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Breathing life into the game


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Shakira leads the dancers while singing Waka Waka at the Fifa World Cup opening ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2010.
Shakira leads the dancers while singing Waka Waka at the Fifa World Cup opening ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2010.

“Tsa mina mina eh eh...Waka waka eh eh…Tsa mina mina zangalewa…Ana wam ah ah…Zambo eh eh…Zambo eh eh…Tsa mina mina zangalewa …This time for Africa!”

It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand most of the lyrics. Your being a soccer fan or even a sports lover should be enough to make you want to hum the official 2010 FIFA World Cup song.

Waka Waka, between June 10 and 17 of 2010 accumulated daily hits of three million visitors making it an international hit and the most listened to song for weeks to follow. It sold more than four million copies worldwide making it the best and fastest selling World Cup anthem ever. There was also an estimated 500 million hits on the Waka Waka YouTube video, paving its way up in the Top Ten list of the most watched music videos ever.

The song, with an estimated viewership of 3.2 billion people around the world, opens with the winning penalty scoring clip of the Italian Fabio Grosso against France in the 2006 World Cup. Also shown was Italian Roberto Baggio’s famous penalty miss in 1994 that resulted in Italy’s losing the final to Brazil. Other scenes included in the song video have other world greats such as Brazil’s Pele, Ronaldo, Denilson and Dani Alves; Diego Maradonna and Lionel Messi (Argentina); Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal); Zinedine Zidane (France); Rafael Marquez (Mexico); the stylish David Beckham (England); Gerard Pique (Spain) and Carlos Kameni (Cameroon).

The 2010 FIFA World Cup that had an estimated viewership of 3.2 billion people around the world became synonymous with Waka Waka and the absolutely ear-deafening unsynchronised blowing of the vuvuzela, a traditional African horn, being buzzed throughout the 90 minutes of each and every game played in the event.

Game and sports events are a competition of skills and nerves for the players and their management. How to tackle the opposition, strategy, preparation, etc., is central to all those on the field.

However, from a spectator’s point of view, it is a lot more than just that. The entertainment perspective attached to any game is only augmented through song and music made specifically for the purpose.

I clearly remember our school party back in 1992, the year Pakistan won its first and only Cricket World Cup Down Under. Our PT instructor had a new cassette player and there was a tape with the Cricket World Cup theme song Who Rules the World on it. Everyone wanted to listen to it over and over until our poor teacher announced that due to repeated rewinding and playing of the same portion of the cassette the tape had come out and wrinkled while getting the cassette itself stuck in the player!

But whenever they played the song my friends and I would be screaming away its words at the top of our voices, we had so much fun. The music and lyrics had the energy to make us feel like the victorious ‘cornered tigers’ who made the nation proud. Hearing the song even today gives us the same energy, making us euphoric while taking us back to the time when our team under the able leadership of Imran Khan lifted that beautiful Waterford Crystal World Cup.

It was only expected that many Pakistani singers and bands would come up with their versions of patriotic songs urging the national team to play to its full potential while reminding it of its past heroics when the 1996 Cricket World Cup was jointly hosted by Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. Bands like Junoon came up with Jazba-i-Junoon and Phir Aya Aya Yeh World Cup by singer Saleem Javed and Hum Jeetain Ge by Khalid Waheed were some of the hits back then.

The Pakistan team, however, faltered in the infamous quarter-final at Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore, against India when captain Wasim Akram controversially pulled out from the game citing fitness issues just before the match. The high-tension match that resulted in the team’s exit from that World Cup featured infamous instances including that of Aamir Sohail with Prasad and that of Ajay Jadeja plundering Waqar Younis for 40 runs in two overs, both proving to be crucial in the context of the game. The game also proved to be the last international cricket outing for Pakistan’s legendary batsman Javed Miandad. And one by one most of the 1996 songs, if not all, lost their charm, too.

Be it Caribbean music in the West Indies or the Sri Lankan island beats during a game, the IPL trumpet that sends in the current throughout the spectators or Barmy Army, claiming to be the unofficial 12th man of the English team playing their English tunes, the game of cricket is full of song and music.

Another element in sports-infused entertainment, along with song and music, is that of dancing. A recent example of that was Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza taking part as a guest couple in a dancing reality show in India. Similarly, the dancing skills of Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh in some other show were also appreciated.

West Indies cricket team celebrating Gangnam style.
West Indies cricket team celebrating Gangnam style.

