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Music

The Sound of Football Music

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It is the most popular sport in the world by a few miles. And although not too many know it, it is also one of the most musical. We are talking about football, the Beautiful Game, which reached its apogee as the World Cup kicked off in South Africa. And as the fans pack the stands to watch their favourites attempt to kick their way to glory, you can bet they won't be sitting quietly. No, we are not just talking about the general noise and hubub that accompanies a football match, but of the musical side of the sport.

No sport, perhaps, has as much of a tradition of fans who sing as football does. Yes, almost every sport has its team theme songs and the like (generally rendered by some wellknown artiste), but those are generally restricted to a period prior to or after a match. Football songs are different - they are often sung right through a match in an attempt to raise the spirits of a team or simply as an affirmation of support.

THE CELEBS TRY. . .


That is not to say that football does not have songs sung by celebrities. In fact, some of the most illustrious names in music have at some time or the other been associated with the sport - some numbers have been dedicated to teams while some have even been inspired by individual players (Shearer, Shearer for Alan Shearer and Ryan, We Love You for Ryan Giggs being prime examples). The Scorpions teamed up with the German football team in 1994 for the official German World Cup song, No Pain, No Gain;Ricky Martin gained a worldwide audience for The Cup of Life, the official song of the 1998 World Cup;while Nelly Furtado sang Forca, the official song of the 2008 European Football Championship. Robbie Williams, an ardent football fan himself, not only used football imagery on his Sing When You Are Winning album, but also provided the soundtrack for the EA Football 2000 videogame and has released a new version of England's iconic anthem The Three Lions, just in time for the World Cup. In many cases, songs that did not actually have football in mind when they were first sung have been adapted for the sport - Tina Turner's (Simply) The Best, Queen's We are the Champions, and Gerry and the Pacemakers' You Will Never Walk Alone being prime examples.

And it is not just celebrities of the singing type who have sung for football audiences. Many football players too have tried their hands (and lungs) behind the recording microphone. The most notable was the England World Cup winning team of 1966, which sang Back Home to get its title defence in 1970 off to a good start. The song did well on the charts and before you knew it, a number of players were trying their hands at singing - football players-cum-singers including the likes of Glenn Hoddle, Paul Gascoigne and Chris Waddle.

BUT THE CROWDS RULE. . .


But for all the celebrities who have belted out songs revolving around the sport, football music predominantly remains in the hands of the fans. Most of the singing in the stands is often nothing but banter aimed at rival fans, involving extremely high levels of lyrical improvisation and more than the odd expletive. Manchester United fans, for instance, paid tribute to their strike Ole Gunnar Solksjaer by singing You are my Solksjaer, You are my Solksjaer, You make me happy when I am feeling gray, They wanted Shearer, But he was f** king dearer, So please don't take my Solksjaer away, taking a poke at English striker Alan Shearer, who Manchester United had attempted to get into their team only to find him too expensive even for their expansive pockets. A common refrain heard on the terraces is the taunting chant of You are not singing any more, You are not singing any more targeted at a team which concedes an equaliser, jeering at their silence.

But for every seemingly mindless and tuneless ditty, there are proper songs that are sung immaculately by spectators too. I am Forever Blowing Bubbles, a melancholy, but melodious, song was a hit way back in the 1920s, but is still kept alive by thousands of West Ham fans who break into it every time their team plays a match. And any visitor to a Liverpool match cannot help but be moved when the team's supporters break into an amazingly immaculate rendition of You Will Never Walk Alone, the club's anthem borrowed from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel. And this is not just an English football phenomenon, supporters all over the world - from Europe to Brazil - are known to burst into song at the sight of their teams.

Given the fact that clubs play more often than countries do, it is hardly surprising that there are more songs dedicated to them. You are more likely to encounter a singing crowd in a club match than in one involving countries, although those who have heard French fans belting out the Marsellaise, the Germans chanting Deutschland Uber Alles, or Brazilian fans dancing to Qui Bontio e' during an international match might be tempted to disagree. Small wonder then that the true measure of the greatness of a football song is not in its musical or lyrical quality or even the position it occupies on the pop charts, but its acceptance by those who follow the sport. Yes, every football tournament worth its salt will have its official song and album, but the real songs of the sport will be the ones heard inside the stadium once play commences. And ends.

