OK, World Cup time and what better to get us in the mood than some videos?

Many (if not the majority) of my readers are not from the UK so first let’s talk about England who are a perennial quarterfinal side. But why dwell on the actual playing prowess when what you need to know is how good the songs are.

So, for all my colonial friends, feast your eyes upon this:

Apart from the glorious 1966 home triumph, Italia 90 (the tournament this song was for) was England’s best performance – and that includes John Barnes rapping. Therefore this:

and this:

but not this:

Sorry, but kudos if you watched the whole thing.

New Order should  have had it all wrapped up, but then England hosted the 1996 Euros and this happened, the iconic England football song:

Of course 1996 saw us knocked out. By Germany. On penalties. Again. But 1998 was a World Cup and spawned this genius remake…

Brilliant, BRILLIANT video. And I don’t think there’s been anything close since then. Till this:

These songs capture some of the deep romance of football and, especially, of the World Cup. Over at Roads & Kingdoms Simon Critchley explains what’s going on. Football is Working Class Ballet:

Football is all about the experience of failure and righteous injustice. It is about hoping to win and learning to accept defeat. But most importantly, it is about some experience of the fragility of belonging: the enigma of place, memory and history.

football is all about an experience of disappointment in the present that is linked to some doubtless illusory memory of greatness and heroic virtue. The odd thing is that it isn’t the disappointment that is so difficult to bear; it’s the endlessly renewed hope with which each new season begins.

The World Cup is a spectacle in the strictly Situationist sense. It is a shiny display of teams, tribes and nations in symbolic, indeed rather atavistic, national combat adorned with multiple layers of commodification, sponsorship and the seemingly infinite commercialization — among the official FIFA sponsors are Coca Cola, Budweiser and McDonalds. The World Cup is an image of our age at its worst and most gaudy. But it is also something more, something bound up with difficult and recalcitrant questions of conflict, memory, history, place, social class, masculinity, violence, national identity, tribe and group.

The World Cup, then, is about ever-shifting floors of memory and the complexity of personal and national identity. But at its best it is about grace. A truly great player, like Pelé, like Johan Cruyff, like Maradona, like Zidane, has grace: an unforced bodily containment and elegance of movement, a kind of discipline where long periods of inactivity can suddenly accelerate and time takes on a different dimension in bursts of controlled power. When someone like Zidane does this alone, the effect is beautiful; when four or five players do this in concert, it is breathtaking (this collective grace has been taken to a new level by the F.C. Barcelona team in the last few years). But grace is also a gift. It is the cultivation of a certain disposition, some call it faith, in the hope that grace will be dispensed.

III: An experience of enchantment

Football is working-class ballet. It’s an experience of enchantment. For an hour and a half, a different order of time unfolds and one submits oneself to it. A football game is a temporal rupture with the routine of the everyday: ecstatic, evanescent and, most importantly, shared. At its best, football is about shifts in the intensity of experience. At times, it’s like Spinoza on maximizing intensities of existence. At other times, it’s more like Beckett’s Godot, where nothing happens twice.

The man’s a poet. I wish I could write like that (or like Doug Wilson, come to think of it).

So here we go. This is why I’ll spend a month of getting up in the middle of the night while at the same time knowing it will almost inevitably not lead to final victory. How many of you will join me to watch glorious stuff like this:

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2 comments on “a little World Cup gee-up and a musical education for foreigners

  1. Those are all the tunes of my football youth. Such great memories linked with all the songs. I was only 10 when Italia ’90 happened, but it is the first world cup that I have some clear memories of watching the games live, particularly the semi against West Germany. Great times, where did it all go wrong?!

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