That Song: Enough Already

As if the result in Madrid wasn’t bad enough, Spurs remain in the news because the goalscorer has spoken about the abuse he received. Quite how Emmanuel Abebayor heard the song infamously named after him is surprising in itself. From what I hear from people who were there, the din at the Bernabeu was like nothing they had experienced elsewhere. A backhanded compliment perhaps, to the many thousands of loyal Tottenham supporters who tried their best to raise the team’s flagging spirits. However, there’s no joy or glory to be had in this loathsome example of terrace creativity.

Let’s get into this. It’s racist. It’s not nearly as overtly racist as the abuse that was hurled at black players in the 70s, when anything could be shouted with complete impunity. Clyde Best, the West Ham striker who was one of the first black players to make an impact in the old first division, was regularly racially abused by his own fans, for goodness sake.

This does not make it better nor excuse either the obnoxious lyrics or the obvious gusto with which it is sung. I don’t care about the degrees of discrimination: it’s an empty debate because it’s foul. It’s about a black man washing elephants. His father may have indeed washed elephants in the past but this is irrelevant because it’s used here in a derogatory way. The song doesn’t go, “Your father undertook a series of menial jobs despite the probable stigma and damage to his self-esteem in order to care for his family and give his son the best possible opportunity to further his footballing career”. It’s a wounding insult directly related to a skewed perception of his upbringing, distorted by negativity and cultural superiority.

Yes, as others have pointed out, his mother may well be a prostitute but I’m not sure that the evidence is conclusive. Ridiculous if I phrase it that way, nevertheless this is has been part of the debate on some messageboards. The word is used because it rhymes with Abebayor and is suitably degrading.

The Campbell song – equally sour and obnoxious. It’s homophobic and makes fun of an illness. It may be a mental illness but no on cares about mental health, do they. If he had cancer they wouldn’t chant, even though he’s hated. It also uses imagery drawn directly from the experience of black people in the south of the USA throughout the last hundred and fifty years. Sorry if I’m bringing up the history of persecuted groups here but in both the songs, those are the images that have been chosen. Sol wasn’t in a gas oven or under a train, obnoxious though those examples would be.

Abuse is part of football culture whether we like it or not. It won’t go away and I don’t want it to. In a recent comments section on this blog, when a piece was filtered out by Newsnow because I included a swear word, my dear old friend Ian noted that he had hardly ever heard me swear. Very sweet but inaccurate. Football brings out the sweary in me and I enjoy it. Let it all out. Not too much when kids are around, it’s under control, but that’s what kids will hear at a game and if parents don’t want them to, then deal with it afterwards. Children understand when to use those words and when not to.

So I’m by no means a prude. In fact, the modern footballer deserves some stick if they are not giving value to the fans because it is the only way sometimes to shake them out of their comfort zones, insulted by their fat agents and fatter bank accounts, turning up for the money and neglecting the supporters. Campbell is the classic example. He let us down so badly, he shouldn’t have an easy time when he comes to the Lane. Talking of the noise in Madrid, when he appeared in the first derby after his transfer, there was bedlam. Talk of a Spanish style turning our backs gave way to good old fashioned abuse and I joined in.

However, this is not an excuse to not only sing but almost to revel in chants that contain language you could not and should not use in any other setting. Neither is it an excuse to say other teams do the same to us. As a jew, the hissing noises through clenched teeth and masked by gleeful grins are wretched and deeply sinister, especially as no police or steward will do anything about it. The anti-Semitism from other fans is rife. That’s no excuse for the song.

I admit that I’m not sure where the line between legitimate abuse at football matches and songs like the Campbell and Adebayor chants runs precisely, but wherever it is is, the songs cross it. Way, way past. Moreover, debate about the finer points serves only to obscure the bigger picture. It’s often used by detractor of the so-called ‘PC brigade’, political correctness itself being a term of denigration that dismisses the efforts, sometimes misplaced admittedly, of people who wish to communicate in a manner that does not discriminate against their fellow human beings.

These songs are vile, nasty and despicable. They have given Spurs fans the label of being discriminatory because of the adverse publicity they have garnered. This deflects attention from the consistent anti-Semitism that surrounds us. Also, Spurs fans have a proud history of not being discriminatory. In the bad old days, Spurs fans didn’t have racist chants, they welcomed our black players, no bananas on the pitch. I genuinely can’t remember when I last heard an individual fan shout a racist remark at the Lane. Now this glorious part of our heritage has been tarnished. Please stop.

