Why the Mexican wave is a blight on football
PUBLISHED: 20:00 17 June 2016 | UPDATED: 11:13 18 June 2016
As Euro 2016 ends its first week one of the scourges of football stadia has again reared its ugly head.
I’m not talking about hooliganism as such, though the thuggish behaviour of Russian football fans in attacking English supporters in Marseille and the inadequacies of French policing in tackling it have been a low point.
I’m referring to the Mexican wave; that irritating, childish, arm-waving that spreads like a rash around stadiums whenever an international football fixture takes place.
There are, of course, other irritants at football matches.
One that always irks me, for example, is fans – usually home supporters – leaving before the final whistle has blown.
I can never understand that one and it always begs the question as to why people think they can stand up and hustle their way past other spectators five minutes or so before the game is over.
You wouldn’t do that if you were in the theatre watching a play or at the cinema, you wouldn’t leave half way through the dessert during a meal, so why do it at a big game?
But what I despise more is the Mexican wave, which seems to rear its head and shoulders during international matches and the big soccer tournaments such as the European Championship or the World Cup finals without fail.
As you sit in a stadium, you know it’s on its way long before it sweeps by.
You can hear cheering at distant parts of the ground and then slowly, rhythmically, methodically, this wave of humanity in unison rolls towards you.
It is tiresome, but how often have we felt compelled to rise from our seats and reluctantly hurl both arms above our heads and then sit down and try to re-focus on the match.
For footballers, who are subject to all kinds of abuse from the terraces, it must be a most irritating experience for them during a match.
It is not offensive and is not targeted directly at them as players, but it speaks volumes about their performance and the quality of the game.
So often, the Mexican wave is triggered when a crowd has lost interest in the game before them.
Just where the wave can trace its origins to, or who invented it, is the subject of claim and counter-claim.
One comes from professional cheerleader “Krazy” George Henderson, who says he gave the wave its first mainstream outing in October 1981 at a major league baseball game between the Oakland A’s and the New York Yankees. The other main claimant is Robb Weller, who led the wave at the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium in Seattle in the same month.
Actually, who cares? All we know is that now it is a sad fixture of major tournaments.
It received another significant showing at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics but truly gained momentum – and as a consequence its name – during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
Scientifically, it is described as an example of metachronal rhythm achieved in a packed stadium when successive groups of spectators briefly stand, yell, and raise their arms, creating a moving wave travelling around the stadium.
So far, probably due to some pretty good matches at Euro 2016, the dreaded wave has not been too visible, apart from the occasional flurry.
My dislike of the wave is in the way it serves no other purpose other than to obstruct the view and distract from the match to occupy bored spectators who drag everybody else into their wave game.
Perhaps, for me, that may have been underlined with a recent bad experience, having been personally scarred by the scourge of the Mexican wave.
At an England match not too long ago, the ripple in the distance increased in volume to a crescendo as it neared my position at Wembley Stadium.
The young fan in front of me, carried along by the wave of euphoria, exuberantly rose from his seat and flung his arms skywards as the Mexican spirit engulfed us.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only thing.
He’d forgotten to put down his full carton of lemonade before participating and involuntarily shared its contents with me and a number of other fans in the surrounding rows.
Unlike a number of other items and activities you can outlaw from football matches, you can’t ban the Mexican wave.
But you can be like me... and stage a sit-down protest.