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Friday, September 07, 2007

"They'll be singing in the streets of Auchtermuchty tonight"

The Rugby World Cup starts this weekend. I love international rugby. It's the greatest of spectator sports because it's war conducted by other means, characterised by fearless competition and remarkable good humour. Time to ponder the question which national anthem we would trade for the tiresome "God Save The Queen".
It's obviously not a boil-in-a-bag jingle like "Ireland's Call" or "Flower Of Scotland". It can't be an uneasy shotgun marriage like South Africa's "Die Stem/Nkosi Sikelele Africa". Italy's and Argentina's don't stir much either.
Here's my top three in reverse order:
3. The Star-Spangled Banner

It's the tune. Its great quality is there's no slack in it.It comes from an old English drinking song. We get pissed to it. They put their hands over their breasts to it and stare into the middle distance. And the words are magnificently overblown. "In the rockets red glare" could apply to anything from the War Of Independence to Afghanistan.
2. La Marseillaise

I love the idea of a load of American actors dressed as French colonials outsinging another load of American actors dressed up as Nazis in a bar presided over by an American in North Africa. I love the pace of this tune. Its central message, whether in the film or the rugby field, is "you and whose army?"
1. Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

Whenever the camera travels down the line of the Welsh team as they sing this song (usually helped out by a bunch of white haired retired headmasters in blazers) there's always one who is too overcome by emotion to sing. I'm with him - and I don't have a drop of Welsh blood in me.
If Planet Earth was going to have one national anthem to play before its first game against Mars, this is it.