The Ayatollah (football celebration)

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Cardiff City fans performing "the Ayatollah", 23 April 2011

The Ayatollah is a football celebration used by fans of Welsh football club, Cardiff City.[1][2] Performing the action is sometimes preceded by a chant of "do the Ayatollah".


Performing the Ayatollah is done by having both hands flat pointing towards each other, raised above the head, and repeatedly moving them up and down in a patting motion.[3]


The Ayatollah celebration came into use at the Cardiff City games in 1990. It was originally performed by the singers and fans of a Welsh-language punk group called U Thant. It was first performed by the Cardiff City fans at the Sincil Bank, home of Lincoln City, on 15 September 1990, the day after U Thant had played a gig at Cardiff's Chapter Arts Centre.[4] U Thant's singer had been inspired by footage of attendants at the funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini, which was broadcast live on British TV, doing the movement to express their grief at his death.[5][6][7] [check quotation syntax]

It has been claimed that it was initially used as a sign of despair at the way the team were playing. It quickly became very popular with the fans of the club, and has since been used in terms of celebration and support for the team. Away games at Hereford United and Peterborough United in 1992 helped cement its place in the fans' repertoire.[8]

The start of the Ayatollah has often mistakenly been credited to former chairman Sam Hammam.[9] This is likely due to the national coverage of Hammam performing the celebration pitchside and in front of the visiting Leeds fans, drawing criticism from then-Leeds manager David O'Leary, the Football Association, and a BBC undercover report, following the now infamous 2–1 victory over Leeds United in the third round of the FA Cup in 2002, which saw crowd trouble after the final whistle.[10][11][12][13]


Supporters: Cardiff City[edit]

The Ayatollah is now performed by the supporters of Cardiff City at every match. They, in turn, sing for each stand at their former home ground Ninian Park and current home ground Cardiff City Stadium to "Do the Ayatollah". During matches, players performing well in the game, or players who have just been brought on during the match, are called to "Do the Ayatollah".[14] Arsenal's former Cardiff player, Aaron Ramsey, also celebrated his second goal against Cardiff by doing the Ayatollah in a premier league match in November 2013.[15]

Other people in the ground are also often called on to perform the move, including the team's manager, away fans, former players on opposing sides (although managers of the teams have strongly discouraged it so it is rarely performed), and police officers on duty at the match.

Doing the Ayatollah has also become popular for famous Cardiff fans to do when celebrating. Ex-Wales rugby union team captain Gareth Thomas often performed the Ayatollah after scoring a try,[16][17] swimmer David Davies performed the Ayatollah on the podium while receiving his medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and at the 2008 Olympics, and cricketer Simon Jones also used the celebration after taking the wicket of Simon Katich during the 2005 Ashes series.[18] Mark Webster, winner of the 2008 BDO World Darts Championship, also performed the Ayatollah after winning the title. The Ayatollah has also been used by ice hockey fans of the Cardiff Devils when winning the Play-off Championship in 1999. Big Brother housemate and Cardiff supporter David Vaughan frequently did the Ayatollah after winning tasks within the house in 2010.

Former Cardiff players and footballers who are fans of Cardiff have often performed the Ayatollah at the home grounds of the Bluebirds' bitter rivals Swansea City. Midfielder Gavin Williams, a lifelong Cardiff fan, performed it at Vetch Field after scoring against them for his former club Yeovil Town,[19] and former Cardiff player Christian Roberts performed the Ayatollah when he scored against them at the Liberty Stadium after being verbally abused throughout the match for being a former Cardiff player.[20] Nottingham Forest winger Arron Davies stated that he would love to become the first player to "do the Ayatollah" at Wembley Stadium had he and his team at the time, Yeovil Town, reached the Football League One play-off final.[21] Former player Joe Ledley performed the Ayaltollah whilst celebrating Crystal Palace's late won point at the Liberty on 2 March 2014. Cameron Jerome celebrated his goal in a 1–0 for Norwich away at Cardiff on 4 February 2017.

In song[edit]

The Ayatollah was the focus of two songs written in support of the club prior to them playing in the 2008 FA Cup Final. A group of supporters released a song named "Do The Ayatollah!"[22] and a different song under the same title was written by one of the club's players, Steve Thompson.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cardiff City" Archived 2007-12-13 at the Wayback Machine Football songs & chants Retrieved on 3 January 2008
  2. ^ "Cardiff fans to cheer in Welsh" BBC Retrieved on 3 January 2008
  3. ^ "Fowler signs for City: Image gallery" Retrieved on 3 January 2008
  4. ^ Come On Cymru, Keith Haynes, Sigma Leisure, Oct 1998;ISBN 1-85058-689-6
  5. ^ "Buchanan's head on Aussie chopping block" The Daily Telegraph Retrieved on 3 January 2008
  6. ^ "The origins of the "Ayatollah" BBC Sport Retrieved on 19 April 2009
  7. ^ "A History of Cardiff City FC" Jarrad Owens Retrieved on 4 November 2013
  8. ^ Come On Cymru, Keith Haynes, Sigma Leisure,1998;ISBN 1-85058-689-6
  9. ^ "Wales and doing the Ayatollah"[permanent dead link] Warwick blogs Retrieved on 3 January 2008
  10. ^ "Cardiff row rumbles on" BBC Sport Retrieved on 6 December 2008
  11. ^ "Cardiff supremo rejects mayham claims" The Scotsman Retrieved on 6 December 2008
  12. ^ "Should Cardiff be punished?" BBC Sport Retrieved on 6 December 2008
  13. ^ "FA to deliver verdict on Leeds cup controversy" Retrieved on 6 December 2008
  14. ^ "Fowler do the Ayatollah", Retrieved on 3 January 2008
  15. ^ "Aaron Ramsey: Arsenal midfielder will get even better, says Wenger". BBC Sport. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  16. ^ "Thomas turns gamekeeper" BBC Sport Retrieved on 3 January 2008
  17. ^ "Ric's rap for Gareth" Sunday Mirror Retrieved on 3 January 2008
  18. ^ "Ayatollah – Shia" Archived 2011-10-02 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 3 January 2008
  19. ^ "The Vetch verdict from Glen Donnachie" BBC Retrieved on 3 January 2008
  20. ^ "Roberts unrepentant over "Ayatollah"" Western Mail Retrieved on 3 January 2008,
  21. ^ "Davies hopes Wembley will see Ayatollah" South Wales Echo Retrieved on 3 January 2008
  22. ^ "Do The Ayatollah – music video" Retrieved on 10 May 2008
  23. ^ "City's Thommo adds his voice to 'Do The Ayatollah!'" South Wales Echo Retrieved on 10 May 2008