Soundtracking the World Cup

Tracing the iffy singles and terrace anthems accompanying football's greatest stage through the years

Are you ready? By now the groundwork should have been completed. The wall chart from the Sunday newspaper supplement should be blue tacked to the kitchen wall. All tactical permutations will have been collated, squad numbers learnt off by heart and potential match winners given a once over with a yellow highlighter pen.

With the match between Brazil and Croatia opening the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals, the television remote has its first set of new batteries since South Africa 2010 and the Sky+ planner has been fully programmed to hoover up any coverage that could be missed (and probably will never be watched).

And behind the sofa, the boxes of nibbles and snacks are stacked alongside the 3 for 2 drinks packs. Time to munch. Time to guzzle. And time to stop the dance... That is, of course, a line from one of the stars of 2014. Never mind Vincent Kompany, Adnan Januzaj or Eden Hazard. 29-year-old Paul Van Haver from Brussels has already proven that he can play on the big stage – the drums and the keyboards, that is.

Under the guise of Stromae, his music has been causing a stir all over Europe and his song ‘Ta fête’, which is the official World Cup anthem of the Group H side, has been voted the best song in a competition run by the Guardian newspaper.

On a personal note, I hope that any exposure to this music in the making of the video won’t have a negative impact on the Belgian team’s performance. Rated as fifth favourites to win the football side of things, they deserve to get through their group ahead of Algeria, Russia and South Korea. Please leave Stromae chained to one of the seats on the team bus.

On the recent ITV programme Epic Fails, presenter Angus Deayton made a very good point. ‘One of the things we can really blame on the World Cup is somehow making it acceptable for footballers to sing,’ he said during an hour of mirth that delved into the archives and brought forth some classic gems that are even more embarrassing the second time around.

Has there been anything worse than the 1974 Scotland epic ‘Easy, Easy’?

Yaba daba doo we'll support the boys in blue.
Ring a ding a ding, there goes Willie on the wing
Ring a ding a dong now we know we can't go wrong.

Were these words on the lips of Sandy Jardine, Billy Bremner, Kenny Dalglish and Jimmy Johnstone in West Germany as they stood in the tunnel waiting to face the might of Zaire, Brazil and Yugoslavia? Well, the answer is maybe not.

Just take a look at England’s 1970 rendition of ‘Back Home’. Four years on from winning the Jules Rimet trophy, England captain Bobby Moore seemed up for the challenge of remembering the words as the squad made an appearance on Top of The Pops. Jack Charlton and Gordon Banks, however, looked like they were being forced to read a statement by their unnamed kidnappers.

In the interests of fair play, it is only right that Northern Ireland’s efforts should not go unacknowledged. The fashion for qualifying countries to release World Cup songs wasn’t around for Sweden 1958. In 1982, when Billy Bingham’s boys went to Spain and then to Mexico four years later, we witnessed the vinyl release of ballads that are probably collectors items now.

‘Yer Man’, sung by Dana, includes the words ‘Oh we’re off to Spain, never mind the rain, when Yer Man hits the ball’. Beat that if you can. For the Mexico adventure there were three songs to choose from. ‘Come on Northern Ireland’, ‘Bingham’s Boys’ and ‘Here We Go’ show a team that was in harmony in spite of what was happening on the streets of Belfast and beyond.

Elsewhere, lest we forget, there was Fat Les with ‘Vindaloo’ in 1998 and best of all, the timeless ‘Three Lions’ from David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and the Lightning Seeds. Those of a certain temperament will appreciate the anarchic humour of the 1980s BBC comedy series The Young Ones, which brought fame to a new breed of comedians like Rik Mayall, who passed away suddenly aged 56 a few days before the 2014 tournament started.

Attempts are already underway to re-release his anthem ‘Noble England’ and make it number one before the World Cup finishes. It’s a brilliant interpretation of the famous Shakespearian speech wherein King Henry V implores his troops as they lay siege to the French city of Harfleur.

While ‘Noble England’ didn’t work for Fabio Capello in 2010, it’s hard to imagine Roy Hodgson being able to create the necessary fervour to motivate the England present side through to the ultimate prize. Even so, Mayall’s video is worth watching anytime.

If new football anthems continue to be a requirement when a country qualifies for a major tournament, perhaps one way to avoid public condemnation is to include the public in its creation. That’s what the Republic of Ireland did for the World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea in 2002.

Listeners to Today FM were invited to write the lyrics for 'Here Comes the Good Times', which was recorded by Mick McCarthy’s squad along with Dave Couse and Aslan. And not a yaba daba doo to be heard anywhere.