Sing Sing Sing
Item. The best guide to national anthems at the World Cup anyone can read is Ian King's series, The World Cup of National Anthems at Two Hundred Percent. End item.
It's two years since the last Eurocentric international tournament. It continues to be pointless for me to sing Fratelli d'Italia, since I'm not an Italian and nobody's fratello. Given this, it has been repeatedly convenient that the BBC delivered Nessun dorma into footie fandom during Italia '90. It is easily co-optable, and quite appropriate in moments of ridiculous optimism, which is what the song is all about. Yes! I will marry this cruel inscrutable Chinese princess on the morrow even though she wishes to kill me stone dead! I am secretly epic win even though I don't know how I am going to play this game with any semblance of dynamism down the wings!
But inevitably in the bumpy slide downwards since Berlin, it's been more of a 'Va, pensiero' affair for me. Since I'm not an opera nerd I have problems with this whole culturally appropriative philosemitism thing that the 19th century had going on in Western Europe. Since I also read the papers from time to time, I find it even creepier that this has been appropriated as the national anthem of Padania. But I love this song so surprisingly much that the only thing I can think of when it plays is the workmen at La Scala putting their tools down and listening in amazement when Verdi rehearsed it for the first time. I would do that too. It's my Azzurri song for 2010 - wistful, yearning, frankly kind of out of place in a World Cup final.
Let me tell you, Internet, Europe would have been a much better place if every nation had a Verdi anthem to sing.
The bloodthirstiness of many current non-Verdi anthems can't be helped, but they are still boring for objective audiences like me, to whom they are now mostly useful as ruthless indicators of which footballers were paying attention during school assembly [lucky Spain - all that and a wordless anthem, eh?]. The best I can say of many of them is that I don't have to stand up and sing them myself, as I am enjoined to do in a Mumbai movie theatre. Certainly the best thing about England's is that the rest of us don't have to any more. [#burn!] The best thing about France's is that you can immediately segue into 'LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!' after the opening chords. [We will talk about its revolutionary properties next tournament.] I know I said that during Euro 2008 too, but I am honestly still waiting for the man with the heart to do that to Nicolas Anelka's face. Hey, Domenico Criscito -- you are clearly on to this whole anthem-subversion business. Can you get on it in the event of another Italy-France match, please? Thank you.
Snark aside, there is one anthem I will be singing along with in temporary abeyance of skepticism. I'm sorry to say I know it mainly because I'm a Paul Simon fan. But in spite of the fact that he, incredibly, introduces it on CD as the African national anthem - it's actually the anthem of the African National Congress, and now of South Africa, and also, what is wrong with your geography, Paul Simon? - I'm glad he was able to give the world such a stunning version.
As to the rest of them, I can only give them advice via Mozart. I keep Non più andrai in store for Milan - a little unfairly, perhaps, but I'm not the one who lost a derby to Inter 4-0 - and I will bequeath it now to every team manager who wishes to impress upon their charges the idea of lots of honour and little pay.
Cherubini, alla vittoria.