Express & Star

Mark Andrews: Ten German Bombers, Britain's relationship with authority, and what the football fans should really be singing

That worked well, didn't it? After police officers told travelling England and Scotland fans not to sing Ten German Bombers, guess what happened next?


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This highlights the cultural differences between Britain and Germany when it comes to our relationship with authority. When a police officer tells a German to jump, the only question is 'how high, mein Herr'. When a police officer tells an Englishman or a Scotsman not to sing a song, the knee-jerk response is 'why, and what are you going to do about it?'

Which leaves me a kind of torn. On the one hand, rarely an international football tournament goes by without Britain being embarrassed by the behaviour of our football hooligans. And although I think Rishi Sunak's National Service plan is half-baked and rather silly, the sight of brainless, beered-up British yobs standing on tables brandishing inflatable Spitfires doesn't half give me cause to reconsider.

Nevertheless, on balance I think history has shown that nations with a healthy degree of scepticism towards authority tend to fare better than those which meekly defer to anybody in a uniform.

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Interestingly, a British police officer who used to specialise in crowd control at football matches said there was one sure way you could tell things were about to get ugly: a lack of humour among the fans.

Which is why such a po-faced police response to a song taught to children during the Blitz was probably the worst possible response.

Ten German Bombers isn't my favourite football chant, and if I were in Germany, I wouldn't be joining the throng. But I can't help but think a raised eyebrow and a dismissive chuckle would have been a better approach.

Rather see them chanting than fighting.

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Interestingly, looking at some of the international online football forums, the vast majority of German fans have no idea what the chant is about anyway. And when it is explained to them, they aren't offended.

And maybe, at the very least, the authorities should have come up with some positive, constructive suggestions as to what they would expect England and Scotland fans to sing.

At least it would have given everyone a laugh. I can imagine them suggesting I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing, by the New Seekers. Or Beethoven's Ode to Joy, while waving an EU flag. Or better still, Silence is Golden.

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I suspect they wouldn't go for my personal favourite, Stan Boardman's 2006 World Cup song, 'Aye, aye, yippee, the Germans bombed our chippy'. If I recall rightly, the German police loved that one first time around.

Just please, please, please. No more Sweet Caroline.