The football World Cup does have its educational aspects.
Stop any football-loving lad or lass, as they kick a ball of rags about towards goal posts chalked on a terrace-end wall, and ask them to name five countries in South America and they will chorus as one – “Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay“. If they have really been paying attention they will know that the name Uruguay is claimed to derive from the Guarani for “River of brightly coloured birds” (though I am reliably informed that it is more likely to mean “River full of snails“).
Ask them to sing the national anthem of Uruguay, and I bet they could make a pretty good attempt at the first few verses. Thanks to the extended progress in the competition made by the plucky Uruguayans, this fine specimen of an anthem has at last received the world-wide exposure it has long deserved.
In full, it runs to twelve verses, and, even in the truncated version usually performed, it is – at about five minutes – the world’s longest. It also has the advantage of surprise, in that the various sections appear to be quite unrelated to each other, and – just when you think it’s over – up it starts again.
I’m sure the inspirational qualities of this anthem must have played a large part in Uruguay’s success, and I wonder if there are not lessons to be learned here for the England team. It has often been observed that “God Save the Queen” is a little lacking in vim, and various attempts have been made to replace it with something more rousing and specifically English (Jerusalem, for instance).
But what typically English song can we think of that would be able to compete with the Uruguyan anthem in terms of length, bombast and unpredicatability? Step forward, I suggest, Bohemian Rhapsody. This has many advantages: the players might know some of the words, its great length will play on the pre-match nerves of the opposition, and if Wayne Rooney were to be allocated the loud shouty part at the end it might allow him to let off some steam before the match begins and lessen the likelihood of him nutting the ref.
I think I shall write to the F.A. and suggest it.
And here, for anyone who unaccountably managed to miss out on it, is the Uruguyan anthem (played, in this instance, muy rapido) –