And is “song” even the correct word to describe those choral rhymes bellowed from the terraces? Chants, maybe, although chants often turn to rants after a couple of Leos and a bunless hotdog served on a cocktail stick at the PAT, or any stadium. But here we are at the PAT and once we’ve downed that chilled beer from environmentally toxic containers we make our way into the ground proper to watch the match. A whistle blows and the lads are off. There are drums in the crowd and a woman’s screams echo around the stadium like that of the Banshee’s call. But just who or what is a Banshee? Well, it’s an ancient female spirit who cries loudly at night to warn others of something terrible about to happen. Normally the Thai Port Banshee cries ying mai kao (don’t score) just before the opposition scores. Her predictions are uncannily accurate. Before, however, we brand the Banshee as some sort of supernatural seer we ought to keep in mind the PAT is hardly a fortress. With almost 30 away goals conceded it doesn’t take a Mor Doo or a fortune teller to tell you that Port are a little weak at the back.
But what was I rabbiting on about? Ah yes, football songs. Growing up in London Millwall became my adopted team. I’d given Chelsea, Palace, Spurs, and Charlton a trial run but I kept finding myself returning to The Den. Why? Well, not so much for the predictable long-ball football and the career-ending tackles, but more for the crowd banter and downright hostile vibes. The burgers weren’t bad either if you got to the van early enough. The aggression at Millwall was simply palpable. Teenagers love a bit of conflict, crave a bit of pent up resentment, so naturally we fitted right in. The colorful linguistics added to our already expanding youthful vocabulary and the ethnic slurs tightened our schoolboy wits.
Cold Blow Lane felt like a safe place to be. The home supporters galvanized the opposing team both with their meat-pie-throwing antics and their four-letter artistry. The few away supporters brave enough to navigate South London in the early 1990s wished they hadn’t gotten out of bed that morning. You’re going home in a Millwall ambulance was one of the football club’s more creative chants. Fuck ‘em all, another.
No one Likes us, We Don’t Care is perhaps one of the Wall’s most celebrated tomes but only one of many in the lyrical toolkit. There is a legendary war cry song. This song (that has no name) is simply constructed of the vowels of the football team’s name drawn out for as long as possible. The meat of the chant is Miiiiiiiiiiiii and can last continually and dramatically for up to 40 minutes of the game. The roar sometimes lasted longer. Rumor has it the chant was started by a man they called the Opera Singer. This portly character stood on the stands wearing a white shirt and dinner jacket singing the team’s songs in a deep tenor’s range. He may have worked as a waiter at the Little Chef and likely belonged to part of what we now call the autistic spectrum. The Opera Singer attended each home game and began his now historic chant in full voice. That football song, or chant, was taken up by other pockets of the crowd and is now a standard part of the home experience. It has lasted decades becoming more finely tuned, and more menacing, with the passing of each and every game.
Thankfully perhaps the Thai Port Banshee has no such followers. Maybe she doesn’t need any followers? Perhaps her message is simply one of a lonely crusade in the world of soccer mediocrity. A solitary call of hope lost and faith abandoned on a Saturday afternoon.
But, here’s an idea. When we next hear the Banshee howl why don’t we join in her call? Perhaps the Banshee is the Opera Singer reincarnate and her mission to have others scream along with her? Perhaps together we can build that fortress. Perhaps they will think twice before banging it into the back of the net like they always do once they hear the stadium howl?
So next time you hear the Banshee call, do us a favor – yell with her.