Bah ba ba ba ba baaaah baaah... As Euro 2012 reaches its knockout stage, the soundtrack to the tournament so far – besides the hum of Dutch indignation – is the booming riff from The White Stripes' 2003 hit "Seven Nation Army", which is played over the stadium PA system after every goal and has been gleefully bellowed along to by supporters of all 16 nations throughout the games.
At Euro 2008, Bellini's "Samba de Janeiro" provided a similar role as Uefa's officially designated post-goal soundblast. But, as in Ukraine/Poland, in Switzerland and Austria, the fans' anthem of choice was Jack White's riff, which had already conjured up quite an unlikely sporting history.
The story of how "Seven Nation Army" conquered the sporting world was told brilliantly in January by Deadspin's Alan Siegel (read it here: deadsp.in/7nation), who recounted that the riff's popularity stemmed from being adopted by Club Brugge fans before a game against AC Milan after they heard it in a bar pre-game and transported it to the San Siro stands.
It was subsequently adopted by the Italians – as well as by a number of European clubs – and became the soundtrack of the Azzurri's march to World Cup glory in 2006. It may well have spread to South Africa, too, had anything been audible above the deathly honk of the vuvuzelas.
Pop music – from "Blue Moon" and "You'll Never Walk Alone" to "Go West" and the recently ubiquitous "Sloop John B" – has a long history of making it to the terraces, but the howling, addictive riff of"Seven Nation Army" seems to have transcended sporting and national boundaries, from Donetsk to Daytona.
As for its progenitor – always one to embrace romanticism of music – he was pleased to see the song take on a "Guantanamera"-style life of its own. Shortly after the Italians celebrated their World Cup victory with a 500,000-person singalong, Jack White said: "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."
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