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The Music of the Euro 2012 Final | The Anthems

A thorough look at the national songs of Italy and Spain

Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 04:50 PM

Before the Euro 2012 final even starts on Sunday, both Italy and Spain will display their national melodies front and center. What exactly will the players be singing (or humming along with) when their anthems are played?

Spain 

Official name: Marcha Real (The Royal March)

Music by: Unknown

Lyrics by: N/A

Date composed: 1761

Date adopted as national anthem: 1770

As played by an orchestra:

As played by Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner:

Fun fact: Along with San Marino, Spain is one of two countries in the world to have a national anthem with no official lyrics. At least, not at the moment. Words accompanied La Marcha Real from the reign of King Alonso XIII through the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco (1886-1978 in total), but Franco’s nationalist lyrics were discarded at the collapse of his regime. The anthem has been purely instrumental ever since, so the most you'll see Spanish players and fans do at the game is hum.

The Spanish government held a contest to put new words to the music in 2008, but the result was widely ridiculed and eventually abandoned. Besides complaints of their banal tone, the lyrics were also accused of being a form of forced conformity to a national identity that some regions (Catalonia and the Basque country) wanted no part of.

In a way, Spain’s struggle with its national anthem’s lyrics reflects the former troubles of their national soccer team. Before winning Euro 2008, Spain was considered to be a perennial underachiever – despite a constant wealth of talent, it hadn't won a major tournament since the 1964 European Championships. The same regional and cultural divides that derailed the country’s lyrical efforts were blamed for their soccer failures as well. How could a nation so divided have a unified, functioning soccer identity?  The past few years have provided the answer: Spain went on to win World Cup 2010 after their Euro 2008 triumph, and will now seek an unprecedented third major tournament victory in a row.

 

Italy 

Official name: Il Canto degli Italiani (The Song of the Italians)  

Music by: Michele Novaro

Lyrics by: Goffredo Mameli

Date composed: 1847 (Music and lyrics)

Date adopted as national anthem: 2005

As played by an orchestra:

As played by Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner:

Fun fact: The music was written in 1847, as the Italian region geared up for their first war of independence. Unlike the Spanish anthem, there are lyrics, and they certainly do reflect the growing sense of Italian patriotism felt at the time they were written. Really, they couldn't be much more straightforward - particularly in the last verse:

"Let us join in a cohort

We are ready to die.

We are ready to die,

Italy has called.

Let us join in a cohort,

We are ready to die.

We are ready to die,

Italy has called, yes!”

A bit dramatic? Yes. But it's fitting, because no team in Euro 2012 has been quite as dramatic as the Italians. Whether it’s Mario Balotelli’s unpredictable behavior (and spectacular goals), upsets over favored opponents (including a draw with Spain in the group stage), or match-fixing controversies at home, Italy certainly isn’t starved for storylines. Is the team “ready to die” for the European Championship? When the Euro 2012 final kicks off, they'll all be saying "yes" in song.

Italy and Spain will play for Europe's top international soccer prize on Sunday afternoon. In this four-part series, Soundcheck intern Alexander Abnos looks at the musical moments you'll be hearing before, during, and after the game.

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