Pop Playground
Euro 2004

booing the opposing side in a sporting event, while classless, has become de rigeur behavior for every fan of the home team. Portugal, currently hosting the 2004 Euro Football Championship, has become home to an entire host of large national contingents from each of the 16 countries represented in the finals. A recent controversy broke out in the opening round matches when the national anthems of countries were met with boos and whistles from the opposing side. I decided to take a look at which anthems are boo-worthy and which demonstrate quality enough to encourage respectful quiet during their performance. On purely musical terms, of course.

Bulgaria (1885)
Written in 1885 by a Bulgarian student, it predictably sounds a tad too Eastern European for my Western tastes, rollicking around in some minor chord mularkey while it struggles to find its chorus. Luckily, once it gets there it’s suitably triumphant. [6]

United Kingdom (1745)

Really short, tuneful and catchy. What more could you want? Well, we could ask for some lyrics that are a tad more descriptive. I mean, for a country full of the greatest poets, it seems a bit slight, aye? I’m on the fence about this one due to overplaying, so I’ll keep it safe rating-wise. [6]

France (1792)

But the lyrics here are, if anything, even worse. Poetic, yes. But rather frightening. The vengeful French hide these desires well within a plodding memorable first section and a rarely heard (to American ears) more striking second half. The shock and awe of hearing this second half is what raises it above many of the rest for me. [8]

Spain (1770)

None of the lyrics are official, which makes it a ripe one for the boo birds in the stands. It’s more jaunty than most of the offerings thus far, but seems quite a bit more bland than them as well. Just not feeling this one, dawg. [4]

Portugal (1890)

You can’t mess with the home country, so this won’t be getting booed by any self-respecting fan during the tournament, but with lyrics like “Your happy land is kissed / By the Ocean that murmurs with love” there should be no need to do so. Powerful, beautiful and short. Essential. [9]

Holland (1572)

Weak. Even though the French pretty obviously stole the melody, they improved upon it considerably. As such, Holland is the seminal band. And France is the more accessible follower. [3]

Germany (1797)

So much controversy surrounding this one, the music barely matters. But, when you get right down to it, Haydn was a strong composer for his time period, if mostly uninspiring. Because of all it’s been through in the past we’ll give it a break. [7]

Italy (1847)

You can’t really take this one seriously, can you? I can’t imagine anyone not booing this one when the Italians step out onto the pitch. Oops. Considering yesterday they won’t be doing that for a while. [4]

Switzerland (1841)

Adapted from a church march, you probably couldn’t find a better way to sum up the stereotype held of the Swiss. It’s dignified, ceremonial and completely unmemorable. [5]

Greece (adopted: 1864)

The actual poem is a stunning 158 stanzas, but luckily it’s only the first stanza that’s played. It starts off strong enough, but soon runs out of ideas. Much like I imagine the rest of the poem does. [5]

Czech Republic (adopted: 1919)

A flowery meditation that hides its epic ambitions in long flowing passages. It’s understated in a way that the Greek anthem can’t hope to match and is something that one could listen to all day. Let this run a while, it’s another grower. [7]

Russia (adopted: 2001)

Or at least the new lyrics to the anthem were adopted (oddly written by the original lyricist of the Soviet anthem!). I have to admit that growing up in a Cold War America, the thought of expressing an amount of admiration for this anthem was banished at birth. But I found myself watching Rocky IV and enjoying Apollo Creed’s American entrance as much as Ivan Drago’s Russian entrance. [7]

Sweden (xxxx)

Possibly the only one that isn’t officially the state’s national anthem? Gotta love those Swedes. As for the song, it’s quick and to the point and ultimately forgettable. But the opponents of the legislation to make it an official anthem probably wouldn’t have it any other way. [5]

Latvia (1873)

It wants desperately to be the English anthem, doesn’t it? It’s a bit longer and has a nicer build-up, but I can’t help finishing the melodic lines with the lyrics “God Save the Queen!” [4]

Croatia (adopted 1990)

It has a bit of a swing to it, but it’s nothing special. Once again, like Bulgaria’s anthem, I find it to be just a bit too Eastern European for my tastes and can’t really fully get into it. [5]

Denmark (1844)

This one walks the line between the plodding nature of the Russian and jauntiness of the Italian quite nicely, making for a smooth ride. It’s the understated version of the British anthem, with all the regality and none of the pomposity. [7]

By: Todd Burns
Published on: 2004-06-23
Comments (3)

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