Best-ever national anthems at a football match

Best-ever national anthems at a football match


norman lebrecht

November 18, 2021

This was Northern Ireland vs Italy this week.

Carly Paoli was onside in both goals. She’s an opera singer from Nottinghamshire, with Italian roots.



  • V. Lind says:

    I’d never heard the Italian national anthem before, oddly enough. I’d say it needs an opera singer, but the whole team was singing it enthusiastically.

    But you only provided half the story, NL. “A football match” was, indeed, World Cup qualifying. That nil-nil draw kicked poor old Northern Ireland out.

    Italy of course is on to the next round. I daresay I will hear that anthem again a few times before and during the World Cup next year. But probably not as well sung as that.

  • operacentric says:

    Love the Italian anthem – two melodic halves which sound as if they were crafted by Rossini

  • Devani says:


    Being a big fan of Formula 1, I have heard the Italian Anthem countless times over the decades and it never ceases to make me laugh out loud!

    I think football players are now having ‘National Anthem Singing’ as part of their coaching regime, as they have really progressed in the last few years and now seem to know several of the words…

    Italy were very enthusiastic, but Ireland were very glum, maybe knowing what the night had in store for them. She did her best to raise their spirits.

    • Orchestral Musician says:

      She indeed sang wonderful renditions of both anthems!!
      I do remember many Sunday afternoons during the years 2000-2004, hearing the German and Italian national anthems played back to back many times, after hearing the glorious music of V-10 engines.

  • drummerman says:

    Great to hear! I cringe at how many times the “Star Spangled Banner” is mangled by singers in the USA.

  • Stephen Gould says:

    Yes, well-sung and Miss Paoli is of delightful aspect, but overall most national anthems sound better when you can hear the crowd singing them.

    La Marseillaise – unquestionably the greatest of them all

    Flower of Scotland – (note that the crowd sings the word “think” in the a cappella second verse a semitone lower than in the first verse. AFAIK bagpipes can’t play that lower note.)

    Land of my Fathers – . In the Wales-Belgium match on Tuesday, the crowd were singing this during the game.

  • DG says:

    Those were enjoyable to listen to. My two favorites from a musical perspective are the Marseillaise and the Star-Spangled Banner (although it takes quite a good range to sing the latter properly, hence all the mangled versions you find on YouTube).

    • V. Lind says:

      I’ve always loved the Russian — even learned the words when it was still Soyuz nerushimyy.

      And I rather like the South African hybrid. I’ve been learning it in all four of the languages I do not speak. I find the Xhosa easier than the Afrikaans.

      • Brettermeier says:

        “I’ve always loved the Russian — even learned the words when it was still Soyuz nerushimyy.”

        Same here. (I’m confident that it’s ~nerushimyj and Wikipedia has it wrong, btw. Come to think of it, the Soviets got that wrong, too. 😀 )

        It’s kinda sad that we didn’t adopt the GDR anthem’s music. The West German and current anthem is pretty dull. Not fun. Bureaucratic. Then again, happily singing about crushing our enemies might make some folks abroad uneasy.

        At least we Lower Saxonians have a fun anthem:

        We even learned that one in school (and not the boring national one.)

        (It’s funny that the GDR music mocks the lyrics: “Auferstanden aus Ruinen” -> “Risen from ruins” while the music does the exact opposite.)

        • V.Lind says:

          Don’t know from Wikipedia. I learned it by ear and later in life had a Russian friend do her best to transliterate the lyrics for me from the original Cyrillic script, as I had forgotten some of the words by then.

          I was hearing it all the time on the Olympics when I was a kid — long pre-internet, and probably pre-drug testing. I forget where I first got at the words, but I could read the Cyrillic alphabet when I was young.

          • Brettermeier says:

            “I learned it by ear”

            I always need to see it written. Maybe that’s why I’m really bad at imitating dialects.

            Maybe the rules changed for transliteration since then, but today ый would be yj*. That double yy looks more like whatever the Wookiee’s language** is called than Russian. 😀

            “long pre-internet”

            The dark ages, as it is known today.

            *) There are some strange exceptions (my guess: consistency) *shrug*
            **) I looked it up: Shyriiwook. I love the Internet when I don’t hate it.

          • V.Lind says:

            Goodness. I am not a spring chicken, but I had never thought of myself as emanating from the dark ages…how very chastening.

          • Brettermeier says:

            Haha, I’m very sorry and didn’t mean to offend. I, too, emanate from those dark ages. 😉

    • Sisko24 says:

      The mangled versions of the Star Spangled Banner occur because the singer froze or didn’t know the correct words to begin with. Although no one has ‘topped’ Carl Lewis’s polytonal version:

      It’s a true original.

    • Eric says:

      Lawrence Tibbett sang the Star-Spangled Banner at the inauguration of FDR (don’t know which term), and a wonderful version it is:

  • Gary Freer says:

    From a purely musical perspective, it’s difficult to look past Haydn.

  • Armin Egger says:

    Probably the best version of all these anthems, Verdi’s “Inno delle Nazioni”

  • MacroV says:

    Zero Euros for him NOT to sing seems a much better deal.

  • - says:

    There’s a tacky crudeness to singing national anthems at sporting events–a whiff of games as ersatz war. Hooligans then push the banner even further. In reality, nationalism doesn’t have much to do with sport at all. When will humans get past this way of thinking?

    • Sisko24 says:

      In the U.S., the singing/playing of the national anthem began at baseball games during a real war – World War 2. It just continued ever since then and was expanded into football, basketball, hockey, etc.

  • Lovely singing, though as a monarchist I still regard this as the true national anthem of Italy: