World Cup Chants: Cheer Them On In Their Language
In the span of more than half a dozen World Cups, I've taken great pleasure in hearing soccer fans intone chants, which become battle hymns and which the fans relish as much as their national anthem.
But in South Africa, above the din of the vuvuzelas, I have heard little of the songs, which were a soundtrack of World Cups before.
As an anthropological exercise, I have recorded a few of the chants I've been hearing for years and which have fascinated me as fans pour as much emotion into the songs.
I believe that as the United States matures as a soccer nation, it will move away from the insipid "USA, USA" chant into more intricate musical territory. It may take a Madison Avenue-style campaign to develop something worth repeating. But impromptu stadium ditties are sometimes the inspiration of a single person, and then popularized into wider use.
Many fan bases -- such as the Dutch -- have adopted versions with the melody of Verdi's Triumphal March of Aida as a soundtrack for their soccer travels. But often, there are particular versions particular to a country. These chants document ancient rivalries or help to whip a stadium crowd into a frothing fever pitch.
The English and Germans, rivals in several wars, curiously share a similar stadium refrain: "England, England" or "Deutschland, Deutschland." However, although on the soccer field the Germans have been more successful of the two, the English also churn out a ditty which tallies their victories head-to-head against the Teutons: "two world wars and one world cup."
The birth of Algeria's soccer hymn, a trilingual chant of "one-two-three....viva l'Algiré" commemorates a 3-2 victory of Algeria over their colonial masters France in the soccer final of the Mediterranean Games of 1975. As the goals added up, the fans in Alger taunted the French. At the time, Algerian president Houari Boumedienne stated that he would cut the TV signal and "La Marsellaise" if France had won the Gold Medal match.
If Brazilians had won against Holland, they'd be chanting in Portuguese, "Sou brasileiro, com muito orgulho, com muito amor...." (I'm Brazilian, with a lot of pride and a lot of love.)
The five-time champions also have another tune which they update as they add World Cup trophies and requires knowledge of Greek: "Tricampeão,Tetracampeão, Pentacampeão"
One of the richest in stadium composers are the Argentines, and many of their club songs have been adopted by other Latin American clubs and countries. But their national team always travels accompanied by "Vamos, vamos, Argentina. Vamos, vamos a ganar. Esta barra quilombera, no te deja, no te deja de alentar." (Let's go Argentina, let's go to win. These rowdy fans, never stop, never stop pushing you on.) But as you hear this tune with shirtless albiceleste fans singing, it also places stadium culture in the popular arena, because in Argentine slang, "quilombo" is a brothel.
Argentines also produced a sobriquet I heard after Claudio Caniggia scored against Brazil in Italia '90 from a Maradona pass, eliminating Brazil from that World Cup. It's racist and obscene, but the rough translation is "[Brazilians] are all black, they're all [sexual deviants], everybody knows Brazil is in mourning." ("Son todos negros, son todos p?!X!, todo el mundo sabe que Brasil está de luto")
To the tune of "Guantanamera" a traditional Cuban song , one often hears Italians sing "Un capitano, c'e solo un capitano" (there's only one captain), with the second mention of the refrain using the captain's name "Un Cannavaro, c'e solo un Cannavaro" for example). Another I have heard often in Italian stadia is a "us-versus-them" differentiator: "Chi non salta e argentino/brasiliano" (he who doesn't jump is Argentine/Brazilian/the enemy) as they hop in the stands.
And sometimes, a song invented in the aftermath of a match sticks and spreads. This one, invented by these Australians in South Africa 2010, will be great ammunition for any future England-USA clash. Referring to the dreadful mistake of England keeper Robert Green, may be a taunt from Americans any time sung to the music of "God Save the Queen."
And it might have the reverb of "Pilsung Korea" from the 2002 World Cup bored into my consciousness with staying power of a pop song.
Here are a few songs:
SPAIN - For a country whose national anthem has no lyrics but has a rich soccer culture, "Que viva España."
PARAGUAY - "Albirro, albirro" ("red-and-white, red-and-white") is a repeating of the nickname of the red-and-white uniform of the Guaraní squad in Spanish.
HOLLAND - "Hup, Holland, Hup." (Go Holland, go.)
URUGUAY - Has a symmetrical chant which refers to the dominant sky blue of their flag and uniform:"Soy celeste, soy celeste. Celeste soy yo" (I am sky blue...sky blue I am.)
FRANCE - "Allez les Bleus." (Go blues, refers to the uniform color of the French national team.)
CHILE: "Vamos. Vamos Chilenos, esta noche, tenemos que ganar." (Let's go Chileans, tonight, we have to win.)
KOREA: "Tae ha minguk" or "Pilsung Korea" ("Victory Korea.")
Keyvan Heydari is a sports writer and broadcast journalist who has covered every World Cup since 1986. Heydari has contributed to NPR, The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald, The Washington Post, L’Equipe, La Gazzetta dello Sport, Paris Match, Univision, ESPN, Gol TV and Telemundo.