06/27/2010 11:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

There Were 10 German Bombers in the Air

Yesterday marked England's exit from the FIFA World Cup tournament. A sad day for England fans, not only in the U.K., but around the globe.

I became a soccer fan when I lived in London and have supported England ever since. More than anything, I loved the sight of grown men singing children's songs about their football team. And there was one song that seemed to pique my interest more than any other.

Yesterday, I went to Nevada Smiths, New York City's uber soccer bar. It was filled with England fans. Some were Englishmen who happen to be in New York, others were non-Brits like me who came to cheer on England.

20 minutes before game time, I heard this song for the first time in years:

There were 10 German bombers in the air
There were 10 German bombers in the air
There were 10 German bombers
10 German bombers
10 German bombers in the air

And the RAF From England shot one down
And the RAF From England shot one down
And the RAF From England.
RAF From England
The RAF From England shot one down

There were 9 German bombers in the air......

And so on.

The song in considered to be quite controversial. During the 2006 World Cup (in Germany), commercials aired requesting English fans to refrain from singing it. They sang anyway:

For some, the song makes light of the lives lost during World War II and trivializes the memory of the Holocaust. For others, it unfairly mocks the contemporary (tolerant) generation of Germans for the sins of their ancestors.

At Nevada Smiths, many fans refused to sing the song, not out of shyness but out of respect. But for me personally, the song is funny. The English sense of irreverence is commendable and worth celebrating. North American sports fans are so dull in comparison to England soccer supporters, and maybe it's the history that makes it so.

The next time the USA plays Russia in a meaningful tournament, it would hilarious if a song caught on that gently ribbed the Russians about the Cold War. But it probably won't happen. Fans will just stick to:

U.S.A! U.S.A!