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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 November 2005, 15:02 GMT
To sing or not to sing
Farayi Mungazi
BBC Sport

Fifa president Sepp Blatter
Blatter says national anthems can be a catalyst for crowd trouble

There is a great deal of turmoil in my heart these days, the source of which is the idea that football may never be the same again.

I am worried because if Sepp Blatter has his way, national anthems at international matches may soon be a thing of the past.

The Fifa president wants to abolish anthems after being upset by the booing of national songs in the recent World Cup play-off between Turkey and his native Switzerland.

Both teams complained that opposing fans whistled during the other's anthem. Swiss fans howled down Turkey's anthem in Berne, and Turkish fans returned the insult in Ankara.

An irate Blatter argued that anthems should be banned to avert crowd trouble despite the fact that they are an established part of the pre-match entertainment.

A Fifa spokesman has since said that Blatter's comments were his own personal opinion, and that no plans were in place at present to discontinue the playing of national anthems.

In Africa, anthem-booing is more pronounced up north, especially in Algeria and Tunisia

But I am worried nonetheless. I am worried because the Swiss did not become the most powerful man in world football by getting his views ignored.

Blatter is certainly not alone in his willingness to contemplate axing anthems. There are many who think anthems serve little purpose and believe football may be better off without them.

Anthem-haters argue that Fifa should follow the example of Europe's Champions League which has its own song.

Not only do I beg to sing a different tune, but I would rather pour boiling water directly onto my eardrums than hear any so-called football anthem.

In Africa, anthem-booing is more pronounced up north, especially in Algeria and Tunisia. I have seen it many times: the teams line up and then the fans compete to see who can drown the opposition's anthem more beneath a barrage of whistling and jeering.

But this anthem-jeering is nothing new and should not be taken so seriously. Players themselves brush it off as fans doing what fans do, and that is the whole point of sport.

Sporting rivalries are not only confined to the field of play. They extend to the terraces, as rival fans seek to outdo each other, be it in cheering their team on or booing opponents - and their anthem off the park!

Indeed, if fans want to show their like or dislike for or a country, they will find some way to show it, whether it be booing during a national anthem or burning a country flag.

Far from being a spark plug for crowd trouble, I believe anthems, whether booed or sung with lung-busting gusto, add to the atmosphere of the game and put fire in players' bellies.

While club football is about loyalty, international football is all about national pride

As a young fan lucky enough to grow up with a father who had easy access to tickets because of his refereeing badge, I remember going to watch Zimbabwe's games, and rising from my seat, hand over my heart, and singing along as the national anthem was played.

This traditional pre-match ritual somehow made me feel connected to the players representing my country down on the pitch. It gave everyone in the stadium a sense of solidarity and unity.

Anthems are the calm before the proverbial storm, and when players visit truly hostile places, they can draw a lot of strength and comfort just from hearing a tune that reminds them of home.

While club football is about loyalty, international football is all about national pride. Anthems embody that pride as players and fans unite in belting out their national song at the top of their voices.

This is why most countries in the world have anthems that proclaim the achievements and bravery of their people. In the sporting arena at least, national anthems stir the blood and make the hairs on the back of one's neck stand up.

Most footballers are very patriotic and for many of them, anthems have become synonymous with international fixtures. If you drop the anthems, you take away some of the passion of the game.

Over the years, I have supported Blatter on many occasions but in planning to do away with national anthems, he is definitely out of tune!


Are you in favour of national anthems? Do you think national songs are a catalyst for violence? This debate is closed and some of your comments are published below.


I can see Blatter's reasons, but I disagree with him. Playing national anthems creates a huge amount of pride for spectators and helps create a fantastic atmosphere in stadiums, especially in grudge matches like Egypt vs Libya or England vs Argentina. However, the idea of a unique song like the UEFA Champions League is really appealing.
Ali Elhamamy, UK

I could not agree more with you, Farayi. This kind of knee-jerk reaction from Sepp Blatter that must not be entertained at all. I can not imagine Ghana playing an international match without the national anthem. We Africans cherish our national anthems, and there is no better place to hear them than in a full stadium before an international match at home or in a foreign country.
Mark Nyame Boateng, Ghana/UK

As an ardent football lover, I am a firm supporter of Sepp Blatter and his principles, but he must not allow his own personal feelings to prevail on the issue of national anthems. Let national anthems continue!
Ayo Orabiyi, UK

As a traditionalist, I am not at all enthusiastic about Blatter's plans. I think national anthems add to the pre-match colour and boost the morale of both players and fans alike. I vehemently oppose any plans to ban national anthems.
Ngusum Akofu, Cameroon/USA

I support Sepp Blatter because anthem-singing is a boring affair. I favour the traditional handshakes between players of opposing sides and with referees before games. However, my suggestion might prove too bitter to swallow for so-called patriots who attach great significance to anthems. But are we not supposed to be one big family (without nationalities) in football? Food for thought.
Afolabi Gambari, Zimbabwe

What makes Blatter always so itchy to temper with certain intrinsic values of football? I think it is illogical to suggest banning the 'national identities' of national teams. Let Fifa's aristocrats steady their itchy hands and save the only remaining beautiful thing in this world.
Duh Chu Samuel, South Africa

I do not think Sepp Blatter knows exactly what he is talking about. Did this guy ever played international football for his country? Soon he will say countries should no longer dress in their national colours! Does he know the feeling of patriotism that engulfs you when your national anthem is being sung? At least I played for my country's junior team and I know the feeling.
Esapa Njang, Cameroon

International football is all about national pride, so the national anthems must stay. I hope George Bush keeps an eye on Blatter!
Gerard Nsah, Cameroon/Holland

I agree totaly with you on this one, Farayi.
Edgar E Richardson, USA

This is a non debatable issue. Football has its own traditions and needs no change on this time. The playing and of national anthems not only serves as a morale-booster for the players, but in some countries (Nigeria as a very good example), it is also the only time that the whole country is united as one.
Imade Wesley Omonuwa, USA

Going into an international sporting event without singing one's national anthem is like having a meal without saying grace - it should never happen.
Nkosinathi Baleni, zimbabwe

I am more concerned that Sepp Blatter only decides to act when Switzerland are harassed. How come he never speaks when other countries are given a hard time in their away games?
Tony Starks, Canada/Algeria

Anthems or no anthems, booing and holiganism will continue. Anthems are a source of nationalism and inspiration to fans as they support their national teams. I am not sure that the solution to booing and holiganism in sport is to abolish national anthems.
Tanko Yussif Azzika, Ghana/Netherlands



SEE ALSO
Blatter suggests dropping anthems
22 Nov 05 |  Internationals


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