11 thoughts on “That Song: Enough Already

  1. It’s not nice – but it ain’t racist to sing about a man that washes elephants.

    I wash elephants for my local zoo – they didn’t check my CV for my skin colour before hiring me, just wanted to know if I had experience…

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    • My response below is to the main article and not to this post. I don’t know whether this post is supposed to be serious or not. I doubt very much that this song would be sung at a white player so I would disagree.

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      • True but hen nor would it be sung towards many black players (ie black players that consider themself European first and would not play for an African country.). No one would sing this song towards Ledley King for example.
        The song is racist but it should not be summarised as many have, as being racist towards all black people. This is the Irony in the argument from some people who beleive it’s racist , as many of them say or infer it’s racist towards all black people which in itself is racist.

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  2. I agree with all that, the songs only cheapen our reputation. I don’t know why Adebayor is singled out for this treatment? He’s just a typical footballing mercenary – he left Arsenal as soon as he’d established some sort of reputation and saw something better / more lucrative. It says Arsenal aren’t really the ‘big’ European club they think they are so if anything I’ve warmed to him since he left!

    Campbell will always remain, for me, the lowest of the low. The manner in which he left Spurs was deceitful and his lack of remorse knowing that he could have gone anywhere else is shameful. I just can’t bear to hear his name. But songs about his race or sexuality shame us and enable him to justify himself.

    Unlike West Ham, we have a large number of songs we can sing. Make up some better songs about our own players (how long can BAE play for Spurs without a proper chant?) and get behind our team.

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  3. guys, i deplore both songs but the campbell one for homphobia; let us be clear, yet again, that judas hanged himself from a tree, that is the reference, nice or not, and not some vague idea about lynchings in the south as so many people jump to, feeling pleased with themselves that they were smart enough to make that connection while not well-eductaed enough to complete the juday connection, is just wrong.

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  4. The theme of this article seems to be: ‘be fair and just when being nasty’.

    It’s quite a simple process, ban anyone without a Master’s degree from football stadia.

    Then you’ll get rid of the oiks and their brainless chanting in one swoop.

    Better still, make the stadia entirely composed of corporate boxes and charge a minimum of USD1000 a game.

    Personally, I’d like to see all swearing banned at football, and people ejected for using it. I bet we’d miss it as much as we miss terracing.

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  5. It’s neither the song or the sentiment that are the issue I feel. It gets my goat when fans can hurl abuse at players, yet Rooney bites back for example and he gets the book thrown at him in return, is that right?. It ‘s not right to say someone’s father washes elephants when clearly he doesn’t, yet its perfectly acceptable to label the same players mother a whore?. What I object is the hypocrisy, those that jump on the bandwagon, feigning hurt, using the ‘children’, as if ‘children’ dont have a perfectly universal use of the vernacular with many more descriptions of human anatomy than I’ve even heard of? Hypocrites, we rose above the Yid taunts many years ago, laughed at it and then used it to our advantage, because if it gets to you, they’ve won!
    As for the Rooney situation, the FA,Referee’s had a perfect example to make a stand against abuse when Ashley Cole abused the ref, who in turn said and did nothing, nor did Chelsea nor did the FA!, every things there both in law and legislation, its the will and balls to use them that are really in question!

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  6. Stratty, affluent, highly educated people are as guilty of racism as anyone else. It’s not a “class” issue, no matter how often it is portrayed as one. Morons are morons no matter how much money or many cashmere sweaters they have.

    I believe the Campbell and Adebayor chants to be a disgrace and a stain on Tottenham Hotspur and its fans.

    I agree with Alan, Spurs fans, please stop. We are better than that.

    On a slight tangent, I always feel that when a player we wish to ridicule comes to the lane, we should as a crowd suddenly go completely silent when they have the ball. This I feel would show our contempt more emphatically than anything else.

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  7. Thanks for the comments.

    This song has been around for a while and I’m not saying anything new but I just had to put something in writing on the blog.

    For anyone who thinks it is not racist, or that you need a master’s to take your place in the crowd, I suggest you try it out at work. Chant it repeatedly at a black person in the office and see how you get on at the tribunal.

    Regards,

    Al

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  8. Pingback: Manu – We Need Him But Does He Need Us? « TOTTENHAM ON MY MIND

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