Hashim’s Army has the potential to inspire crowd atmospheres throughout the country.
The Barmy Army weren’t their usual vocal selves throughout the five days at Newlands. There were a lot of members joining the tour for the first time, hoping that the person sitting next to them would take one for the team and start a song, to avoid the risk of looking like a fool themselves.
Most of them were situated in the North Stand, and on day two, they just so happened to be in the block next to a group of 300-plus South Africans, all dressed in cricket whites, sporting white rim hats and fake beards. Hashim’s Army were back, larger and noisier than ever before.
You are, by now, probably aware of the song that reverberated around the ground between the two armies throughout the day. And I apologise, because now it’s going to get stuck in your head.
Hashim, Hashim Hashim, Hashim Hashim, Hashim Hashim Amla! Moeen, Moeen Moeen, Moeen Moeen, Moeen Moeen Ali!
It’s done the rounds on social media, and it was a pleasure to be a part of it. But what many might not realise is it was Hashim’s Army who inspired the Barmy Army to find their voice, and it was the friendly nature of it all that was the most refreshing.
I chatted to the founder of the Barmy Army, Paul Burnham, and he was thrilled with the way Hashim’s Army went about their work.
‘It was the first time in 21 years that an opposition group has managed to do that. We go all the way back to 1995, and back then the South Africans were still harping on about the Boer War and there was inevitably some unfriendly rivalry. But this has been really friendly. I think people realise that the Barmy Army is not about football, it’s about cricket.
‘We didn’t mind, for once, to sit back and not do anything other than listen to Hashim’s Army’s repertoire of songs. It was great that there were some guys out there willing to give us some competition.’
The Barmy Army, by Burnham’s own admission, has become a bit of a ‘Dad’s Army’. What is perhaps even more encouraging then, is that Hashim’s Army was made up of a group in their 20’s and early 30’s, something that Burnham is striving towards for his entourage.
‘It’s become a younger thing to do, and we’re hoping in the future that we can get younger guys coming in, too. It’s a compliment to us that those guys have put in the effort.’
Hashim’s Army is, for the time being, very much a Newlands thing. It was inspired by Western Province Cricket Club and Nadoes, an internal league UCT rugby side. But there are rumours of a contingent heading to the Wanderers for the third Test.
It could be the start of something larger than Newlands. The brass band at St George’s Park has become an iconic focal point from which the Port Elizabeth arena draws its crowds and atmosphere. In terms of getting people out of their living rooms, Kingsmead, Wanderers and Centurion leave much to be desired. Perhaps Hashim’s Army is the nationwide answer.
Much like the Barmy Army, and more recently the 501 Richie Benauds who dressed up for day two of the third Test between Australia and West Indies, Hashim’s Army has given the South African crowds a sense of identity – a concentration of people the spectators can depend on to galvanise the vibe and get the party started. After a few beers, singing and cheering can often be sporadic and out of sync. Not anymore. Organised chaos is the new order of the day.
The Barmy Army’s iconic leader of the pack, Billy the Trumpet, had to miss the first two Tests because of the birth of his child. But he’ll be back for the third Test. The Barmy Army should be spurred on to find their mojo again with his return, something Hashim’s Army were able to do on day two at Newlands, and have the potential to do at all international matches in South Africa in the future.