Siberian Soapbox

Anyone with half an ounce of emotion and but a slither of interest in football knows the tingle shooting unstoppably down your spine as you enter a stadium for the first time is quite simply unbeatable. Everyone remembers their first time, right? Without going too deep (it’s really NOT intentional, I promise) there is something very rare about the sensation. Smells, sight, je ne sais quois… and sound.

Do You Kiss Your Mother With That Mouth?

I even include profanities in the positive column. What do you fucking mean I shouldn’t? They shape your experience in an enduring way. I loudly asked my father what the word wanker meant in one of those perfectly timed natural silences. What was it, I wondered. Fine upstanding gentleman? Bastion of trust and equality? Apparently not. It wasn’t the vocabulary expansion that I took from the day; it was the emotion of people around me.

A kid has never seen more than a few dozen people, never mind 50,000, collected in one place. The raw intensity, however crude, is inescapably magnetic. Aside from my father’s horrific embarrassment, I can still clearly taste the frustration of the crowd to this day. Nowadays I disapprove of needless swearing – although necessary cursing is essential, of course – but I don’t regret my first exposure.

Piss-Poor Conditions

I am told that in the old days of terraced pens, the odour was quite remarkable. Thankfully I never had to experience the urine-ridden, smoke-filled environment for myself. Actually scratch that; I once took a girl to a Honduran league match in the cheap seats against her wishes. I know, I know, what was I thinking dating someone who wasn’t impressed by that? As the third glass of warm amber liquid – admittedly tastier than Carlsberg – flew over our heads, even I started to see her point.

Smell is a powerful sense, but sound has more character for me. More precise, direct memories can be drawn from it. Even the lack of sound has its own personality. The collective groan as Fellaini warms up or the piercing silence as Harry Kane goes down injured linger. On a broader scale the swell of Football’s Coming Home is pretty unbeatable.

De De, De Duh De De De, De De, De Duh De De De De De

Watching England against Costa Rica last night brought to the fore one of my least favourite sounds at football. We’re no Brazil or Spain, we know that, but here are some exciting young players to get behind. The character of the team is slowly building. And then the fucking England trumpeter breaks out into a meandering repetition of that godawful tune. Christ alive.

I’m no music snob, believe me. When opposition fans hear the abomination that is the England band they must crease themselves with laughter, though. Seriously, what is the point of noise and music created in the stands? Intimidation? Inspiration? Or a bleeding toddler’s sing along? All the endless apathy England fans have been made to sit through for far too long can be accurately summed up with the tepid tripe served up by that dreadfully dreary brass band.

Almost certainly some FIFA directive will ban brass instruments from stadiums this summer. At least during the World Cup we should be spared then. Why on earth has this lukewarm tosh been allowed to survive? I can honestly say I am more offended by the blandness of the England band than I am by swearing.

Maybe it’s for the best. If all the hordes of bloodthirsty racist killing machines the red-top rags would have you believe fill the streets in Russia see is a few mild brass band players, they might actually feel sorry for England fans and leave them well alone. I’m being facetious of course. Those mythical violent machines don’t actually care. Neither will I at this rate – and that’s what infuriates me.