I had half an eye and less than half an ear on the Wales v Croatia Euro qualifier on Sky last night. Wales, thanks to the fading but just about enduring brilliance of Gareth Bale, seemed to more than deserve their draw against a team that somehow got to the World Cup final in 2018. But it was a comment made by the commentator that got me wondering. He said: “Sorry if you’re offended by the chants you can hear”. I hadn’t been paying enough attention so I was fascinated to find out what it was. And when I did find out, I wondered what he was apologising for.
The Welsh fans directed their ire at Croatian superstar Luka Modric by chanting “You’re just a shit Joe Allen”. And that was it. There was me thinking it might have been something ugly and perhaps racist and it turned out to be a good-humoured piss-take.
Although a hair transplant has done nothing to improve Allen’s workaday credentials, he is, as he has always been, a player who gives everything. A good pro who probably played above his natural level for much of his career. Good luck to him, I say. No one is really suggesting that he would look better in a Real Madrid shirt than Modric. It really was just a laugh.
TV companies are forever apologising for “any language you might have heard”, usually at football or rugby union games, as if it is unheard of to hear people swear at a sports event. I don’t think I am condoning bad language by saying that bad language happens. It always has done. People who are watching sport on TV must surely be aware of it? In which case, the easily offended can watch something else.
Indeed, bad language has its place in sport, as it does everywhere else in life. As a lapsed Bristol Rovers supporter, I well remember a wonderful chant about two of our former players, Craig Disley and James Hunt. It went like this:
“One Craig Disley, one Craig Disley. He’s a ginger-haired cunt, but he’s better than Hunt, walking in a Disley wonderland.” Disley was much-loved by Gasheads and I know he enjoyed the song created in his name, realising that it was actually very complimentary.
There are times when supporters chant things that aren’t very nice and I am not going to condone those. But terrace humour, or what remains of it, is quite unique and mostly good-humoured, if rather foul-mouthed. There’s no need for supporters to curb their chanting and even less need for TV commentators to keep apologising. If I’d heard the Joe Allen chant, I might even have joined in.