Date: 16th March 2009 at 1:35pm
Written by:

Legendry musician Roy Harper continues with his monthly blog.

To read Part 1, click here.

Roy continues…

I don’t choose my friends because of what football team they support. One of my best friends can’t understand why football is supported in the way it is and has no interest in it at all. This obviously saves him a lot of heartache, despondency and time. But then again I tell him that he misses out on the tribal belonging nature of being attached to a club, and that there are occasional moments of bliss and a lot of laughs.

Old Kid On The Block

When you’ve been around the block a few times it becomes much easier to support all kinds of other things. Two of my friends have worked for the MaClaren Formula one team, so I take an interest in that.

I used to support the Yankees when I was in New York, the Red Socks when I was in Boston, the Phillies in Philadelphia, the Dodgers in Los Angeles and the Blue Jays in Toronto.

I have a couple of friends who played international cricket. My Grandfather was going to be taken on by Lancashire second eleven, but his mother ‘advised’ him not to do it because ‘There’s no money in it’. I had about 15 fights in a boxing ring as a flyweight, and as I’ve said before, my dad was an athlete, so I was born into athletics.

Roy Harper (Cricketer)

I’ve been City for 67 years. Solid City. Quite a lot of my friends support United. One or two support Arsenal. One, who came from Fulham, supports Spurs!

Matt, my guitarist, is a born Evertonian. I have a son, who didn’t grow up with me, who supports Chelsea! I have another friend who supports Ipswich Tractor Boys, and two who I can think of who support Wednesday. We live with it. We’re ‘used to it’. There are no problems when Rooney and Rio play for England. Rooney’s celebration of his goal at Eastlands was despicable, but what he was really saying, as the tabloid press contributor that he is, was that he’d just put one up the ‘richest club in the world’. When he next plays with SWP for England, that’s going to be a distant consideration when the one makes a goal for the other.

Small world

Admittedly, I haven’t lived in Manchester for a long time. My life has taken me round the world, but my roots are important to me.

My Grandfather was a city fan in 1900. In the pub I frequent, 50% of the clientele are reds, some of them closet. The other teams supported are Liverpool, Everton, Celtic and Arsenal, in that order.

We don’t fight it out on the streets, there’s just a lot of healthy banter.. when we think about it, and being City’s entire 1% pub support, I take a bit of gentle stick. Some of them are now slightly grudgingly beginning to accept that the Blue side of Manchester are worth watching, which is great, and about as far as it’ll go. The point being that fans don’t have to be at each other`s throats on a permanent basis, and it’s really unedifying to sometimes see lynch mob intelligence prevail.


Ok, so it’s vaguely funny having a distant view of some retro Millwall apes ripping seats out in some kind of re-enactment of former mob glory, but it’s also really sad.

Football, whether you like it or not, is now part of ‘civilization’. We have all helped to build it up over the last hundred years into what it now is. It’s tribal insofar as each city area has its own stadium in which upwards of 20,000 people gather in anticipation of helping to generate their own entertainment, witnessing two teams of approximately equal strength battle it out within set international rules.

This serves quite a few purposes. It allows people to gather in great numbers, in peace, without the amount of violence you could easily associate with such numbers, and informs us that this has to be a human trait that transcends the the history of the Roman Coliseum and probably goes quite a long way into pre-history. The numbers would be threatening without we all knew that we can only do it because of our ability to exercise social restraint. If we couldn’t, the human would be a different animal, and would never have evolved such a social capacity. A team helps to give a locality an identity. It’s capable of punctuating a hard working week with social festivities at the weekend. It can be a source of dreams and ambitions for the young, etc.


Because social constraint can be realized and exercised in this way, ‘the game’ is a place where thousands of people can be successfully contained. This makes it ideal for policing with minimal numbers of police. Big crowds have to be viewed as a risk by any establishment. They are a risk, if only to themselves. As has been seen historically, violent crowds are capable of quickly overturning governments. Often, this has facilitated social progress, but not always, and it never comes without a price in death and destruction.

You might think that all this has very little to do with football, but you’d have to think again. Since Arsene Wenger’s remark that what was visited on the Sri Lankan Cricket team in Lahore last week can cross the divide into other sports, a new page is well and truly turned. We saw a manifestation of it at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 when a terrorist squad murdered 11 members of the Israeli team. I once wrote a very critical song about this problem in 1989. I felt that it was necessary to inform people regarding the real nature and intentions of politicised religion. Let’s just say that it’s been a cathartic experience for me, both before and since.

Freedom of Speech

A few of us have tried to refrain from turning terrorism at football games into a public discussion, because we know that once it becomes a discussion it gets that much closer to becoming a fact. The fact remains that it’s potentially a huge weapon in the hands of those whose sole aim is to destroy the fabric of this society. We can only hope that now this subject is well and truly in the public domain, that it doesn’t become some kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I stopped manufacturing the record I made in 1989, ‘Once’, because the (2) songs were being misinterpreted and abused. There’s no longer any point, it might as well be released again. Arsene has, perhaps necessarily, let the cat out of the bag again. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayad is a Sunni Muslim. Some of the poorer Shias might want a pop at him. Hopefully, we’re a long way away from Tel Aviv airport type security measures in football grounds, but you never quite know what the world has in store for you. Certainly, you would have to have a great deal more devotion to your team if this came to pass, and spend a lot more time and money following them, which would be precisely the aim of the terrorists.

Not only could this happen to football, but I would have to say that if some kind of a plot isn’t already hatching, then I’d be very surprised. The major targets will be the big events, like the World Cup in South Africa, or a big target in the UK. Football is one of the big world stages.

It now exceeds most other sports in terms of popularity, and England is a prime target. As far as the extremist Muslim world is concerned, there’s no difference between George W Bush, Gordon Brown, Burnley FC and, well, MCFC. You’d have to be daft to think that it couldn’t happen. It will happen; it’s just a question of how and when. Fundamental extremism, including all its passive legions of semi-religious apologists, has no room for sentiment.

World of sport

Sport has become a world communicator. Sport is capable of bringing nations together who would otherwise be potential enemies. As such, it’s a huge and growing force for good in humanity. We are all its beneficiaries. It has brought us all closer together and helped the human world to recognize and accept its rainbow internationality. One of the most important things we can do, as a club and as a society, is to preserve and progress this. To be aware, considerate…. and watchful.

Article courtesy of Roy Harper