Sunday, September 30, 2007

Football, Faith and Supporter Songs

I've been a long-distance Chelsea fan since 1985. Allegedly, recently-ousted manager Jose Mourinho once said "There is God, then Jesus, then me". Mourinho is a man with an awesome sense of his own worth.

"The Special One's" near-divinity aside, have you ever noticed how many football anthems are based on hymns or gospel songs? Here are a few:

1. "Follow Follow, We Will Follow Rangers" is of course a rewrite of "Follow Follow I Would Follow Jesus" by William Cushing (USA), around 1878. Robert Lowry wrote the tune.

2. "Stand Up for the Ulstermen" / "Stand Up if You Love Rangers" etc is a rewrite of "Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart" by Henry Smith (USA) around 1978. (Village People wrote a song to the same tune, entitled "Go West" which they released in 1979, and which was then covered by the Pet Shop Boys in 1993)

3. "There's not a team like the Glasgow Rangers" is the same as "There's not a Friend like the lowly Jesus" by Rev Johnson Oatman (USA) around 1895

4. "We're Not Brazil We're Northern Ireland" is of course "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" by Julia Ward Howe (USA) around 1861

5. And I'm sure most of you are well familiar with the version of "Away in a Manger" sung at Northern Ireland matches, with the superb line "...the stars in the bright sky looked down where HEAL-Y, HEAL-Y, HEAL-Y...!"

6. "Glasgow Rangers, Glasgow Rangers, We'll support you evermore" is of course from the hymn "Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah" - the end of its first verse is "Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven, Feed me till I want no more".

And there are more. "Abide With Me" by Henry Lyte is still sung at every FA Cup Final in England.

Maybe this list of five is due to a fair proportion of Rangers and Northern Ireland fans having been sent to Sunday School, where they learned these choruses and hymns. The tunes are simple and memorable, they're easy to sing and sound great with hundreds or thousands of voices belting them out.

Back in July I took my oldest boy, Jacob (9), to see a pre-season friendly at Ibrox of Rangers v Chelsea. Rangers won 2-0. Jacob's now daft about Rangers and has a load of supporters songs on his MP3 player - so he's itching to sing "Follow Follow" in Carrowdore Mission Hall some Saturday or Sunday night! (Stephen are you listening?!!)

"...of the thirty seven clubs that have played in the English Premier League since its inception of the 92/93 season, twelve can trace their origin directly to a church...", quoted from the book "Thank God for Football"