AMONG some of the funniest Monty Python sketches are The Semaphore Version of Wuthering Heights and Gunfight at the OK Corral in Morse Code. The action is played out in silence, using signalling devices instead of speech.
We could soon be getting a real-life follow-up that’s not quite as funny . . . The No-Noise Format of Football.
As the coronavirus lockdown eases, the Government is reportedly thinking of allowing socially-distanced soccer supporters back into stadiums next month, but possibly urging them not to sing, shout or chant. Good luck with that.
Have the people who dreamed this one up ever been to a football match? Don’t they realise how it’s impossible to keep silent when your team scores, when one of your strikers is scythed down, when the ref ignores a sure-fire penalty shout?
Or how just the sheer joy of seeing your side strut their stuff sends normally quiet blokes crazy? Outside a football stadium, I wouldn’t say boo to a goose. But inside, I happily sing, shout and scream for 90 minutes. And last season left me hoarser than ever, because I’m a lifelong Liverpool fan.
So if the silence scheme goes ahead, what are we supposed to do at Anfield when they play You’ll Never Walk Alone a few minutes before kick-off – possibly one of the most emotional experiences in football as you stand and sing along with it? Should we mouth the words behind our masks? Or just hold up placards bearing the lyrics?
And when the match starts, will we have to have pre-written cards ready to wave, with phrases such as ‘Yes!’ ‘What a goal!’ ‘Get in there!’? Or maybe take along a pad and hastily scribble messages to hold up as the play develops – ‘Come on Salah, get further forward!’
Also, if supporters singing and chanting are a danger, what about the referee? Surely a forceful blast on a whistle is a potential virus spreader? Perhaps it would be safer giving him a card to flourish, with Peep! written on it.
Okay, maybe things won’t get that silly. But allowing fans in to matches then asking them to keep quiet would be unfair, unrealistic and, well, unsporting.
The noise of a football crowd might not exactly be – to borrow a phrase – the sweet silver song of a lark, but it might act as a rousing signal that this awful lockdown limbo won’t be going into extra time.