Gangnam style, the made-up rap dance, a latest craze of Psy, the South Korean star, and a global hit, is also affecting the players, globally. During the ICC T20 World Cup 2012, West Indian opening batsman Chris Gayle unveiled his dancing skills and performed Gangnam on many occasions, usually after a fall of a wicket. After winning the tournament, the West Indian team lined up and to perform the Gangnam style dance in a synchronised motion. Gayle was quoted saying that he really enjoyed dancing the Gangnam style.

Novak Djokovic teaches Serena Williams the Gangnam moves.
Novak Djokovic teaches Serena Williams the Gangnam moves.

Gangnam, now the most viewed music video ever, was also performed by Novak Djokovic, the Serbian tennis superstar and the world number one, after winning the China Open. He was also seen teaching and dancing the Gangnam moves to American tennis star Serena Williams on court during the Kids Tennis Day at the Australian Open tennis Championship in Melbourne.

While song and dance performed by players are usually for entertainment purposes, there can also be other reasons for it. Haka, a traditional Maori dance from New Zealand, has been performed by the All Blacks New Zealand rugby team for more than a century now at every domestic, national or international match. The controversially intimidating war-cry dance, an interesting thing to watch is really performed to intimidate the opposition even before the game has begun. It has many variations depending upon the local tribes. The most common Haka is Ka Mate. The performance of Haka is categorised as ‘the greatest ritual in sports world’.

All Blacks New Zealand rugby team performing the Haka.
All Blacks New Zealand rugby team performing the Haka.

Cibi, another war dance, was performed for the first time in 1939 by the Fiji National rugby union team. Similarly, dances emulating war drill and mock combats are also performed by other rugby teams. Siva Tau is a Samoan war dance performed before every game just like Kailao is a traditional war-cry of the Tongan national rugby team.

The Samoan rugby team performing the Siva Tau.
The Samoan rugby team performing the Siva Tau.

Cheerleading is one of the various ways in which the spectators are directed by a group of people to get them more involved in the game and to support and cheer for their teams. The cheerleader tends to perform different dances and acrobatic sequences in an organised manner. Cheerleading is, itself, developing into an industry with its presence no longer limited to basketball or rugby but in the shorter formats of cricket, too. No preparation for a T20 match is considered complete without some songs between overs and cheerleaders dancing on each boundary or fall of wicket.

The Delhi Daredevils cheerleaders during the IPL.
The Delhi Daredevils cheerleaders during the IPL.

When compared to other sports, club-level soccer has one of the most loyal fan followings. With its own flag, tradition, ritual, anthem, song and colour, every club and its members tries to appear different and more superior than the other competing clubs. Over the years, many club members would sing different traditional county songs and club anthems during their tours and in the stadium to keep them and their team players motivated to perform at their peak. On the Ball, City, also abbreviated ‘OTBC’ is one of the oldest football songs there is that is still being sung by the supporters of Norwich City FC.

Club soccer songs, mostly, are very specific and have their roots in their county’s history or tradition. Still, there are a few songs used by many clubs, international teams and even for different sports.

One of these songs, Stand Up by the British band Right Said Fred has over the years been played at numerous events and different games in many countries. The song, again, has that energy relating to a mega sports event. It motivates one to pay respect to the players and champions who win and make their fans and followers proud of them.

So music can bring up lots of emotions while bringing back many old memories. It can make you instantly happy, pumped up, or wistful. If you are a sports fan, some of the music that will forever be in your head are the themes to your favourite televised sporting events. Just a few notes of those TV themes and the memories begin to flow.

Comments (8) Closed

Siddik May 19, 2013 08:23pm
What are you trying to portray by this article?
Agha Ata (USA) May 20, 2013 01:20pm
Pictures. :)
Asad May 20, 2013 08:30am
What is this article about? whats the point?
Vivek Raj May 20, 2013 03:02pm
Interesting analysis.
zish May 20, 2013 08:54am
and so?
Fatima Zaidi May 20, 2013 03:34pm
Music and art is the essence of every soul. Sports are not exception. It was a colorful compiling and interesting read. Myself feel high and energized when i listen to Shakira. Agree with the wirters last paragraph. At least i always relate to that. Songs bring back memories of all types associated.
tuaha May 20, 2013 09:10pm
A very fascinating yet true contrasting comparison of sports with all other distinct activities and yes who can forget "The world is coming down, the flags are up". Thumbs up
Goga Nalaik May 20, 2013 04:00pm
Apparently there is no point. But no point is a point itself! Cheers