If you’re like me, you’ll be disappointed with some of the songs that pass themselves off as anthems for this year’s World Cup, and no amount of Steven Gerrard Cameos in BTS song videos can change that.
Steeped in nostalgia, I listened to the songs of the World Cup of yesteryear to unearth the less heralded gems that soundtracked football’s cherished creation.
There will be no Wavin’ Flag in this list. Sorry. No Shakira tracks either. And no Love Generation or Carnival of Paris. These songs are too obvious. We take a look at some underrated hits.
El Rock del Mundial – Los Ramblers (Chile, 1962):
Part of the new wave of rock and roll that flooded South America in the 1960s, Los Ramblers produced the best-selling Chilean single of all time at El Rock del Mundial (“the Rock of the Cup of the World”) – they moved more than two million copies.
With all of Elvis Presley’s attitude and a catchy guitar solo, the song might not sound like a typical football song on first listen, but it carried Chile to the semi-finals.
What was a bold and chaotic song for the time encapsulated the topsy-turvy nature of the tournament itself.
In the group stage, Chile met Italy in a match since dubbed the Battle of Santiago. Two players were sent off, punches were thrown and police intervened four times in a match that BBC commentator David Coleman called ‘the most stupid, appalling, disgusting exhibition in football and shameful, perhaps of the history of the game”.
Incidentally, that game’s referee, Ken Aston, then invented yellow and red cards to help clarify when players were booked or sent off.
Tomala, metete, remata! Gooooool, gol from Chile!
World Cup Willie by Lonnie Donergan (England, 1966):
Named after the 1966 World Cup mascot, this loud ditty served as the soundtrack to England’s only World Cup victory to date.
Brimming with banjo and trumpets, World Cup Willie is a shining example of the skiffle genre for which Lonnie Donergan was famous – a variety of folk music originating from the jazz scene.
It’s a fun and catchy track, the kind you can imagine revelers dancing in a pub on, arms tied and all, before breaking into a heap of laughter.
Think George Formby’s cheeky good humor, but a bit more anthemic.
Whether or not he will experience a revival of this tournament remains to be seen, but personally, I couldn’t resist him, that tune reminiscent of a more innocent time.
Willy! Willy! He’s everyone’s favorite for the cup!
El Mundial – Ennio Morricone (Argentina, 1978):
Largely instrumental, El Mundial, composed by legendary film score composer Ennio Morricone, is curiously uplifting.
There are hints of the medieval, the navy, brass bands and even Christmas in this subtle orchestral melody.
Although it wasn’t Morricone’s best work, it was one of the best things to come out of Argentina’s 1978 World Cup.
The tournament was marred by controversy, taking place in a state ruled by a genocidal military junta.
Under dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, around 30,000 left-wing opponents of the regime disappeared or were killed from 1976 to 1983.
As activists demanded a boycott, FIFA turned a blind eye to the events and Videla saw an opportunity to whitewash Argentina’s reputation.
Let’s Meet Now – Voices of Korea/Japan (South Korea/Japan, 2002):
If you want a song that sounds exactly like the turn of the millennium, look no further.
In perhaps the least footballing song of all time, a cast of Japanese and South Korean pop stars have come together to produce this groovy hit.
Let’s Get Together Now was the official local song for the 2002 World Cup, released in Japanese, Korean and a merged version. It’s hard to find lyrics or a translation online.
But there is something that revives the reminiscence it provokes. With its mixture of competing voices, ooohand la la laas – excuse the lackluster description – this takes you back to the climax of The X factor and That’s what I call music!
While Japan exited in the round of 16, South Korea qualified for the semi-finals before a Michael Ballack goal eliminated them against Germany.
I like to think this song might be Ballack’s guilty pleasure.
Featured Image: Hansuan_Fabregas via Pixabay.