With the World Cup Finals just around the corner, it will soon be time for us to gear our ears for yet another tournament anthem specially made to encourage and drive Jogi’s Jungs to success. With it being Brazil, my feeling is that we’ll end up getting some bizarre Europoppy – but professionally produced – samba-style concoction, complete with scenes of beaches, smiling faces, Sugarloaf Mountain and Cacau – and maybe a reference to 1954, 1974 or 1990. It is also likely that we’ll be seeing neither hide nor hair of the players themselves, who will feel that that they probably have more important things to do than make fools of themselves in front of a microphone.
Can you really imagine seeing Philipp Lahm or Miroslav Klose trilling like a banshee and dancing around in a brightly-coloured shirt brandishing a Cuíca? Well, neither can I.
This was not always the case, as until 1994 – the reasons will become painfully obvious – players would often be seen singing along and producing some quite memorable – and memorably tragic – moments along the way.
1974: “Fussball ist mein Leben” (Der Nationalmannschaft)
While the 1954 team recorded a song in traditional style, the concept really took off in 1974 for the World Cup on home soil, which saw the team get on the stage to sing Fussball ist unser Leben, “Football is our life”. Well ordered and put together in an immediately recognisably German Schlager style, it was something of an eye-opener to see the likes of “Der Kaiser” Franz Beckenbauer, “Der Bomber” Gerd Müller and the wonderfully hirsute Paul Breitner show the same coordination in front of the microphone as they did on the pitch. Naturally, Breitner – who would later go on to star in a Spaghetti Western – took centre stage.
1978: “Buenos dias Argentina”, (Der Nationalmannschaft mit Udo Jürgens)
With the idea of the squad sing-along catching on, 1978 saw Helmut Schön’s squad team up with popular Pop-Schlager artist Udo Jürgens – who was actually Austrian. Given that the Mannschaft would exit the tournament on the back of an infamous defeat by the Ösis in Córdoba one might have wondered which team Jürgens might have been supporting, but even if he had been cheering on his countrymen on that infamous day he was quickly forgiven by everyone in Germany – returning to front another song in 1990.
Buenos dias Argentina (“Hello, Argentina”), was a more sedate and melodic affair than the triumphant 1974 anthem, with the team keeping in tune with the smooth and silky Austrian crooner. In this footage which was aired after the event, some mischievous soul has seen fit to splice in Hans Krankl’s winning goal, complete with radio commentator Edi Finger’s equally infamous Tooor, Tooor, Tooor, Tooor, Tooor, Tooor! I wer’ narrisch!
1982: “Olé España”, (Der Nationalmannschaft mit Michael Schanze)
The 1982 tournament in Spain was always going to see something clichéd, and this came in the form of the toe-tapping Olé España with Bavarian Schlager singer Michael Schanze taking the lead.
Jupp Derwall’s squad would take to the stage in outfits that made them look like a bunch of golfers, but perhaps the most impressive moment was Schanze playing head tennis with the players while still holding his microphone. I don’t think any of members of the Lightning Seeds, Frank Skinner or David Baddiel could have pulled off that feat in front of a live studio audience. (For those who might not know, these guys were the creators of England’s most famous footballing anthem Three Lions)
1986: “Mexico mi amor”, (Der Nationalmannschaft mit Peter Alexander)
The World Cup in 1986 moved back across the Atlantic to Latin America and a steady, less lively and wonderfully cheesy drone entitled Mexico mi amor (“Mexico my love”), with Franz Beckenbauer’s boys teamed together with crooner Peter Alexander – another Austrian.
As we see the team relaxing at what looks like a Mexican bar in dark blue cardigans, ‘keeper Harald Schumacher takes to the stage with a trumpet while Pierre Littbarski and a slightly perplexed-looking Lothar Matthäus are sat at a table looking like extras from A Fistful of Dollars, complete with ponchos and massive sombreros. In fact, I don’t know what was more disturbing – Matthäus’ blank look or the team’s perfect Persil-Weiß socks.
1990: “Wir sind schon auf den Brenner” (Der Nationalmannschaft mit Udo Jürgens)
The 1990 campaign saw the first official team video, with Udo Jürgens being recalled as the front man for the catchy Wir sind schon auf den Brenner (“We are soon on the Brenner”) – after the route through the Brenner Pass and into Italy.
The video sees Jürgens and the squad in a music studio setting, with perhaps the most memorable scene being the excitable Jürgen Klinsmann doing a crazy impression of Charlie Parker. Littbarksi pops up again he gets to play (or is it play around) with a guitar, while Kalle Riedle shows his skill on the maracas and Klaus Augenthaler keeps in good time with a tambourine.
1994: “Far Away in America” (Der Nationalmannschaft mit The Village People) and “Everybody’s going to the USA” (Der Nationalmannschaft mit 4 Reeves)
From the sublime (relatively speaking) of 1990 came the ridiculous 1994 effort – probably one of the most awful World Cup anthems of all time. After this, no German player would ever want to be associated with this sort of thing ever again – which was quite literally the case, as there were no official team songs for 1998 and 2002.