MEMORABLE FOOTBALL CHANTS


Ooh to be a Gooner | Arsenal You Will Never Walk Alone | Liverpool When the Saints Go Marching In | Southampton I am Forever Blowing Bubbles | West Ham Seven Nation Army | AS Roma Glory Glory Man United | Man United Three Lions | England

2010 WORLD CUP MUSIC GALORE


Like each of its recent predecessors, the 2010 edition of the World Cup also has its official song. Or make that songs. For unlike in the past, where there generally was a single defining number for the tournament, this time there are a host of songs that are being identified with the 2010 World Cup. The most famous of them is perhaps K'naan's Wavin' Flag, which many people mistakenly assume to be the official song of the tournament as it has been aired in most World Cup ads. However, Wavin' Flag is only the anthem for Coca-Cola's World Cup South Africa campaign. The Official 2010 FIFA World Cup Song actually is Waka Waka (This Time for Africa), sung by none other than Shakira, she of the truthful hips. And that's not all. There's an Official 2010 FIFA World Cup Anthem - Sign of a Victoryby R (I Believe I Can Fly) Kelly and the Soweto Spiritual Singers, and even an Official 2010 FIFA World Cup Mascot Song - Game On, by Pitbull, TK Zee and Dario G. This official threesome can be found on the Official 2010 FIFA World Cup album recently released by Epic Records, which has a dozen numbers in all in it. Whatever this World Cup lacks, it definitely won't be official music.


SPORTS NEEDING A SONG


TENNIS:

It has the stars, the courts, the scandals. . . but amazingly, no real music associated with it, apart from the odd number played when players enter the court at some venues

BADMINTON:


It is fast and furious, but alas, it hath no inspiring music. You would have thought the elegance of the Danes and the power of the Chinese would have brought forth some smash hits!

HOCKEY:


Chak de! India is the closest the sport got to getting a soundtrack, but in general you will rarely hear any fan associating a song with India's national game

GOLF:


You would have expected some classy symphonies for this most laid-back and slow moving of sports, but nay, the musical cupboard of this sport is on the bare side

GYMNASTICS:


There is a lot of music, but only when the gymnasts are performing. Think of a song associated with gymnastics and it is a fair chance that your mind will register a blank

SPORTS WITH A SONG


BOXING:

Rare is the boxer who does not march into the ring with music blaring out from speakers in the stadia. And who can forget Rocky and Eye of the Tiger or the memorable Gonna Fly Now?

FORMULA ONE:


There might not be actually too much music during or before the races, but the sport of speed demons has inspired a lot of music. There is even an F1 Rocks series of concerts around F1 venues

BASKETBALL:


John Tesh's Roundball Rock for the NBA was one of sports' most compelling anthems and of late, the NBA has been attracting a number of artistes from genres as diverse as hip-hop and country. Artistes bitten by the NBA bug include the likes of the Rolling Stones, Justin Timberlake and LL Cool J.

NFL:


From CBS' disco-infected version of the Star Wars theme in the '70s to a host of celebrities who have used the SuperBowl to showcase their music, there is a lot of music revolving around the gridiron version of football, with most teams having their own songs and, in some cases, entire albums

ATHLETICS:


There might not be songs for individual athletes when they turn out, but who can forget that it was athletics that inspired one of the most famous soundtracks of all time - Vangelis' Chariots of Fire?

WWE:


There are many who would bristle at the very thought of calling World Wrestling Entertainment a sport, but there is no doubt that the dramatical, musically-driven entries of wrestlers have a following of their own. WWE even has a music label to promote its music, the WWE Music Group. Those looking for loud, aggressive music will love it

CRICKET:


Yes, the Gentleman's Game has more than its fair share of music, although almost all of it (at least the good stuff) seems to come from the calypso-soaked Caribbean. Who can forget Lord Relator singing It was Gavaskar the real master just like a wallway back in the seventies?

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