The New York Times needs to man up about soccer

Soccer is gay. The New York Times is gayer for agreeing with Major League Soccer to try and ban football chants.

For decades, soccer officials in the United States simply wanted some fans in their stadiums. Now they have them, and some of those fans have brought an unexpected problem: a vulgar chant, in the vein of more notoriously rabid soccer fans in other countries.

Hardly clever, it is only three words — an insult directed at the opposing goalkeeper — but enough to give M.L.S. officials fits as they hear it spill over into live television broadcasts. The chant’s simplicity is what makes it appealing or appalling, depending on your perspective. 

It has been heard this season at Major League Soccer games in Seattle; Sandy, Utah; Harrison, N.J.; Kansas City, Kan.; and Columbus, Ohio, among other places. It has been shouted by thousands of fans at men’s national team games, too.

“Sport is spontaneous, it’s passionate, and I don’t think any of us would want to remove that from the game,” said Evan Dabby, senior director of supporter relations at M.L.S. “That’s what makes it beautiful. That’s what makes it enticing.”

But there are boundaries around that beauty, the league has decided. Dabby this season has overseen a new, focused initiative to get clubs to eradicate the chant, which, according to him, “is neither passionate nor spontaneous.”

It is deployed in one specific game situation: when the opposing team’s goalkeeper prepares to restart the game on a goal kick, there is a crescendo of percussive noise and swelling voices. When the player then puts his foot through the ball, the fans yell out the phrase in unison.
The three-word chant, known as the Y.S.A. chant, is a more vulgar expression of “You suck, jerk.” It has deep but unclear roots, dating back at least a decade. Its form and usage are similar to ones used in South America, Central America and Europe, suggesting that early M.L.S. fans — who borrow heavily at first from international fan cultures — adopted the structure and added their own choice words.

“It was a way to be antagonistic, in a tongue-in-cheek way,” said Dave Hoyt, a former president of Portland’s fan group, Timbers Army. “It gets people’s attention.”

If the Seppos want to learn some proper football chants then they can’t go past these.

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