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Another Cup, Another Song

Once again, it’s time for the Soccer World Cup and this time it’s Mother Russia’s turn to host. It’s pretty amazing how these past four years just flew by, and here we are, ready to shout ‘GOOOL’ (as Latin-American narrators do) following the sweet sounds of a soccer shoe kicking the ball as it swooshes into the net.

As we know, apart from the sporting event itself, there are many other elements to the World Cup including the all-important Official World Cup Song. As the competition evolved, so did its soundtrack. World Cup songs relate to the spirit of the sport, the competition and the host nation. The main theme of a World Cup song is unity, nations coming together for one single event, where almost every continent is represented if they’re associated with FIFA. And as we can infer, the song tends to radically change when sung in one language or another. This is something that tends to happen when a song has several versions in different languages. No matter the language, the spirit of unity remains the same.

Only three times has the World Cup been held in an English-speaking country (England, U.S.A., and South Africa), so, of course, in those cases official songs were written in English. The other times the World Cup has been held, the songs have shared languages, using the host nation’s native language and a version in English as well. Obviously, considering the most recent cups (and by recent I mean if we start counting since 1990), the English version of the song is usually the most popular. All, with the exception of course of one particular song… To date, I still know the lyrics of the first World Cup song I ever heard (being the first World Cup I actually watched), Italy 1990’s Un’estate italiana. Soccer fans around the world coincide that this is probably the best World Cup song ever written, even though it isn’t in English. There hasn’t been any other World Cup song as popular as this one, let alone a song written in the non-English host country’s language.

After Italy 1990, there have been 6 other songs representing the 6 following World Cups, all with versions in the host country’s language and of course in English and Spanish (a language on the rise in terms of popularity). Either way, the English version wins every time, even when Shakira and Ricky Martin sing their Spanish versions. But then again, Shakira and Ricky Martin mainly sing in English these days anyway. This goes to show how dominant English continues to be worldwide, on a political level, in business, technology, sports and the arts; but it also shows how the Spanish language competes in this languages’ arena in its quest for prominence.

We might have to wait until 2026, when Mexico alongside the U.S. and Canada host the World Cup (the first time it will be held by 3 nations at the same time), to hear a new original World Cup song in Spanish. In the meantime, enjoy the competition, cheer for your favorite team and sing along to the song, no matter the language.