned Old Trafford an increasing shade of yellow and green for each home game as part of their anti-Glazer protests. The colours might have represented the fans’ wish to assert their spiritual ownership of the club over the American family’s financial control, by harking back to United’s origins as Newton Heath, but Old Trafford’s yellow and green army still resembled a battalion of that which could be found at Carrow Road every other weekend. But, as well as United’s sartorial homage to Norwich, on Saturday night UEFA chose to greet both Inter Milan goals in the Champions League final with a blast from "Samba de Janeiro," a track by 90s Latino dance act Bellini and the music traditionally played to celebrate a goal by the home side at Carrow Road.

The sound of recorded music at football stadia is anathema to many. Gary Chadwick, a Burnley fan, wrote a blog last year on the subject for the fan site Clarets Mad. Chadwick was writing in response to the playing of the Piranhas’ song "Tom Hark" over the Turf Moor sound system after every home goal. His article began with a heartfelt statement: “I believe that music played over the PA system is limiting the creativity of our supporters, giving them less freedom to express themselves.” On Saturday evening, the web threw up another dissenting voice. Moments after the game in Madrid restarted following Diego Milito’s first goal, the satirical news web site the Gaffer tweeted the opinion that “Music after goals in neutral venues really needs to die.”

The directness of the Gaffer’s declaration was all the more striking for having emanated from a source that primarily deals in irony. Given that its spontaneous sentiments echoed those of Chadwick’s blog, and assuming that the writer of the tweet was neither sending it from inside the Bernabéu nor writing it as a fan of Inter, then the implication is that a hatred of goal music unites fans in the ground with those watching on television, and that an antipathy towards overbearing PA systems is not necessarily the consequence of an allegiance to the club whose goal celebrations are being interrupted. In short, I suspect that the Gaffer was speaking on behalf of most football fans. There might be a place for recorded music at football grounds before the game begins, during the interval, or at full-time, but in the aftermath of a goal there is simply no need for it.

After Milito beat Hans-Jörg Butt in the Bayern goal on thirty-five minutes, having feinted to shoot brilliantly before dinking the ball over the goalkeeper when he committed to his dive, the Inter fans at the other end of the stadium predictably erupted. They knew that a first European Cup since 1965 was within their club’s grasp; forty-five years of expectation, hope, and disappointment was exorcised with one flick of the Argentinean player’s boot. It was an emotional moment for any football fan watching on television too, knowing that they were witnessing one of the sport’s great old clubs ascend to the summit of the European game once more, and hearing what it meant to the fans in the ground (well, half of them). What nobody wanted, even the Bayern supporters behind Butt’s goal I should think, was to hear a tinny rendition of a song that had probably been chosen arbitrarily by UEFA in an attempt to augment the significance of any strike in their showpiece final. "Samba de Janeiro" surely holds no significance to fans of the Nerazzurri, just as "Tom Hark" holds no unique meaning to Burnley fans (and the Piranhas were a Brighton band anyway).

The Norwich City message board Wrath of the Barclay soon picked up on this latest example of the Canaries’ trendsetting ways on Saturday night. “Everyone wants to be us,” quipped ‘Jumbo1’ almost immediately, proving that residents of Norfolk pay more attention to events in the outside world than many would have it. However throwaway the message board comment was, though, it does display a certain affection that Norwich fans might have for "Samba de Janeiro." In my experience, as a Norwich resident though not a Canaries fan, any letter to the city’s local newspaper that calls for the song to be replaced, or goal music at Carrow Road scrapped altogether, is met with as many contrary replies as those in agreement. Norwich might be one of the few places in the country, perhaps the only one, where goal music has found a home. Norwich is a city that does not take itself too seriously, being subjected to so many yokel jokes by the rest of the country. Likewise, the football club is used to being patronised as a backwater, despite boasting gates of 25,000. Having soundtracked both good times and bad in the Canaries’ recent history, the sound of "Samba de Janeiro" echoing incongruously around Carrow Road has somehow become a way for the Norfolk club to allow itself a knowing smile at the expense of the rest of the football world.

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