The World Cup is finally here and, unfortunately, we’ve run out of hyperbolic statements to describe our excitement. Be assured, however, that we’re all showing up to the office armed with vuvuzelas and face paint.
To celebrate the occasion, we selected a number of our favorite songs about football, which turned out to be more difficult than we initially realized. For starters, there are literally hundreds of songs devoted to Argentine legend Diego Maradona and his exploits, especially about the goal scored with a bit of help from Yahweh himself. Plus, Argentine and Brazilian musicians hold a near-monopoly on songs about fútbol.
Our intent was to include as many Latin American nations as possible (this is the WORLD’S game, after all). Thankfully, we were able to select our Top 10 without resorting to penalty kicks.
Mano Negra – “Santa Maradona” [FRA]
There are so many songs about Maradona that Manu Chao even has two: the most recent “La Vida Es Una Tómbola” and this ‘90s über-classic with his former band, Mano Negra—the one that basically got the ball rolling.
My guess is that after seeing a French dude rapping about Maradona in 1994 and scoring such a great international hit, every single musician in Argentina had the same sudden realization, “Hey, Maradona is ours, and I should make a song about him too.” So there you have Claudio Gabis & Charly García in 1994, Attaque 77 in 1995, Los Piojos in 1996, Andrés Calamaro in 1999, Rodrigo in 2000, Las Pastillas del Abuelo in 2008, and the list goes on. How did El Diez return the favor? By doing this offside kick with freaking Pimpinela! (JD)
Jorge Ben Jor – “Ponta de Lança Africano (Umbabarauma)” [BRA]
It’s not surprising that a country whose name is synonymous with football would produce a song of equal stature. In 1976, artist Jorge Ben Jor released África Brasil, which masterfully combined the sounds of Afro-Brazilian music with African-American Pop music of the day.
Ben Jor launched the album with “Ponta de Lança Africano (Umbabarauma),” a song about a fictional African striker named Umbabarauma. “Look how the city got completely empty,” sings Ben, “this beautiful afternoon just to see you play.” It’s as true today about Neymar, Fred & co. as it was in 1976. (AX)
Attaque 77 – “Sola en la Cancha” [ARG]
Songs about fútbol in Argentine rock are so common that at some point, in the mid-‘90s, people started theorizing about it as a sociological phenomenon (“la futbolización del rock”) and some even tried to establish “rock futbolero” as a subgenre. I don’t know exactly which song kick-started this trend but my safest guess is that it was this 1989 punk rock classic about a lonely girl who goes to the stadium every Sunday to see Boca play.
As a side note, the song includes a hilarious adaptation of a popular hooligan chant, which in turn borrowed its melody from a 1985 embarrassing attempt at a “We Are The World”-type song by Argentine Cheeseball All-Stars. So, in a sense, it also pioneered the mash-up. (JD)
El Cuarteto De Nos – “Uruguay 1 Brasil 1” [URU]
It’s a shame that Uruguay’s music scene doesn’t get the same attention its national team does. The country is home to many great artists including El Cuarteto De Nos. The alt. rock group from Montevideo has been cranking out hits since 1980 with no sign of slowing down.
“Uruguay 1 Brasil 1” is, according to vocalist Roberto Musso, based on a true story that uses football as a metaphor. It’s not the usual and sappy “sports-as-life” metaphor either. It’s actually quite funny thanks to a dose of the band’s trademark sense of humor. (AX)
Skank – “E Uma Partida de Futebol” [BRA]
Every Brazilian remembers this one as the mandatory soundtrack to 1998’s FIFA World Cup (a great alternative to the official song by Ricky Martin). Included in Skank’s third album (the same one that had the crossover hit “Garota Nacinal” that made them famous throughout Spanish-speaking Latin America), this song enumerates all the reasons why futebol is Brazil’s national pastime and unofficial religion, and uses torcida (hooligan) chants as interpolations as well. Pitbull and J.Lo should’ve taken notes from this one when trying to come up with this year’s faux-brazilianized World Cup anthem. (JD)
Los Ramblers – “El Rock Del Mundial” [CHL]
This is it, ladies & gents. This is the song that started it all. “El Rock Del Mundial” has the distinct honor of being the first official World Cup anthem.
The tournament arrived to Chile in 1962 and the country sought out the services of Los Ramblers to get the party started. As you’ve probably guessed by the band’s name, this is a rock-n-roll affair of the “chain-smoking-in-leather-jacket-while-playing-a-guitar-solo-and-duckwalking” variety. (AX)
Luciano Supervielle – “Centrojá” [URU]
Who said all soccer-themed songs have to be upbeat? The Argentine-Uruguayan combo Bajofondo has plenty of fútbol references sprinkled all over their repertoire, in the form of song titles (last year’s “Codigo de Barra”), album cover art (Campo’s self-titled debut), and even reiterations of soccer hooligan chants (in “Olvidate”). This piece from Bajofondo’s DJ and keyboard player Luciano Supervielle was included in his first solo album and it samples the audio of a historic 1981 Uruguay-Brazil game as told by the Uruguayan radio announcer whose contagious excitement makes up for the track’s laid-back nature. (JD)
Doctor Krápula – “Gol De Mi Corazón” [COL]
Unlike El Cuarteto De Nos, Colombian ska/rock group Doctor Krápula took the more direct route with the metaphors on “Gol De Mi Corazón.”
Mario Muñoz drops a number of lines about fair play in the streets and in the field, barras bravas at work, and how the national team jersey functions as a second skin. A bit ham-fisted but I’m sure lines such as “The only shot I want to hear is one that makes a packed stadium cheer” takes on a stronger meaning in certain parts of the band’s home country. (AX)
Los Calzones Rotos – “Yo Te Sigo” [ARG]
Argentine soccer culture dictates that every up-beat song that becomes a mainstream radio hit (regardless of genre and original language) has to be turned into a hooligan chant. More than any industry award, platinum record or hits-count on a Youtube video, it’s having a song on rotation in the stadiums what separates, in terms of popularity, underground musicians from the big leagues.
In this sense, Los Autenticos Decadentes are arguably Argentina’s undisputed champions, followed closely by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs—both with multiple hits that became immortal templates for soccer chants. Los Calzones rank a few positions below them, because they didn’t have as many mainstream hits. However, every single one they had during the ‘90s was also massive amongst the barra bravas, so at one point they decided to return the favor by crafting this one song that was explicitly meant to be sung while jumping on the stadium bleachers with minimum lyrics-swapping required. And of course it was a massive hit. (JD)
Barón Rojo – “El Gladiador” [ESP]
What is it about ‘80s metal that makes everything so unnecessarily epic? Spanish hair metal group Barón Rojo give soccer a metal makeover and turns every footballer into a heroic gladiator who fights to the death every Sunday on the pitch.
It’s hella cheesy now but you know this song was the tits back then. Still, that chorus and guitar solo are timeless! (AX)