From Iceland's Viking clap to All Blacks Haka: Five sporting traditions that you need to know about
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From Iceland's Viking clap to All-Blacks' Haka: Five sports traditions you need to know


It was turning out to be quite the tournament for Iceland in the ongoing Euro 2016, beating England 2-1 to book a quarter-final fixture with France, before getting hammered 2-5 by the hosts to finally bow out of the tournament. For a country that has had no major achievement in international football till date, a last-eight finish has helped put them on the world football map.

The fairytale of an island of 330,000 people, invading Europe with gutsy football and fabulous fans, was always going to end sometime, because logic dictated that at some point the underdog darlings of the European Championship would bite off more than they could chew. Iceland goes home having proved to everyone that a great deal can be done with very little.

Iceland players celebrate at the end of the game. Reuters

Iceland players celebrate at the end of the game. Reuters

Fans from Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales have lit up Euro 2016 with their good humor and full-blooded support for their teams. But Iceland's supporters have taken fandom to a whole new level.

The 'Huh', as their famous chant is known, perhaps will be symbolic of Iceland's success in Euro 2016. The chant, which also goes by the name 'Volcano clap', has caught the imagination of millions of viewers all over the world and may very well go down as one of the most famous sporting traditions of all time.

Which brings us to the topic of traditions and rituals in sport. It's not just about winning or losing, but also about forming a sub-culture and establish a special bond with the fans. Iceland's now-famous traditions is one of the many that are followed across a variety of sports all over the world, five of which are listed below:

Motherwell FC's 'Since I Was Young Chant': Ever since Iceland’s ‘Volcano Clap’ began to make headlines all over the world, people began to speculate about the chant’s origins. An old Viking warcry seemed to be the favourite theory going on, which wouldn’t come as much of a surprise, and would fit perfectly with the Icelandic side’s meteoric rise in the ongoing tournament.

However, far from being Scandinavian in origin, the chant has been traced back to the British Isles. Not from Old Trafford or Anfield, but from the fans of Scottish Premiership side Motherwell FC.

In a couple of videos that surfaced online, and obviously went viral, fans are seen and heard performing the rhythmic clap accompanied by the ‘Huh’ chant. Unlike their Icelandic counterparts, who break into a cheer and an applause at the end of their version, the Motherwell fans break into a song ‘Since I Was Young’.

According to reports, Icelandic side Stjarnan visited Motherwell FC’s home venue of Fir Park for their Europa League qualifying campaign. It was here that they were first introduced to the chant, with their fans then carrying the custom back to their country, where it spread to the national team’s fan group before becoming what it is today in the ongoing Euro.

The Haka: Perhaps one of the oldest, and the most well-known traditions in international sport, the 'Haka' is an expression of the identity and the energy of the Maori race in New Zealand. The Haka — the term of which comprises of several dance forms — was primarily used to intimidate enemies during war, while some forms were also used as an expression of greeting.

It was in the 19th century that the Haka eventually found its way into sport, with its association with New Zealand rugby dating back to an 1888 tour by the Joseph Warbrick-led 'New Zealand natives'.  While several New Zealand sporting teams have adopted the dance as a custom, whether before or after the game, no team is as closely associated with the art as the New Zealand senior men's rugby team, or the All Blacks, who are known to perform two variants of the dance (Ka Mate and Kapa o Pango) before every match.

With the intimidating expressions and cries, it is symbolic of the All Blacks team spirit. While the responses to the Haka could be various — the Welsh team once chose to do a stare-down with the All Blacks after the latter were done performing their ritual. Love it or hate it, one cannot deny the fact that the current world champions sure know how to start things off in style.

Dortmund's Yellow Wall: "You come out and the place explodes – out of the darkness, into the light." These words uttered by former Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp perhaps best sum up the out-of-the-world experience that the fans at the Sudtribune, or the South Stand at the German club's home turf of Westfalenstadion.

If Dortmund’s home venue boasts of one of the most electrifying atmospheres in the entire world, then the South Stand has a major role to play in its image. What is still considered to be the largest extant terrace for standing spectators greets its players with a thunderous ovations, which serves as a deterrent to the opposition’s morale more often than not.

One of the key aspects of the South Stand that has helped build their reputation to what it is today is their choreography displays, which are spectacular by themselves. It is their immaculate choreography, one of the most famous ones of which was reserved for the farewell of former title-winning manager Jurgen Klopp, that has further cemented their legacy as one of the most legendary fan groups in the world.

When asked about the factor about Borussia Dortmund — players or the coach — that worried him the most, Bayern Munich and Germany star Bastian Schweinsteiger was reported to have replied with the following statement: “It’s the Yellow Wall that scares me the most.”

Under The Southern Cross: Aside from winning virtually every trophy there is to be won (barring the World T20), which perhaps makes them the most successful cricketing team of all time, the Australians are as well-known for their fierce team spirit as they are for their competitiveness and sledging.

While their victory anthem ‘Under The Southern Cross I Stand’ may not be the most melodious of tunes — they insist on it being a song rather than a chant — it has created a lasting legacy for itself in cricketing folklore as a symbol of what team spirit is all about.

The origin of the anthem is said to be former wicketkeeper Rodney Marsh, who is said to have jumped on a dressing table in front of Ian Chappell, and uttered the following lines:

Under the Southern Cross I stand,
A sprig of wattle in my hand,
A native of my native land,
Australia, you f**king beauty.

The exact date of this incident is not quite known — for some it was at the Oval in 1972, while for the others it was Brisbane 1974. However, it took a while for it to shape into the anthem that it is today, with the likes of Allan Border and David Boon taking over as the leader of the chorus.

The tradition always involves a chorus leader, who takes over from a player when the latter has retired, or has become the captain of the team, with off-spinner Nathan Lyon currently leading the procession in Tests.

In the emotionally-charged first Test between Australia and India in Adelaide, the first since the tragic passing away of Phil Hughes, the players gathered around the giant ‘408’ logo on the ground that was meant as a tribute for the fallen batsman and performed one of the most powerful renditions of the song.

Another well-remembered rendition of the song was the one after completed an emphatic 5-0 whitewash of England to regain the urn in the 2013-14 Ashes.

You'll Never Walk Alone: No other song is as closely associated with sport as Gerry and the Pacemakers' cover of the Rodgers and Hammerstein track, which over the years evolved into the terrace anthem that is sung by fans of several clubs today, most famously Liverpool FC and Borussia Dortmund.

The song is said to have gained an audience in football matches during the 1960s at the Anfield, Liverpool's home ground, at the time of which it was customary of the stadium DJs to play tracks by local artists before kick-off.

Both Liverpool and Dortmund fans sing it aloud before home fixtures, as do Scottish club Celtic FC (although their rendition is restricted to European fixtures only). While all three clubs have a certain history and legacy with the song, it is Liverpool that goes a step further, by embracing the lyrics of the song in its badge as well at the gates of the Anfield.

Perhaps the most memorable renditions of the song by fans was the one sung together by Liverpool and Everton fans in the 1989 FA Cup final to commemorate the Hillsborough disaster, as well as the half-time rendition by the travelling Kop during the 2005 UEFA Champions League final that propelled their side from 0-3 to one of the most famous victories of all time.

First Published On : Jul 5, 2016 10:50 IST

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