I love West Ham fans and I love being a West Ham fan. There are few more exhilarating experiences than belting out Bubbles at full voice from the stands, especially in some dingy away end when you’re part of a small band of foot soldiers baiting and outsinging the home fans. It’s not just the boisterous camaraderie of West Ham fans that I love, but the wit and the banter too.
The chants and songs directed either at our players or the away fans are usually rude, sometimes offensive, but almost always fun. My favourite stadium singa-long was the equal parts affectionate and piss taking ‘Oh Christian Dailly’, to the tune of the ‘I Love You Baby’. Genius. But we all know there can be a dark side to the terrace chants that emanate from sections of the Boleyn Ground.
The FA are investigating West Ham fans for anti-Semitic chanting at Spurs. This includes singing about how Adolf Hitler was ‘coming to get’ Spurs fans, and making a hissing sound to mimic the gas chambers. It should go without saying that it is disgusting and has no place in the modern world, let alone modern football. But the fact that this happens won’t have been news to anyone who goes to Hammers games on a regular basis.
I remember going to the Boleyn (the pub, not the ground) ahead of a game last season and hearing the West Ham Choir in their usual pre-game singsong follow an anti-German song about the war with an antiTottenham song about ‘Yids’. My mate joked ‘whose side were we on then?” It was a joke question, but those Hammers fans who sing those songs should ask it of themselves.
The East End was bombed to smithereens by the Nazis. Virtually everyone in the ground on match days will have had family who fought and in many cases died to defeat fascism and anti-Semitism. I know we all hate Spurs. I know Spurs fans often self-refer as the ‘Yid Army’. These are not good enough excuses to pardon some of the quasi-fascist chanting from a small section of West Ham fans.
And yes, it is a small section of fans. But it is those who make the most noise who get heard and the rest of us should not tolerate it. So yes, the FA should investigate us. They should throw the book at us. And the club should do all it can to identify the thugs and ban them for life.
But we, the fans, should act too. West Ham fans who sing anti-Semitic garbage are betraying a generation of Eastenders who suffered through the Blitz and fought to defeat Nazism. Next time they try it the rest of us should drown them out. I suggest we do it by singing something that makes us proud. If not ‘Oh Christian Dailly’, how about Bubbles?