Now that droning vuvuzelas have been officially banned from the World Cup this year, you’ll probably be hearing a lot more of the musical phenomenon that is the football song. (Disclaimer: we’re talking about the World Cup and these two writers grew up in England, so the soccer vs. football argument ends here. It’s football.*)
Every two years, around the time the World Cup and Euro tournaments, football songs waft out of the radio in increasing frequency, comforting reminders of decades of elusive victory. The whole point of a football song to serve as a collective call to arms, a sports national anthem meant to propel a nation into glory. It must — absolutely must — make you believe that winning the World Cup is possible. Songs of the definitive English football anthem canon are terrace-friendly sing-alongs, feature bits of classic commentary, and are full of hope; we won it in 1966 and we can do it again, so the song goes.
Because we spent our formative years in England watching victory slip from our hands time and time again, we’ll be tackling this from an Anglocentric* angle. Although we may not be the best at football, England will always win when it comes to football songs. Fifa’s “official” World Cup song is always predictably terrible, so certain countries will take it upon themselves to craft their own version. Yes, Brazil is the birthplace of Samba — the theme this year, “All In One Rhythm”, is explicitly musical — so this year’s ode to Brazilian dance music from the two people you’re least likely to see at a football match, Pitbull and J.Lo, makes sense. But it couldn’t be further from the lager-doused, chant-friendly England songs we know and love. Of course, there are hundreds and hundreds of football songs, professional and amateur, making their rounds of YouTube, but here’s a crash course before the games begin. EN-GER-LAND!