7 Brilliant Football Songs You Might Not Have Heard

Screw Three Lions, these seven corkers including Black Grape are the songs you should have on a playlist while Euro 2012 is going on...
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Screw Three Lions, these seven corkers including Black Grape are the songs you should have on a playlist while Euro 2012 is going on...

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Some may say the FA’s decision to bypass the idea of an official England song for the last World Cup may have been a wise one judging by Chris Kamara’s current effort and their less than exemplary back catalogue. But here are seven songs you may have forgotten about or indeed may never have known of that prove that the beautiful game and beautiful music don’t have to be mutually exclusive terms.

James – Goal Goal Goal

Had Ronald Koeman been sent off for his reckless challenge on David Platt in the infamous ‘Do I Not Like That’ World Cup qualifier, James’ ode to the pleasures of being a football fan could have been one of the great official England football songs. However, Graham Taylor’s failure to guide his men to USA ’94 meant this reworking of Laid album track Low Low Low had to settle for the consolation prize of appearing alongside the likes of Gary Glitter on the official World Cup album instead. Featuring stadium chanting, infectious handclaps and incidental crowd noise, Goal Goal Goal may adhere to every rule in the football song cliché handbook, but Tim Booth’s evocative lyrics, familiar bittersweet tones and rousing melodies perfectly captured the mood of the era in a way in which the likes of Echo & The Bunnymen and Embrace could only dream about.

Black Grape – England’s Irie

Unfairly but understandably overshadowed by Baddiel & Skinner’s iconic Three Lions, the second of Keith Allen’s many contributions to the much-maligned genre is almost worthy of joining World In Motion and Vindaloo in the holy trinity of terrace anthems. As you’d expect from a record featuring Shaun Ryder, Joe Strummer and the man behind Fat Les, it’s a pretty shambolic affair, combining squelchy acid-house synths, Britpop riffs and baggy beats with nonsensical lyrics (“my wife’s lactating and I’m spectating”), vocodered chants and sampled commentary. But like the Happy Mondays’ best work, its ramshackle charms are hard to resist.

Adam & Joe – The Footie Song

Recorded for the genius that was The Adam & Joe Show back in the 90s rather than with any specific tournament in mind, The Footie Song is that rare beast – a comedy football song that’s actually funny. Performed by Joe Cornish in a low-key falsetto manner which sounds uncannily similar to Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, the Song Wars duo proudly display their lack of knowledge and enthusiasm for the game with verses that are as deliberately lame (“when I go see Villa, my view is blocked by a concrete pillar”) as its chorus is as laughably banal (“ball, ball, ball, footy, footy, footy”).

Nneka – Viva Africa

Best-known in the UK for her Chase & Status-assisted Top 20 hit, Heartbeat, Nigerian-German soul singer Nneka’s contribution to the 2010 World Cup got lost amongst the plethora of high-profile international stars who lent their name to the tournament, but was arguably the most authentic and the most powerful of them all. Possessing a strong message without ever sounding preachy, Viva Africa’s blend of skittering drum ‘n’ bass, skank reggae, dub and children’s chanting certainly captured the vibrancy of the event more than R. Kelly’s slushy R&B ballad or Pitbull’s AutoTuned cash-in.

Barcelona – Kasey Keller

Despite their name, Barcelona were an alt-pop quartet from Arlington, Virginia who became a minor cult hit towards the tail end of the 90s thanks to their fusion of casio-based 80s new-wave and obsession with old-school computers. However, it’s this unlikely tribute to the former Millwall and Spurs keeper, inspired by his heroic semi-final performance for the USA against Brazil in the 1998 Gold Cup, which remains their finest hour. Taken from their second album, Zero One Infinity, its distinctly lo-fi The Strokes-esque sound is in keeping with its almost polite celebratory approach, which unlike many gung-ho US sports anthems, isn’t afraid to mention defeat as well as victory (“And we don’t blame you for that fiasco/In France in ’98”).

Nelly Furtado – Forca

Originally appearing on the Portuguese-Canadian’s 2003 second album, Folklore, Forca was then selected a year later as the official anthem of Euro 2004, and whilst it’s been virtually forgotten about since her slick R&B reinvention, its curious mix of gypsy folk, tribal rhythms, and slow-building ‘kick-ass’ chant finale was arguably one of the highlights of a lacklustre tournament which also very nearly spurred on her European homeland all the way to victory.

Half Man Half Biscuit – The Referee’s Alphabet

It would virtually be sacrilegious to compile such a list without mentioning possibly the most prolific band when it comes to the art of the football song, Half Man Half Biscuit. The famously satirical Tranmere Rovers fans have become renowned for inspired song titles such as All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit and Dead Men Don’t Need Season Tickets, but it’s this simply strummed birdsong-accompanied ditty from 2002 album, Cammell Laird Social Club, which perhaps best represents their unique take on the game. Possibly the only football song to focus on the referee’s perspective, its brilliantly inventive A-Z of the inner thoughts of the men in black, (“R is for running backwards/ a difficult skill which the pundits never seem to appreciate”) is so ingenious it almost makes you sympathise with Graham Poll.

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