World Cup 2018: The sound of football in Russia
You don’t travel to the World Cup just to watch football. You travel to feel football
Russia: When Argentinian fans flocked to the centre of Moscow on Day 2 of the World Cup, it did not take them long to be crowned showstoppers. Their intensity is incomparable and pride insuppressibly high.
“Vamos Argentina!” was the tune of Moscow for the first two days, a song through which they expressed love for their national team and bragged about coming from a country of both Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona.
Off the pitch, there is a sonic version of the football World Cup in play—and that is what you go to the big event for. You don’t travel to the World Cup just to watch football. You travel to feel football.
Inside the stadiums and host cities, feverish fandom transcends geographical, social and political boundaries. You sing with the Mexicans, dance with the Senegalese, bounce with the Colombians, ‘Ole!’ with Moroccans, and clap with the Icelanders. It doesn’t matter where you come from, you join in.
Sounds bridge cultural, social and language barriers.
After Mexico forward Hirving Lozano’s goal upset Germany, “El Chucky Lozano”—to the tune of The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army—could be heard in almost every game, orchestrated by Mexicans who seemed to be omnipresent. It could be heard after Mexico’s exit, too.
Brazilians arrived unabashed and confident. “Messi Tchau! Messi Tchau!” (Messi Bye! Messi Bye!) was their gift to this World Cup. It was an act of vengeance towards the Argentinian fans, who had dominated Brazil 2014. Others joined in as well: Belgium and Tunisia fans teamed up before their fixture for a few rounds of “Messi Tchau!” to an Argentina shirt.
Wherever Icelanders were spotted, they were asked to initiate the famous Viking Clap. Meanwhile, the Moroccans filled the famous streets around Red Square, the centre of Moscow, and got a few “Sha-la-la-laa Morocco” chants rolling. The Senegalese didn’t stop their typically African beats—recipe for headaches—for even a minute during matches; the team’s result seemed irrelevant to them. “Allez Les Bleus!” (Come On, The Blues!) gathered pace with each French victory, while Ole-Ole-Ola was quite the hit with most Latin American nations—including Peru, who brought one of the biggest contingents to Russia.
Football’s Coming Home has spread like fire. It is a song from 22 years ago when England last hosted any major tournament (Euro 1996), which meant football was being hosted by the game’s inventors. This, though, was largely sung in a jovial and ironic manner before England’s deep run gave it more meaning than anticipated. “England’s going all the way” and “I just don’t want to go to work” are two other popular chants and songs from English fans’ fabled creativity.
Seven Nation Army greets teams onto the pitch followed by the national anthems, which make for stunning sights as fans and players belt out their anthems with pride and vigour. Some, like the Panamanians, who were at their debut World Cup, felt overwhelmed with pride and were teary-eyed during their anthems.
You can’t say much about the variety offered by Russians. “Rus-sia! Rus-sia!” made a frequent appearance in the home team’s matches, but there’s little else to be had. “Igor-Igor-Akinfeev!”
“Rus-sia! Rus-sia!” is also frequently heard in every stadium. At times it smacks of propaganda, but the crowd always joins in, perhaps as a sign of approval for a home nation that has delivered among the best World Cups ever—both on and off the field.