Why footballers don't sing

'It is safe to say that any player you see singing his national anthem properly is inadequately focused and will have a bad game'
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The Independent Online

Since our last look at the World Cup (7 June), I have had many letters backing up my contention that the World Cup is about more than football – it is also about philosophy, anthropology, psychology, dancing and music. Today, our group of experts will attempt to answer more of your non-footballing queries about the World Cup.

Since our last look at the World Cup (7 June), I have had many letters backing up my contention that the World Cup is about more than football – it is also about philosophy, anthropology, psychology, dancing and music. Today, our group of experts will attempt to answer more of your non-footballing queries about the World Cup.

Why do so few of the players lined up before the matches sing their own national anthems? As the camera pans along the faces of the players, you see the occasional mouth moving half-heartedly while trying to sing the dimly remembered words, but for the most part, the players seem almost unaware that their own patriotic anthem is being played. Why is this?

Dr Otto Hreuz, a musical psychologist, writes: This is because they are, in effect, unaware that the anthem is being played. It is very much the fashion these days to get the player very narrowly focused on the game ahead, to think entirely in terms of what his task is for the next 90 minutes, and any distraction from that is effort wasted. The national anthem is a distraction. It is safe to say that any player you see singing the words properly is inadequately focused and will have a bad game.

Yes, but I couldn't help noticing that when the Irish team came on for their game against, I think, Saudi Arabia, you are absolutely right in saying that most of the Irish players didn't sing the words, but there was one exception – the coach. Mick McCarthy was standing to attention and singing as loud as loud could be. Why do you think that the manager, or coach, or whatever they're called, was the only one who was singing lustily?

Frank Teschemaker, psychologist, writes: Actually, I was watching the game with a friend of mine who has a talent for lip-reading, and he told me that Mick McCarthy wasn't singing the Irish national anthem at all – he was singing last-minute instructions to the team as loud as possible, and only LOOKING as if he were singing the anthem.

Despite his name, of course, Mick McCarthy is not Irish at all, or at least not a resident Irishman, and he has a very English accent. I would be willing to bet that one of the first things he did in his new patriotic post was to dutifully learn the words of the Irish national anthem, thus going one up on all his players.

Oddly enough, it seems to be a very general pattern at these games, to have a coach who is of a different nationality from the team. All the African teams have a European coach. The Japanese coach is French. The English coach is Swedish. The Scottish manager, were he here, would be German. This is a strange enduring human instinct, to buckle down willingly under a foreign leader, all the way from Napoleon Bonaparte to Adolf Hitler.

What do you think this means?

Dr Teschemaker writes: If nothing else, it means that Hitler, whom one might think of as the Austrian-born German team manager, almost certainly knew the German National Anthem off by heart and sang it heartily before each meeting with the enemy.

The Brazilian national anthem is quite cheerful, but it does seem to go on for ages and ages, and they don't even start singing for about half a minute after the music starts. Why is that ?

Dr Ivan Buloff, anthemologist, writes: I believe that the unusual nature of the Brazilian anthem is due to the fact that it was bought second-hand from the D'Oyly Carte Savoy Opera Company. D'Oyly Carte, an extremely astute businessman, was always trying to capitalise on the assets of Gilbert and Sullivan, and the Brazilian anthem started life as a chorus number devised for Act II of Patience, but discarded and never actually used. The words were changed at the time of the purchase, of course. The Brazilians would be unlikely to stand to attention for an anthem that started, "O, Come Ye Pretty Pair of Maidens...".

Well, there you go – a whole World Cup piece, and football never mentioned once. There'll be more of the same tomorrow if you're not careful.

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