A Brief History of Football Chants in Italy
Following the analysis of the favourite fan culture, that is, chants in football in England, Tilak Dutta this time explores the various aspects of football chants in the “Land of Marble”.
Home to various legends, Italy have enjoyed a perpetually high status in world football. They have a history of producing players with originality of expression that is seldom matched anywhere else. This trait has rubbed itself off in every sphere of Italian Football, including their football chants.
We have already discussed about the various aspects of football chants in England. We now take a closer look into the territory of the Azzurri.
Italian football chants are different from their English counterpart. Unlike English clubs, nearly all Italian clubs have their own official hymn. Their songs are not only adapted but also specially written dedicated pieces, usually by a prominent singer or a composer who is a fan of the club in question. The chants are cheesy, both musically and lyrically. The lyrics are usually clichéd sentimentalism of the laziest kind, with a few distorted patches of local dialects, accompanied by Europop beats that create an atmosphere of emotional elevation. Often, the climactic modulation produces a sense of ecstasy, hysteria and madness.
Chanting in Italy has always appeared cultured and organised. It is never fixed and changes according to the situation of the game. Everything related to a chant, starting from the moment of launching the chant, the content, the duration and any other parameter is a direct implication of what’s happening on the field. Supporters of Brescia 1911, in a match against Carpi, were heard saying:
“We are thinking about singing a chant
against player number 3.
Number 3 insulted one of us.
C’mon, launch the chant!
What’s his name?
What a stupid name!
Ok we do it!
Launch it when there’s silence.
LETIZIA SON OF A BITCH.
LETIZIA SON OF A BITCH.
LETIZIA SON OF A BITCH.”
Even though the British chants supposedly have one key ingredient that is missing in the Italian ones: humour, Italian football chants often evolve towards the making of banners, which is a more effective medium to convey messages. Italian football pundit and journalist Gabriele Marcotti feels otherwise, “The banners have probably stunted the growth of song”, he says.
Chants For Themselves
The international language of pop is a major source of inspiration for football chants in Italy. Plenty of Italian classic songs also get an airing.
Juventus fans sing “Andavo a 100 al ora”, a 1962 hit by Gianni Morandi while Marcella Bella’s 1972 song from the San Remo festival, “Montagne Verde” is used by Reggina and elsewhere.
Rafaella Carras’ masterpiece “Quanto e bello fare l’amore” is used by AS Roma, asserting that “there’s no priest or woman for me, in my heart is only you: AS Roma”.
Inter fans were seen chanting “Inter Nel Cuore”, expressing that “We have Inter in our hearts”, even when their team were losing 3-0 against Tottenham Hotspurs in the Champions League.
July 5, 1984 is a day no supporter of Napoli can forget, the day Diego Maradona was presented at the San Paolo. Over 1,00,000 fans waited for their new Messiah to arrive and when he did so in a helicopter, the resulting vibe made it look like the neighbouring volcano of Vesuvius had erupted. However, glutted due to the obstruction of the cameramen and rest of the mendacious media, the Napoli fans demanded that Maradona entered again, this time via the players’ exit. A few minutes later El Diez duly obliged and a fresh eruption of fireworks, streamers and the chant “Ole Ole Ole Ole, Diego, Diego” rebounded across the stadium.
After Maradona blew kisses and departed with a “Forza Napoli”, the stadium literally bounced as 140,000 feet stamped along with Diego’s hymn:
“Oh Mama mamamama,
Do you know why my heart beats?
I have seen Maradona, I have seen Maradona,
And mamma I am in love.”
In two-club cities, songs tend to exult the status of one particular club at the expense of the other. A derby, infact, is always enchanted by the supporters of both the teams, which of course gives the winner the“bragging rights”. Hence, constant support, that too in the form of chants createsits ownnomenclature. For example, Juventus fans endorse “Torino what a beautiful City! Torino is our city! Torino is black and white, and black and white it will always be!”.
On the other hand, Chievo fans sing “We are not Hellas! We are Chievo!”.
Chants are the direct manifestation of the passion of the supporters residing in their hearts. More than anything else, the association of supporters with their clubs forms the basis of all the love for their team. Hence, another universal theme is the impossibility of staying away from your club. Torino fans sing “Torino… always at your side… I know why I won’t be staying home”. For Cagliari fans, simple geography means their loyalty is more demanding. They say, “We’ll take the ship and follow you”.
One of the greatest tunes that has been adopted worldwide and especially in Italy as a chant was that of “The Seven Nation Army”.
On the night of July 9, 2006, it was impossible for anyone to not come across football fans chanting “Campioni del mondo” to the tune of “The Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes in the country. The song had become the country’s unofficial anthem on the auspicious night they lifted the World Cup.
The song was originally used by Club Brugge fans on their visit to San Siro on October 22, 2003 when they faced A.C Milan in the Champion’s League. The match ended with the Belgian side getting an unexpected win over the fierce Milanese.
However, it was taken from them by A.S Roma fans in February 2006 when they hosted Roma in the UEFA Cup. When the Belgians equalised just after the hour mark, the Jan Breydel Stadium erupted to the tune of “The Seven Nation Army”. Francesco Totti, was blown away. Roma’s fans were equally enamoured by the tune and instantly embraced it. By the time the World Cup was knocking at the door, supporters of the country became unified by the familiar tune, if not the original song. As Jean-Luc Godard once said, “It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to”.
