Our national anthem is not the biggest factor in the generally poor performance of England’s teams in international tournaments. An enduring respect for cherished national traditions of drunken high-jinkery when abroad and an insular conviction that we are better at stuff than we really are provide better explanations. But, in an era when the margins between success and failure at international level are often small, the depressing dirge that is “God Save the Queen” definitely does not help.
The obvious contrast is with the “Le Marseillaise”, which visibly causes the chests of French players to expand and makes them seem to grow an inch or two as its strident tones boom out of even the tinniest tannoy system. “The Star-Spangled Banner” does a similar job for Americans as it shamelessly pushes all of the necessary buttons to propel their already muscular sense of national pride to even greater heights. And imagine how useless Scotland would be without the stirring “Flower of Scotland” to fire them up.... OK, that might be the exception that proves the rule.
Perhaps a few players are deeply troubled by their republican consciences and unmotivated by exhortations to salvage a wealthy old lady they hardly know. But the majority are simply distracted from the task in hand by the unavoidable sense of “is this ever going to end?”
Suggesting the replacement of the ditty that carries her title does not imply a lack of respect for Her Majesty in person. Perhaps a few players are deeply troubled by their republican consciences and unmotivated by exhortations to salvage a wealthy old lady they hardly know. But the majority are simply distracted from the task in hand by the unavoidable sense of “is this ever going to end?” ennui that kicks in about half way through our interminably tedious anthem.
One solution might be the New Zealand option - mimicking the Kiwi’s solution to the dull anthem problem by instituting some sort of exuberant pre-match dance routine. But, barring Peter Crouch gaining an England football recall and discovering previously hidden talents in a range of other sports, it is hard to imagine teams that still have a preponderance of white Englishmen coming up with something that would be sufficiently blood-curdling or non-embarrassing in broad daylight.
The answer then must lie in a change of anthem. And the choice of replacement is obvious – “Waterloo Sunset” by that most English of bands, The Kinks. The song’s rhythm builds up perfectly to an emotional chorus and spine-tingling crescendo. The lyrics invoke a vivid portrait of the country being represented and cannot fail to induce a sense of “doing it for the folks back home” inspiration. Unlike some of the more bombastic anthems mentioned above, the song contains very little about murdering impudent foreigners or the violent overthrow of evil oppressors. Instead it uplifts the spirit by evoking a “dirty old river” and people going out on the town on a Friday night. And this is actually perfect for a country that is largely untroubled by insecurity complexes and quietly proud of its modern day been there, seen it, done it, not as powerful as we once were but still feeling smashing thanks, sense of itself.
So that’s that solved just in time for the Rugby League Four Nations, Olympics and European Football Championships. Hands on hearts and altogether now “…as long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset, I am in paradise, sha, na, naaaa”.
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