Over the past 15 years, the fabled festival atmosphere has become a defining Euro Hockey League characteristic as club passion and top hockey collide in perfect harmony.
Many come back time and again to savour the world’s best club hockey competition with the aptly named EHL Barmy Army one of the most recognisable fan groups.
A loose collection of friends, mostly hailing from East London Hockey Club, any visitor to an EHL event – or viewer of the livestream – has no doubt spotted their passionate, vocal antics, taking in numerous events across Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Northern Ireland.
Stadium announcer Howard Bentham has hailed the group for being “unfailingly polite and incredibly good-natured, singing their own creations from dawn until dusk, these guys bring the atmosphere wherever they go”.
It is a vibe that has seen them adopted by numerous clubs as much as they have adopted clubs to support.
They sang their way through 2021’s rain-soaked Ranking Cup in Brasschaat, with Felix Denayer and the entire Dragons family welcoming them into the midst and decking them out in all manner of local kit.
Harvestehuder THC last October was a similar story; it ended with team pics with Slavia Prague and a kiss on the head from Francois Goyet for their “Captain” of sorts, Belfast boy Simon Capper.
“Great hockey, unparalleled access and questionable fancy dress – what is not to love!” he told the EHL website of his affair with the competition.
“Where else do you get that personal connection? Hockey is amazing that way – you have these superstar, world class athletes but, after a game, they’re just like us; tired and in need of a beer. For Felix, to seek us out and rip his top off in the middle of the crowd as a thanks for our support; it was very cool, and I’m sure the crowd didn’t mind the abs on show either”
“The whole tournament continues to grow and get better every year and we always look forward to what the next competition will include. It very much is one of the highlights of our year.”
And speaking of highlights they had a number to share from across the years; Herakles’ infamous Yellow Submarine chant in Barcelona, Gigi Oliva’s outrageous lob for Junior FC last summer, Waterloo Ducks’ priceless run of success in Eindhoven in 2019 and most recently, Guillaume Hellin’s father presenting them with a Gantoise club scarf as a thank you for their support of his son.
Other than regular Army member Gray Larkin; Hampstead & Westminster’s lead supporter, their club connections mainly lie outside the EHL competition realm and as such there is always an opening for who they will support next, a staple of their chanting repertoire being “I’m *insert team* till next game” captures their charming fickle nature.
“It could be anything; some of the clubs we have a personal connection with, sometimes it is because clubs have treated us really well in the past like Dragons or HTHC. Or, as is most common, we meet a group of very friendly supporters for a team and just get involved! The main thing is we just like supporting good hockey so if someone does something amazing, we are all about it.”
The Barmy Army are set to be in Amsterdam from game one on April 6 through to April 10, setting up base at the campsite in Amsterdamse Bos.
They are welcoming all comers to join their troupe; just bring good vibes, bad fancy dress and plenty of stamina for some long days of partying.