Being a writer I am fascinated by words and I have always admired those who use them well. I am also passionate about football and amazingly it has been that sport which has yielded many of my favourite examples of how to use our language for the maximum impact. The fans are a constant inspiration with their quite brilliant banners and those who comment on the sport have produced many classic one liners too.
Amongst the ranks of football fans here are numerous natural comedians and budding poets. Look around any stadium and you will see quite brilliant examples of humour in the shape of outfits and costumes which are often hilarious pieces of social commentary. You will also find banners so ingenious that you are left wondering how anyone could have thought them up. My favourite was a Liverpool banner from the 1970’s. OK I am biased because I am a Red’s fan but it was an absolute classic. Liverpool had just beaten St Etienne and Grasshoppers of Zurich to reach the European Cup Final where they were playing Borussia Mönchengladbach. A huge banner in the stadium read ”Joey ate the frogs legs, made the Swiss roll and now he’s munching Gladbach”.
I also loved a one liner from a Manchester United fan in the 1980’s which said “Bryan Robson lays on more balls than Joan Collins”. Some of the banners are naturally less than complimentary and many are downright abusive and so cannot be repeated here. This is particularly true in Italy where banners often include obscenities and occasionally overt death threats. Fans do not confine their commentary to the stadiums either. Back in the 1970’s one wag saw a sign outside of a church which said “Jesus Saves” and added “and Pearson nets the rebound”.
In the Press
I must also applaud journalists who occasionally produce quite stunning headlines. Given the limited time at their disposal to come up with these little gems it is quite incredible what they manage to dream up. The all-time classic appeared in the Sun following Celtic’s ignominious defeat to minnows Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish Cup. Readers were greeted with “Super Caley go ballistic Celtic were atrocious”. My personal favourite, however, appeared on Goal.com. Italian club Juventus, known as the Old Lady of Italian football, had just drawn with Bate. The headline read “Old lady unable to master Bate at home”. Running this one a close second for me is the Sky Sports headline issued when Kevin Keagan bought David Seaman to replace Peter Schmeichel at Manchester City – “Keagan fills Schmeichel’s gap with Seaman”.
I am sure there will be many more acts of genius from fans and journalists in the coming years. There is nothing like casting your eyes around the stadium to see what people have managed to come up with and these witty slogans can put a smile on your face even when things have gone tragically wrong on the pitch.
Article by Sally Stacey