Atlanta United fans wave flags and cheer during a match between Atlanta United and Saint Louis FC at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. Atlanta United defeated Saint Louis FC 2-0. Christina Matacotta/Christina.Matacotta@ajc.com
Photo: Christina R. Matacotta/Christina Matacotta
Photo: Christina R. Matacotta/Christina Matacotta

Atlanta United blog: The F-word doesn’t belong in soccer 

Soccer and the F-word.

No, not Football.

The other F-word.

The profane word has become woven into chants used by some supporters of many MLS  teams, including Atlanta United, which I cover for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The chants, including the F-word, are mostly tired copies of those used by other teams that play in leagues around the world.

I’ll be as direct, but I doubt as successful, as a Josef Martinez penalty kick in my belief and subsequent argument that the F-word is unnecessary:

I don’t think the word is necessary in chants.

I don’t see what it adds to the effectiveness of the chants.

I don’t see why it makes the chants more fun.

I don’t see how they help support one team or intimidate an another.

It’s not just because I’m a parent. It’s because I appreciate the original, the unique, the clever, the chants that make you recognize, “Oh, I’m in Atlanta, not any other soccer city.

You don’t hear groups of supporters using that word while attending games for the Hawks, Falcons, Braves, UGA, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Kennesaw State or the Dream. 

I’ve covered sports of all varieties all over the U.S. Other than occasional chants toward the officials, you never hear the F-bomb used in unison by large groups of people.

Using it over and over in a stadium of people ranging from the 7,000 at Kennesaw State to the 70,000 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium is the equivalent of  standing in the middle of a crowded restaurant and using the F word in a chant about the chicken parm while everyone wonders what in the world is going on. Good luck rhyming anything with parmesan.

I’ve gotten into online debates with supporters of teams I’ve heard use the word in their chants, notably Orlando and New York Red Bulls, during my visits to their fine stadiums.

Wednesday night, during its 2-0 win against St. Louis, Atlanta United was added to the argument arena.

When I heard the F-word in a chant used by some of the supporters in the first half, I tweeted: 

I didn’t call out any person. I didn’t call out any group.

Oh boy, what a reaction it elicited on Twitter.

I was told on Twitter that I’m not good at my job. My opinion on cursing has nothing to do with my abilities as a reporter and writer.

I was told that the AJC doesn’t care about soccer. I may be the only beat reporter in the country whose employer pays for them to cover every home and away game, including trips to Costa Rica and Mexico.

I was told that I don’t understand the culture of supporters groups. Cursing is a culture?

I was told I know nothing about soccer. I’ve been playing it, watching it, reading about it and appreciating it for more than 40 years.

I was told that the F-word is needed as part of the communication. First, you are confusing need with want? Second, it’s really not. Freakin’ works just as well.

I was told that families shouldn’t come if they are going to be offended. Seriously? That’s your defense?

I was told that parents should just tell the kids not to repeat what they hear. Yes, that has worked throughout history.

I was included in a chant featuring the F-word at the beginning of the second half. At least the subject of the chant was unique, even if the meter was almost as old as I am.

I and my view were also defended.

I’m not telling people they can’t use the F-word. That’s not my job. But just as it’s their right to use it in the less-than-original chants, I have a right to say I don’t think its use adds anything to what is supposed to be an inclusive, family atmosphere of an Atlanta United franchise that aspires to be the best at everything. This use of the F-word in chants is not the best. It’s rote. It’s as tired as the “I believe” chant. 

No, you aren’t going to change my mind.

And I’m not conservative with regard to language. When properly motivated, I can work as blue as Old Man Parker in “ A Christmas Story.” It happens almost daily. Ask any of the other people who cover Atlanta United.

But I try to make smarter choices -- “Rassenfressn” comes to mind -- when in public settings, particularly when there may be families.

You can argue that the language doesn’t seem to hurt Atlanta United’s attendance. That’s true. It’s leading the league for a third consecutive year. That doesn’t mean it should be used.

It comes down to this: I would like to think that MLS supporters are more original, more unique and more clever. Actually, I know they are. 

I’ve been to almost every stadium in MLS. I’ve seen the tifos. I’ve heard the clever chants. I’ve seen the passion. I’ve met the people. I know that being better is a bar that is easily and consistently attainable and has been easily reached from Vancouver to Orlando, New England to L.A.

F should be for Football.

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About the Author

Doug Roberson
Doug Roberson
Doug Roberson covers the Atlanta United and Major League Soccer.
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