There’s an official anthem to this Six Nations tournament. The fans, however, have their own songs to singby David Goldblatt / February 23, 2011 / Leave a comment
Whichever team wins the Six Nations, the Welsh fans will sing the best and the loudest
In the run-up to this year’s Six Nations rugby tournament, there was much discussion of the new scrummaging laws and whether Friday-night games are a good thing or not. But, perhaps disappointingly for the International Rugby Board, there has been almost no mention of its newly commissioned anthem, “Six Together.” According to the press release, it is meant to “encapsulate the sport’s stature and mood through this new sonic identity.”
That much is true, if only because this insipid tune perfectly captures the blandness and aesthetic conservatism that characterises all international sports bureaucracies. UEFA’s sub-“Ode to Joy” theme for the Champions League at least echoes the EU’s choice of anthem and speaks to the coherent, if contested, cultural unit of Europe. But to pretend that the Six Nations is a cultural zone of anything but professional rugby is nonsense. And the fusion of pre-fabricated Euro-dance beats with Italian mandolin, English cathedral choirs and Scottish bagpipes in “Six Together” is predictably awful.
If you’re looking for sonic identity, then listen to the tumultuous singing by the carnivalesque crowds—bearing in mind that the relationship between teams, anthems, nations and nation-states is complex.
France and Italy appear the most straightforward. They are nation-states with their own national rugby teams and anthems, “La Marseillaise” and “Il Canto degli Italiani.” Yet neither of these republican hymns has always represented its nation. “La Marseillaise” fell out of favour under the restored Bourbon monarchy and “Il Canto degli Italiani” was only adopted in 1946 as Umberto II, the last king of Italy, was shown the door.
Rugby’s relationship with the French nation is made more complex by the visibility of its super-diverse football teams. The sport was compromised by its relationship to the Vichy regime, remains overwhelmingly white, and is concentrated in the southwest of the country. It still symbolises la France Profonde, but that is steadily disappearing. As for Italy, it took rugby 50 years to disengage itself from the fascist regime’s embrace of its warrior manliness. Today, in contrast to the Machiavellian viper pits of football and politics, rugby has built its popularity by displaying the kind of sportsmanship and transparency that the Republic lost long ago.
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