There was a time not so long ago when going to a game of football was an altogether different experience to an evening at the theatre or the opera.
Supporters arrived some time before kick-off to secure their favourite spot on the terraces and began stoking up an atmosphere.
We created a hubbub watching the warm-ups; cheering and jeering players’ efforts whilst occasionally ducking out of the way of a miscued strike. By the time our heroes returned from the dressing room to start the first half we were ready, we were in full voice, we needed no further fanfare.
Players shook hands in the tunnel, occasionally they questioned each other’s parentage and habits in the shower, but this was done far away from public view. Captains exchanged pennants and flipped a coin in the centre circle, what more respect do you want?
Nowadays, arrive at our pre-booked seat seconds before kick-off to find two teams lining up to shake hands whilst some soprano belts out another corporate anthem trying to pipe some atmosphere into the stadium.
The spectacle of Monday Night Football from Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium would not be complete without Gloria – the Premier League’s official anthem being played over the public address system.
This isn’t Andy Dufresne playing Mozart over the prison tannoy in the Shawshank Redemption; it’s 22 players lining up in “anthem jackets” and the only hope engendered is that soon we’ll be able to get on with the game.
On big Champions League evenings, teams who finished fourth in the Premier League and third in Serie A meet on Tuesday nights to be proclaimed by a castrato choir as “The Champions!”
At home, the Champions League anthem heralds messages from Gazprom, Heineken, Continental, Adidas, Ford and PlayStation. Marketing men have decided that football is a game for the television viewing public and corporate hospitality zones rather than those who pay for a ticket and travel many hundreds of miles to watch Gareth Bale adjusting his hair clips.
“These are the Champignons!”
Meanwhile, UEFA keeps us all in the dark and feeds us shit about how they are tackling corruption and racism with lenient penalties for offenders.
National anthems before international matches and Abide With Me before the FA Cup Final have their place and are perhaps the inspiration for this faux fanfare. When Wembley burst into La Marseillaise before the recent England v France friendly it was a genuine display of solidarity, respect and defiance towards those who would seek to threaten our shared culture.
However, when genuine tradition and gestures of solidarity between players and fans alike are aped by corporations such as UEFA, we cheapen the game and sentiment football so often generates.
Footballing authorities the time has come, we’ve gone too far. Do the decent thing, do away with the corporate anthems and handshakes and just get on with the game.
AND ANOTHER THING: Time for fans to make a stand