With a cold beer in hand I sit down on a plastic chair behind rows of chattering men. Glancing around, I see that almost everyone is wearing an Arsenal shirt – not an unusual sight in Uganda. The sun is setting and I think to myself I that I cannot imagine anywhere I’d rather be watching this north London Derby, a thought that would soon disappear.
I sit taking sips of beer and listening as people chat noisily in Luganda. With the exception of a few words I struggle to make out what people were saying so I happily sit back and let the atmosphere wash over me. The big screen is on and sit half watching the match build up and half watching the people around me chat and laugh.
I am deep in thought about how different watching football in Kampala is compared to my old haunt of the Dog Star in Brixton. So deep in fact that I don’t notice when six guys sharply turn around and look me up and down.
All six of them look straight at me. A few seconds later one of them asked, “What’s the Adebayor chant?”
I feel a prick of panic on the back of my neck. We were sitting just down the road from where the 2010 World Cup terrorist attacks took place and I had no idea why these guys were asking me.
The words of the chant run though my head as I try to buy myself time.
“Adebayor, Adebayoooooooooor, your dad washes elephants, and your mums a whore.
It should have been you, it should have been you, killed in Angola, it should have been you”
I think to myself how fucking unacceptable it is. I think about how, not for the first time, I am complicit in some football fans outrageous actions. Mostly though I think, how the fuck am I supposed to explain what ‘the Adebayor chant’ is in this situation?
Maybe spotting my discomfort, one of the guys piped up with, “Is it true that they sing about the Togo shootings?”
I lamely offer a “yeah” in response. This was getting beyond awkward.
The guys muttered a few words to each other before one asked, “Why?”
Why? Like why do British football fans think it’s acceptable to sing about a terrorist attack that resulted in one of Adebayor’s friends bleeding in his arms? Like why do they feel it is OK to throw in crass racist stereotypes as a prelude to such fucking outrageous comments? Or perhaps just why do so many fans in the stands join in?
Pathetically I muttered into my beer, “I don’t know”. The guys turned away and went back to pre-match build up. There was no bitterness in the whole exchange but it left me thinking.
One thing I pondered as I moved onto a second and third beer was how would have one of the guys who had thought up that chant have responded if they were in my situation? Would they have tried to justify their crass racism and insensitivity to terrorist atrocities or would they have sheepishly apologised?
I imagined in my mind’s eye the stereotype of a classic football thug almost spitting, “It’s just a bit of fun”. In all likelihood though, the guy probably looked just like me, young, male and football mad.
As I walked home that evening I was deep in thought. Am I responsible in any way for what happens on the terraces in the UK? Should I have apologised, criticised or critiqued the chant? In retrospect though I was predominantly feeling pissed off that these fucking morons who come up with these chants hold the power to dictate how my evening, thousands of miles away goes.
I have nothing to do with these idiots but to many people we are one of the same.