World Cup Official Anthems: A Look Back at 52 Years of World Cup Music Live

By Stephen M Zorio

They've been called "dull" and "fun" and "generic" and "exciting.
" They've inspired dancing and controversy, parody and general dissent. They are sometimes a source of inspiration and sometimes a cause for consternation.

They are the official anthems of the World Cup. To add a bit of confusion, the anthems are distinct from the official songs of the World Cup (a trend that started in 1998). Nor should they be confused with corporate World Cup songs or the non-official songs or the songs that seem official, but are just about the World Cup.



The uniquely global significance of the World Cup means you end up with a lot of official and unofficial participation. This year's song (not anthem) was selected for the first time 
via an online contest. The songs and anthems in years past were selected by some combination of FIFA and host country officials. But whether by online masses or in small groups, not every song (or anthem) will be a hit.

Aiming for something that appeals to the masses while retaining national pride is no mean feat. Some artists are better at that than others. To keep things simple, we've taken a look back the official anthems for each tournament (with a nod toward official songs of significance). Scroll down to see which ones were loved, which were panned and which ones have largely been forgotten.

1962: 'El Rock Del Mundial' by Los Ramblers

'El Rock Del Mundial' was written to celebrate the 1962 World Cup in Chile and has sold more than 2 million copies since that date. The first anthem in World Cup history is generally considered among the best, if for no other reason than it started the trend. The tournament is notable because a devastating earthquake forced officials to completely rework the event calendar.
by LegadoChileno via YouTube


1966: 'World Cup Willy (Where In This World Are We Going?)' -- Lonnie Donegan

England may have won the 1966 World Cup, but this song is probably not found in many jukeboxes outside of England. The anthem is considered by some to be among the worst in World Cup history. The 'bizarre' lyrics were penned by Britain's most successful musician (before the Beatles). The '66 tournament was also the last to be broadcast in black and white.
by ARFURSEK GEETEE via YouTube


1970: 'Fútbol México 70' -- Roberto do Nascimento

The 1970 World Cup is considered one of the greatest in tournament history. It featured a Brazilian squad that was arguably the best team ever assembled and a goal scoring pace that has since gone unequalled. The song is somewhat less praiseworthy and has been referred to, charitably, as "all over the place."
by jscv28 via YouTube


1974: 'Futbol' -- Maryla Rodowicz

If anything can be said about this song it is that it's definitely about futbol. The word is sung no less than 15 times. However repetitive it might be, the song is often listed among the best tournament anthems. The 1974 World Cup itself marked the debut of the modern FIFA World Cup trophy.
by WIESŁAWA Piekacz via YouTube


1978: 'Anthem' -- Buenos Aires Municipal Symphony

Critics are split on the official anthem for the 1978 World Cup. Some contend the switch to classical music resulted in songs that were too tedious, others call it "a good nod to Argetina." The tournament itself was also a source of controversy as "conspiracy theories surround the game Argentina and Peru played in the second round."
by Classifiche Musicali via YouTube


1982: 'Mundial '82' -- Plàcido Domingo

You can't go wrong with one of The Three Tenors, right? The song reportedly wasn't very popular, but it is generally considered a good representation of Spain circa 1982. The 1982 World Cup saw the expansion of the field from 16 to 24 teams and featured "one of history's most shocking fouls."
by Aleks Chistogan via YouTube


1986: 'Hot, Hot, Hot' -- Arrow

Chances are simply reading the title 'Hot Hot Hot' has started the song playing in your head. The song was a hit right out of the gates and has been covered by artists around the world. It is (somewhat inexplicably) considered both one of the worst World Cup songs ever and one of the best. The 1986 World Cup featured two of the most famous scores in World Cup history, including the infamous 'Hand of God' goal.
by RADIO ANTENNA 2000 via YouTube



1990: 'Un'estate italiana (To Be Number One)' -- Edoardo Bennato and Gianna Nannini

This song featured versions in both English and Italian (the latter of which is the video above.) The video is decidedly early '90s, but the song itself was successful on European charts. The 1990 World Cup was among the more plodding of the tournaments, with both a record low goals-per-game average and a (then) record 16 red cards.
by Marc S. via YouTube


1994: 'Gloryland' -- Daryl Hall and Sounds of Blackness

This hyper patriotic pro-American anthem was not well received, including being called "almost vomit-inducing." Even the compliments seem backhanded. However, a forgettable anthem did not preclude a historic tournament. The 1994 World Cup "was the best attended in history, with average attendance of nearly 69,000." It also featured a number of firsts, including the first indoor game in World Cup history and the only scoreless final in the tournament's history.
by Fernandofmota via YouTube


1998: 'La Cour des Grands (Do You Mind If I Play)' -- Youssou N'Dour & Axelle Red

The official song of the 1998 World Cup, 'La Copa de la Vida (The Cup of Life)' was unquestionably the real musical hit of the tournament. It also overshadowed the official anthem (above). Officials admitted the move in 1998 to add an official song in addition to an official anthem spurred confusion among fans. The 1998 World Cup also gave the host country France its first ever World Cup title.
by racq985 via YouTube


2002: 'Anthem' -- Vangelis

Despite being a song that has well over one million views on YouTube, 'Anthem' is another largely forgotten anthem. This time, however, the official song ('Boom') suffered pretty much the same fate as the anthem. The 2002 World Cup is remembered for being the last to feature the 'golden goal' rule and for being plagued by ticket sales problems.
by Beto Silvestri via YouTube


2006: 'The Time of Our Lives' -- Il Divo featuring Toni Braxton

Bucking the trend of the anthems directly before it, 'The Time of Our Lives' proved to be a hit. It was released as a single on the same day it was performed at the 2006 World Cup opening ceremony. The tournament featured a staggering number of cards, including 345 yellow cards and 28 red cards. 
by IlDivoVEVO via YouTube


2010: 'Sign of a Victory' -- R. Kelly featuring Soweto Spiritual Singers

'Sign of a Victory,' featuring the South African gospel choir Soweto Spiritual Singers, was a minor hit. The tournament's official song, 'Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)' ran laps around it. 'Waka Waka' is the sixth most watched song in YouTube history, with a breathtaking 600,000,000 views. While the 2010 World Cup was a success on the pitch, it was marred by events off it. Reports of crimes against fans, unjust evictions and human rights abuses swirled around the tournament.
by RKellyVEVO via YouTube


2014: Dar um Jeito (We Will Find A Way) -- Carlos Santana featuring Wyclef & Avicii & Alexandre Pires

The world has not had a proper chance to determine what it thinks about this year's official anthem (above), but fans have weighed in on the official song. 'We Are One (Ole Ola)' has been met with a resounding backlash. The collaboration between Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull has been called "a poor, dull, generic pop theme." The 2014 World Cup has been riddled by controversy. It is the most expensive tournament in history and will also feature a number of innovations, including goalline technology.

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