Writer: Andy Leggott
Date:Thursday January 12 2006
It’s Manchester derby week and in the first of a series of articles I thought I’d try and respond to the annual media led campaign that seeks to highlight the ‘insensitive’ behaviour of City supporters at this fixture. Paul Wilson’s vitriolic article in last weekend’s Observer springs to mind immediately, although I don’t think City helped themselves by an appeal to supporters in the Spurs programme. Such an article was always likely to be jumped upon by the likes of Wilson and used to attack the club and their supporters.
I must therefore be talking about the use of the truly abhorrent word ‘Munich’ and its links to the tragic air disaster of 1958. Don’t get me wrong, like most City supporters I do not condone the singing of songs that glorify the deaths of those that died at Munich. It has no more place at football matches than songs glorifying the deaths of those that died in the Burnden Park disaster, the Hillsborough disaster, Heysel, those supporting their team in Istanbul or even Russian submariners suffocated to death at the bottom of the Barents Sea, disasters, it has to be said, that have all been referred to by those ‘angelic’ figures in black who follow Manchester United.
I am not claiming that ‘Munich’ songs are not sung by a minority of City supporters. There is a minority who are insensitive to most things in life and glorify the tragedy in their songs. However this is a small minority these days and they are rarely heard singing in the Stadium; rather their ‘Muniching’ is done in their pre-match haunts fuelled by large amounts of alcohol. Don’t believe me? Travel back to the late 70’s and early 80’s. ‘Munich’ songs were the rage and were well and truly sung by a majority of supporters. The old Scoreboard end at Old Trafford used to reverberate to the sounds of the ‘runway song’ pre, post and during the match, same in the Kippax for home games. Perhaps football hacks and supporters were immune in those days but it was never reported and no-one ever complained. That doesn’t make it right, it simply highlights that things have improved whatever United fans and their media wish to tell you.
Although widespread singing of ‘Munich’ songs has been greatly reduced the use of the word ‘Munich’ to describe a United fan is a pretty recent phenomena. Again, back in the 70’s and 80’s, United fans weren’t collectively called ‘Munich’s’ nor did you hear lines such as ‘and if you are a Munich fan’ in songs. The collective use of the word has risen out of Manchester United and their supporter’s exploitation of the tragedy for financial and political gain. Is it right? No. Is it understandable? It could be argued so. When you see a club that all but kicked out of their club houses, the families of those that died you have to question why, many years later, they seek sympathy on behalf of those very same people. Why is it that supporter’s who sing with impunity about disasters affecting other clubs express mock outrage when they are referred to inappropriately in turn? United supporters sing about Liverpool having a monopoly on grief yet in the same breath speak of ‘Munich’ as if it were the only disaster to befall football.
Singing about any disaster isn’t right and should have no place at football matches. However before the press tear City supporters apart in the Sunday papers, yet again; I implore them to look to the United section. If, as they so emphatically claim, they are the victims of nasty, insensitive City supporters why is it they are making aeroplane gestures and singing ‘where’s your famous Munich song?’. If the effect is as bad as they claim, why provoke it? And they call us hypocrites.
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Date:Thursday January 12 2006
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