Chants Against The Opposition
Just as chants are meant to support teams, they are also used as a means of insulting the opposition. What the Italians call “Cori Cori”, songs against the opposition, are one of the most enduring aspects of football culture. It is also the most problematic– often encouraging prejudice, hostility and racism.
Most numerous is the category of songs against one’s direct derby rivals, with the general theme being “You’re shit and we hate you”.
There are occasional flashes of comic genius. Roma fans, who like to stigmatize their Lazio rivals as ignorant bumpkins, once threatened during a derby: “We’re going to steal your flock of sheep”. Even the colour of their rivals’ kits prove to be a substantial subject of mocking, like the Juve fans claiming
“As long as I live, I will hate,
Purple and brown – the Colours of Fiorentina and Torino,
I will hate,
The polizia, I will hate you Forever…”
Juventus, due to match-fixing issues in 2006, were relegated to Serie B. Anti-juve supporters made a song out of this incident to the tune of “Let it be” by the Beatles.
Even a club’s symbol is a fair game for insult. The Roman Wolf is belittled with various songs asserting “You’re not wolves but just bastard dogs”.
The Agnelli family, the wealthy and influential Italian business dynasty, is associated with the brand Fiat as well as Juventus F.C. Fans of the opposition, in a brilliant sense of mockery, chanted “You’re uglier than a Multipla”, with reference to the notoriously odd-looking car made by Fiat.
Verona is a famous place, especially due to the fact that it was used as a setting for “Romeo and Juliet” by Shakespeare. Even this proves to be a subject of banter as Napoli fans waved a banner declaring and chanting “Juliet is a tart”.
There are deeply unpleasant chants as well. The Superga tragedy of May 1949, in which 31 people including 18 players were killed while returning from a European game against Benfica, devastated Torino. This is today acknowledged by rival chants as about “That magical aeroplane”.
In Italy, a major part of “Cori Conto” are aimed less at a specific club than at a region or city. Territorial discrimination is by no means a recent problem. It was simply overshadowed by racism and fan violence. From the time when Italy used to be made up of city-states, the North has always been more affluent and thriving, while the poorer South was often hindered by organized crime.Consequently, the Northerners have always expressed contempt for Southerners and this has manifested itself in racist chants between fans of Northern and Southern football teams.
Some chants are multipurpose, like the old favourite “Roman/Milanese/Torinese/Catanese mothers are whores” or simply “Odio Bergamo” for instance. Tuscany has the most clubs of any region in Serie A, so a common one-size chant that fits all is useful: “Tuscan women are whores, whores, whores, and their sons are rabbits, rabbits, rabbits”.
The rabbit is a traditional emblem of cowardice.
Sampdoria fans get told “Genova stinks of fish and its sea is polluted”, even though Genova has a mild climate and a beautiful coastline that boasts of a few UNESCO listed palaces located around the Via Garibaldi. Meanwhile, fans of Milan and Turin are taunted for bad weather: to the tune of Guantanamera – “Only Fog, you have only fog”.
Napoli, and Naples as a city, bears the brunt of regional prejudice. “It takes a bar of soap to wash a dirty Southerner” has echoed throughout the stadium since the time of Diego Maradona. Apart from that, the classic chant that runs against them are –
“Smell what a stench, even dogs flee
The Neapolitans are arriving
O cholera and earthquake-afflicted
You’ve never seen soap in your lives.
Napoli are shit, Napoli have cholera
You’re shame of Italy,
Neapolitan, dirty African
Sooner or later, we’ll stab you.”
This ditty combines all the worst stereotypes about Naples – poverty, dirt, disease – with a garnishing of racism and violence.
Bari fans, 150 km north of their hated rivals, call Lecce fans “Africans”. Given that both Bari and Lecce are part of the same region, this shows how closely integrated racist and localist discourses are.
Italian Federation, FIGC did consider this “territorial discrimination” to be a duly punishable offence but has been pushed into a corner when in October 2013, “ultras” of Juventus, Inter Milan and Genoa warned them that they would be engaging in territorial discrimination, defying the federation to close their stadiums too.
Even Napoli’s ultras have defended their right to be insulted. In a display of self-irony, fans of the light-blues chanted “Napoli Cholera!” and unfurled a banner challenging FIGC to silence them.
Managers have varied views on these kinds of chants that suggest territorial discrimination. When asked about the offensive chants that are put up, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis shrugged off any implications as to the harmful nature of the chants and said, “To see people insulting another group of people is not disgusting…When I hear that [Mount] Vesuvius should wash us away, then it just makes me laugh. It’s satirical. It’s just a provocation to a city which needs to wake up.” On the other hand, former Juventus manager Antonio Conte in a post-match conference said, “I would really like it if fans would chant in favour of their own side rather than offending the opposition…It is something that we have got to try to eliminate together”.
Thus, the world of Football Chants in Italy is different from the other parts of Europe. The fans get imbibed in the chant culture, often leading to other forms of social interaction via banners or even a few forms of violence.
But, on a chilly night, if you are at the Milan derby with the crowd roaring “Forza Milan” you are sure to get the goose bumps.