English Football Songs – The Best and the Rest

Introducing a series of articles about England World Cup Anthems…some of which were released during Euro years.

Football, isn’t it? Hmm? Small boys, in the park, jumpers for goalposts?

(Christ, I’ve just remembered there’s yet another Fast Show reunion on TV this month.)

England football songs

But yes, football indeed – and this year’s is the one where everyone has to pretend to care because England Are Playing, and you’re an unpatriotic bastard if you happen to want to give it a miss because you don’t like football.

I’m in the unique position of loving Leeds United but hating most other aspects of football. The overpaid players who get treated like movie stars and try to act like them by diving on the field; the mass commercialism of the game that’s helping the rich get richer and the poor get poorer; the never-ending rafts of retiring players who speak such bollocks on television and get away with it because their career grants them the authority (if not the intelligence to string a sentence together that isn’t entirely made up of clichés.) I even hate the amount that the word ‘literally’ gets used when coupled with these daft metaphors. (Read Literally Corner when you’re done here – it’s so funny.)

But there was a time when I was a whole lot less cynical about the national team; when I was just young and impressionable enough to think they could win a World Cup or European Championship. National pride and morale was at an all-time high during the 1990s, and one thing which helped to boost that good feeling was the music which came out around the time of a tournament. Songs by the likes of New Order, Fat Les and, of course, Baddiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds were able to get us all a bit more emotionally invested in the game.

That whole side of things has always fascinated me, and although there hasn’t been an Official World Cup Song approved by the FA for the past two tournaments, it hasn’t stopped artists from releasing their own ode to England Pride.

I’ve had a good listen to a few of the songs released during the 1980s and 90s and picked out a few songs to write about; trying to get a sense of the culture surrounding the game and the music itself, starting later on this week and hopefully continuing through the beach holiday heaven I’ll be dragging myself off to a week today.

Here’s your starter for ten:

 

(Shit, sorry, that was supposed to be a Simply Red song of the same name. Actually, no, you’re welcome.)

Japan Chooses Pikachu for 2014 World Cup mascot

What do you do when you’re 200-1 to win the World Cup and your team doesn’t have the star power capable of putting in an electrifying performance?

If you’re top brass at the Japanese Football Association, the answer is easy: you choose Pikachu.

Pikachu Japan Football World Cup

At the launch event for the EnJin Project – a Japanese custom to foster teamwork by forming circles with your friends for powerful victory – Adidas revealed the new Japan kit which would be worn during the World Cup. The philosophy is simple enough, and pretty reflective of what we come to think (perhaps stereotypically) about any Japanese team – the great emphasis on teamwork. I like it.

But not as much as I like the fact that Japan will be taking ten more Pokemon to the World Cup in Brazil to act as official mascots.

Pokemon mascots Japan World Cup 2014

According to Gamespot, that squad appears to be “Meowth, Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle, Chespin, Froakie, Fennekin, Pancham, Helioptile, and Litleo.” Quite a diverse range there.

And the fact that Pikachu himself appeared at the event wearing the new jersey; that’s a stroke of genius. As the most recognisable of all 67492291238 Pokemon, he’ll obviously be the team captain. Perhaps Ash will take over from 60-year old head coach Alberto Zaccheroni, we’re not sure on this yet. I read that the national team is nicknamed using the surname of its current head coach; do you reckon Zaccheroni Japan is a catchier name than Ketchum Japan?

Pokemon Japan world cup mascots

An artist’s impression of the new-look squad in training. Image submitted by @CaptNorth

The reason I’m into this whole idea the most is that, speaking frankly here, I’m sick and tired of the shenanigans surrounding the English national team every time a major event like this rolls around. There’s no pride to be taken watching a bunch of overpaid thugs diving around, taking the game for granted. People would kill to play for their country and at the moment there’s no danger of any murders happening. The media is also unusually critical of English sides in assuming it’s our birthright to win a trophy we haven’t actually lifted since the 1960s.

It’s the little things like this that give me a lift; seeing the fun being had by teams who, let’s face it, have little chance of making an impact on the world game, but all the same are proud to go out there and do their thing. Japan co-hosted the 2002 World Cup which, while not a nostalgia fest for most football fans the way other finals have been in recent memory, was very well put together by a respectful nation.

So who knows; if this turns out to be ‘super-effective’ for Japan maybe other countries will begin to follow their lead; could we see a red-hatted squat plumber playing upfront for Italy?