The Sound of Football: Cardiff City (Andrew)

Every fortnight we cover the best and worst football songs from every club in the UK from our book ‘The Sound Of Football: Every Club, Every Song’. You can buy it here

Cardiff City

Nickname: The Bluebirds

Ground: Cardiff City Stadium

Stadium Capacity: 26,828

Song: Do The Ayatollah/Men of Harlech

What links the Nobel Prize for Literature; the Ayatollah Humani, spiritual leader of Iran; and porn baron and former West Ham chairman David Sullivan?

A. A special edition of Asian Babes dedicated to contemporary theology; or

B. Cardiff City?

If you picked A, shame on you. If you picked B, you must know that David Sullivan was born near Cardiff; the club’s nickname was based on a Nobel Prize winner’s play, and the club’s fans sing a song inspired by Iran called ‘Do the Ayatollah’.

First, the play: Cardiff City was originally called Riverside A.F.C. It played in a chocolate coloured strip. The club changed its name to Cardiff City and its strip to all blue after the town was granted city status in 1905. After changing colours, a play called ‘The Blue Bird’ was performed to sell-out audiences in Cardiff. It was written by a Belgian playwright and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. After watching the play, some Cardiff City fans nicknamed the team ‘The Bluebirds’ and the nickname was so successful that it became a symbol of the club and was used on the club crest.

But why the song  ‘Do The Ayatollah’? It was first performed in 1990 by the singer of a Welsh-language punk group called U Thant.  The singer had been inspired by footage of funeral attendants of Ayatollah Khomeini raising their arms together, clasping their hands, and repeatedly pressing their locked hands up and down on their head  After he performed the dance on stage at a gig in Cardiff, fans borrowed the ‘dance’ and adopted it for the terrace while chanting ‘Do The Ayatollah’ repeatedly.

The song is now sung at players in the team, opposition managers, and anybody the fans want to have a go at. The person being sung at has to respond by… performing the Ayatollah.

An official version of the song was released when Cardiff City reached the FA Cup final in 2008.

It may be surprising that a club from Wales reached the final of an English competition, but when the club formed in 1899, there was no Welsh league to enter.

The club is proud to be Welsh, but the date of its greatest triumph is a very English day – St George’s Day. The Welsh side became the first non-English side to win the FA Cup on St George’s Day, 23 April, in 1927.

Many owners have tried to use Cardiff’s unique status in English football. One of the most controversial owners was ex-Wimbledon boss Sam Hammam  Sam bought the club in 2000 with the aim of converting Cardiff into a focal point for Wales by renaming the club The Cardiff Celts and changing its colours to mirror the flag of Wales with red, white and green.

Fans boycotted the change, and he was persuaded not to go ahead with it. But money talks and, under new management from Malaysia, the fans have seen the team’s colours change from blue to red and black and the bluebird replaced by a dragon.

The fans would like a Welshman to own the club. And while local boy, David Sullivan, born in nearby Penarth, has repeatedly said he wants to own the team he supported as a child; instead, he bought Birmingham and then West Ham, proving that porn barons don’t become millionaires by listening to their hearts.

Before every Cardiff home game, the club plays the song ‘Men of Harlech’  The song describe events during the seven-year siege of Harlech Castle. The garrison held out in what is the longest known siege in the history of the British Isles.

From the hills rebounding, *clap clap*

Let this war cry sounding, *clap clap*

Summon all at Cambria’s call

The mighty force surrounding, *clap clap*

(Source: trad.)

Men of Harlech was first published without words during 1794 as Gorhoffedd Gwŷr Harlech – March of the Men of Harlech  There have been many different versions, including one for Michael Caine’s 1964 film Zulu and, more recently, a fan-produced version referring to Gareth Bale for the Welsh national team’s 2016 European Championship campaign. 

As a traditional song, we’ve not included it among the oldest football songs but, with its origins in the eighteen century, it, along with Newcastle United’s ‘Blaydon Races’, are among the oldest songs you’ll hear in British stadiums.

Buy the Sound of Football from Amazon.

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