I should have been doing homework. I was watching sports on a friend’s computer, instead. F.C. Bayern Munich was playing F.C. Barcelona and after each of Bayern’s four goals played the song “Seven Nation Army.” Since its release in 2003 that song has become a global sports anthem. How did that happen?
Well, I’ll tell you.
Picture, if you can, a band of Belgians drinking beer. The year is 2003 and the sport is football (not the one with pads and pigskin and Peyton Manning). The Belgians were in hostile Italian territory to support their own F.C. Brugge against A.C. Milan. Legend has it, the Belgians were boozing up in a local pub, numbing the pain of an expected loss, when The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” came on the jukebox. If you haven’t heard the song or you ain’t got no soul, you should beware its invigorating effects, especially when played on drink-sodden ears. Soon, the Belgians were singing in the streets, beckoning the power of a Jack White guitar riff as they marched into the football stadium. F.C. Brugge pulled off a very unlikely victory, and “Seven Nation Army” followed them home as a lucky charm.
Three years later, Brugge blasted the song while hosting A.S. Roma in a UEFA Cup game. They lost to a triumphant soundtrack. However, “Seven Nation Army” made its way back to Italy where it was adopted as something of a national theme song. Italy went on to win that year’s World Cup and “Seven Nation Army” blared over the ensuing Roman riots. Asked about his song’s sports success, Jack White said, “I am honored that the Italians have adopted this song as their own. Nothing is more beautiful than when people embrace a melody and allow it to enter the pantheon of folk music. As a songwriter, it is something impossible to plan, especially in modern times. I love that most people who are chanting it have no idea where it came from. That’s folk music.”
America reclaimed the song later in 2006. Inspired by the events in Europe, the song started playing in college stadiums around the country. I always knew where “Seven Nation Army” came from. As a matter of fact, it was the first song I ever bought on iTunes. I guess I just didn’t know where it had been.