Can England beat France in the quarter finals? Who cares?
It took the world 12 years to realize that awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was an incredibly bad idea, but since the football actually started on the 20th November, political and social concerns have been widely forgotten in what is turning into a memorable celebration of international sport, in the run-up to Christmas.
Brazil, France and Argentina remain the favourites to lift the the Jules Rimet trophy on the 18th December, but many other teams, including underdogs like Saudi Arabia, Japan and South Korea have covered themselves in glory.
Having seen all 32 nations in action, we do not yet know the eventual winners, but we have heard enough to make a judgement on the best national anthems.
Following the announcement: “Please rise if you’re able”, presumably for those fans who have managed to find an excess of beer, before each match, the two teams’ anthems are played and the teams sing along to their national song, together with their watching fans, with varying degrees of pride and ability.
Some of the songs are instantly recognisable. God Save the King (players can still be forgiven for getting this wrong), is pretty rubbish, La Marseillaise is jaunty, skittish and stirring, whilst projecting a certain French profundity and The Star Spangled Banner remains the daddy of them all. Doesn’t make it good though.
The rest may not be as recognisable, but some are certainly not without their charms. The Swiss national anthem is inoffensive, with what sounds like a few cowbells thrown in.
The national anthem of Uruguay, is Orientales, la Patria o la Tumba, and, in common with many South American anthems, when sung in English, “Easterners, the Fatherland or the Grave”, is a rousing song, evoking their fight for independence.
It became the official anthem in 1833 and is actually the world’s longest, with 105 bars of music, but limited to only the first verse at the World Cup.
The clarinet introduces powerful lyrics including lines that tell of “taming the wrath” of the Spanish monarchy and how independence was won “inch by inch with blind fury”.
The Welsh national anthem, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, (Old Land of my Fathers), was written in 1858, by weaver and poet, Evan James and was composed by his son, James James, a harpist.
It is a hugely inspiring arrangement incredibly popular at Welsh national rugby games, and rang proudly around the stadia of Qatar in Wales’ second appearance at a football World Cup, until the English put an end to their hopes with a 3-0 thrashing in the final group game.
The lyrics honour the landscape of Wales – its “seas that secure a land so pure” and “each gorge and each valley a loveliness guards.” Lovely, passionate and compassionate stuff.
The West African country of Cameron is one of two countries with both English and French as official languages (the other is Canada), and their national anthem is Ô Cameroun berceau de nos ancêtres, (O Cameroon, Cradle of our Forefathers).
When played in its full form, the upbeat “Rallying Song”, as it is commonly known, has verses in both tongues.
The French lyrics used in the piece today were adopted in 1970, after it was decided to remove references to the French and English as barbarians and savages respectively.
Cameroon’s head coach, Rigobert Song, has sung the national anthem a record 157 times and also at four World Cups as a player.
Mexico did not get out of their group, but their bloodthirsty anthem, Mexicanos, al grito la guerrawas (Mexicans, at the cry of war) was sung three times to suitably intimidated opponents.
It was written in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848, and was initially a call for unity in a country in disarray, after losing more than half its territory to the United States and was officially adopted in September, 1854.
“Give no mercy to any who shall try to tarnish the coats of arms of the Fatherland,” and “at the cry of war, assemble the steel and the bridle.”
Morocco beat Spain on penalties to advance to the quarter finals and their song, Al-nashid al-sharif was composed by French military officer, Leo Morgan, in 1956.
Words were later added by the well-known Moroccan author Ali Squalli Houssaini in 1970 when the men’s national football team qualified for the World Cup for the first time.
There are two competing stories for how the lyrics were decided upon.
One claims that King Hassan II – monarch at the time – called a competition to find lyrics for the piece, with Squalli’s version gaining popular and royal approval.
The other says that Hassan II directly ordered Squalli, then already a well-established author, to come up with the words.
While much of the true essence of the song is lost in the English translation, the marching rhythm and crashing cymbals make for a special experience every time this is sung.
Well, those are some of the runners and riders for the best national anthem at the World Cup 2022, but with only seven more matches to go before the champions are presented the trophy, I can’t help feeling that the winning team also have the best national anthem.
The Brazilian anthem was composed by Francisco Manuel da Silva, and presented to the public on 13 April 1831 – a day now known in Brazil as ‘Day of the Brazilian National Anthem.
The lyrics, written by Joaquim Osório Duque-Estrada in 1909, were declared the music’s official text in a 1922 decree by President Epitácio Pessoa.
The anthem has only two verses and only the one is sung at the World Cup.
I am pretty sure that, come the 18th December, the words of the winning team’s national anthem (translated from Portuguese) will be something like:
The placid shores of the Ipiranga heard
The resounding shout of a heroic folk
And the sun of Liberty in shining beams
Shone in the homeland’s sky at that instant.
If the pledge of this equality
We managed to conquer with strong arm,
In thy bosom, O Freedom,
Our chest defies death itself!
Brazil, an intense dream, a vivid ray
Of love and hope descends to earth
If in thy beautiful, smiling and limpid sky
The image of the (Southern) Cross blazes.
Giant by thine own nature,
Thou art beautiful, strong, a fearless colossus,
And thy future mirrors that greatness.
Amongst thousand others
Art thou, Brazil,
O beloved homeland!
Of the sons of this ground
Thou art kind mother,