The 1994 production, Far Away in America, saw Berti Vogts’ reigning world champions share the recording stage with 1970s has-beens The Village People. That’s right – the motley bunch responsible for the camp anthem YMCA. Whoever arranged the whole affair was probably sacked and banished to the nether reaches of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern soon afterwards, and perhaps the only thing missing from this performance was Andreas Möller strutting like a turkey for the cameras.
The video elicited different levels of enthusiasm among the players ranging from an increasingly insane Klinsmann to a seriously earnest Andreas Köpke, though just seeing the squad singing along with a native American and a guy with a handlebar mustache who was not Paul Breitner verged on the disturbing.
If Far Away in America was bad enough, another song was produced for USA 1994 – a truly dreadful production that saw the squad reduced to a bunch of extras in a hip-hop horror show.
Everybody’s going to the USA saw the smart and suited Nationalmannschaft team up with a quartet of rappers called 4 Reeves, with both Thomas Helmer and a rather sleazy-looking Maurizio Gaudino serving up a dose of what sounds like rap. There there is Kalle Riedle looking like a shifty Mafioso in a pair of dark shades. The star of the show however is Matthäus, who makes up for his sombre sombrero performance in 1986 with a performance that looks and sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator.
1998-2002: The Hiatus
The double musical disaster of 1994 – coupled with the team’s embarrassing elimination at the quarter-final stage by a balding Bulgarian – clearly dampened the enthusiasm for cheesy World Cup songs. There was a perfect opportunity to churn out a more genteel chanson for France 1998, but the players – or more-likely the German public – probably didn’t want more of the same old hackneyed rubbish. No song was produced for the 2002 tournament either.
In fact, 1994 proved to be the last time the players themselves would get involved in these Eurovision-style cheese-fests – which was maybe just as well.
2006: “Schwarz und Weiss” (Oliver Pocher) and “54, 74, 90, 2006” (Sportfreunde Stiller)
In 2006 the World Cup returned to Germany and the official song was back – but with more polished production values. The cheesy team group-fests had long gone; instead, we were treated to two memorable tunes that truly resonated with the Sommermärchen of 2006. There was a catchy stadium anthem fronted by comedian Oliver Pocher, and a thumping rock anthem by Munich-based indie ban Sportfreunde Stiller.
Pocher’s Schwarz und Weiss – which remains a popular stadium anthem – saw the comedian on stage accompanied by a collection of pretty back-up singers, with the footage periodically switching away to Pocher’s comedy renditions of a number of individuals including a greedy Michael Ballack, a ridiculously mustachioed Rudi Völler, a terrifyingly accurate pencil-bearded Kevin Kurányi and – perhaps more controversially – Patrick Owomoyela and Gerald Asamoah in “blackface”.
Pocher also reenacted some of those great moments from the past to the accompanying commentary, from Helmut Rahn’s winner in 1954 through to Rudi Völler’s tumble in the box in 1990 and “Elfmeter-Killer” Sergio Goycochea’s distinctive facial expressions.
Sportfreunde Stiller’s 54, 74, 90, 2006 was the purist’s favourite – a well-written song with great lyrics providing a history of Germany’s three World cup wins. Unlike Schwarz und Weiss there were few visual effects in the video, which simply featured the three members of the band as they follow the team through history, illustrated by a series of archive images and simple animations including the infamous Rijkaard-Völler spitting spat.
Also spliced with famous snippets of commentary including Herbert Zimmermann’s emotional outburst in Berne and Andy Brehme’s winning spot-kick in Rome, 54, 74, 90, 2006 provided a nice contrast to Pocher’s toe-tapping stadium anthem.
The song was rehashed not long after the tournament with a few changes and a new title – 54, 74, 90, 2010.
2010: “54, 74, 90, 2010” (Sportfreunde Stiller) and “‘Schland O ‘Schland” (Uwu Lena)
2010 saw the reworked Sportfreunde Stiller song, but the biggest seller was ‘Schland O ‘Schland (playing on the lazy pronunciation of the last syllable of “Deutschland”) by a group of fans from Münster called Uwu Lena – a portmanteau of Uwe Seeler, Eurovision winner Lena Meyer-Landrut and vuvuzela (the loud horn found in South African football grounds).
The tune was an uncomplicated parody of Meyer-Landrut’s Satellite, with writer and lead singer Christian Landgraf doing his own impression of the svelte singer in a black wig and little black dress – complete with her bizarre Cockney/Antipodean pronunciation.
Uwu Lena’s hit was not an official song and was never intended for commercial release – it was essentially a bunch of mates messing around – but it quickly become “the” song for the 2010 tournament.
So, what awaits us next summer? The timeless Schwarz und Weiss will no doubt be recycled again, and we may even see a 54, 74, 90, 2014. Maybe Uwu Lena will come up with something new. What we all don’t want to see however is Mario Götze performing a duet with his hero Justin Bieber. That would be even worse that the Village People.