The national anthems some people are brought to tears, some people are enthused with pride whilst the cynical find them just a bit twee. But they are what is sung before every international rugby match.
Songs like Flower Scotland, Ireland’s Call, and Hen wlad fy nhadau act as a rallying cry to their respective teams and fans. They have the ability to feed many of the international player’s competitive fire. Today I’m discussing does England need a rallying cry?
God Save the Queen is officially the British national anthem. However at International sports events it is sung only by English teams. It is a respectful and fitting tribute to Queen Elizabeth, however, it’s not a tune to ignite the passions.
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In the song there are few appeals to national pride or passion with the lyrics. As there are in most anthems. For example the “Four proud provinces of Ireland” or “Land of my father” (Translation of Hen wlad fy nhadau).
Jeremy Corbin managed to cause upset and make himself seem rather politically naïve by standing in silence while the anthem was sung at a battle of Britain memorial. It is not my point to examine the Labour leader’s political quirks or say as a senior Politian he should know better, however, it did bring an interesting debate to the fore.
God Save the Queen is sung at sports and national events in England. But it is a British National anthem praising the head of state, some sports men may be atheists or republicans who do not identify with the anthems sentiments. Many remain tight lipped during national anthems at sports events for various reasons, nerves, not knowing the words or disliking the melody it is wrong to force anyone to sing if they do not want to.
Another thought is that any commonwealth country can sing and identify with the anthem God Save the Queen, it’s not specific to England and the English. Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Australia, India or many other countries could use God Save the Queen, even if they currently do not. I recall the defeat of England by Wales in the 2013 six nations, where most of the Welsh fans sang God Save the Queen before belting out Hen wlad fy nhadau at roof shaking volume.
You don’t have to be against the sentiments of God Save the Queen to feel it is not the patriotic cry to boil the blood and fire the spirit. Its tune is mellow and respectful though it could be call dirge like or dull by the cynical.
Times columnist Dominic Lawson told the BBC:
"Neither the words nor the tune are inspirational or uplifting - compare with Rule Britannia at the last night of the Proms and you can hear the difference a good anthem makes," (Lifted from BBC website)
England do have a plethora of anthems that could be used, such as Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory, Rule Britannia or I Vow to Thee my Country. All of which catch more the inspirational and national pride in England the Country, rather than Britain the Kingdom.
Other countries outside of the home nations also have powerful anthems or pre match performances. France and Italy for example have very stirring anthems that can stir the soul.
New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa all do traditional war dances after their anthems which clearly pump up the crowd and the players. These are time honoured traditional dances that are also used at civil and personal ceremonies such as funerals. Former England star and current pundit Matt Dawson has recently attracted criticism for using a mocking parody of the dance for a clothing company advert.
Sir Pita Sharples, former co-leader of the Maori Party, said the send-up was ‘insulting’:
‘The haka is done as a way of honouring the enemy,’ said Sharples. ‘You do it if you’re up for a challenge. By doing the haka as the All Blacks do, it’s recognising the worth of the other side. So if they’re doing something to mock the haka, then that’s pretty shameful.’
However New Zealand legend Jonah Lomu has also recently used the Haka for advertising purposes, although his was a respectful and authentic version unlike Dawson’s mocking parody.
The main point however is that these traditional dances are to issue a challenge and show respect to opposition and are used like national anthems to fire up crowds and players alike.
Ireland when they play at home Sing two anthems the Gaelic national anthem Amhrán na bhFiann (the soldiers song) and the IRFU issued Irelands call this gives respect to the Irish republic and to all of Ireland. In a similar way when Ireland have played tests in Belfast in the past they have sung God Save the Queen and Ireland's call to give to respect Northern Ireland.
I feel England could follow Ireland by continuing to sing God Save the Queen at home games and then following in by a fierier anthem like Jerusalem which they could also use on the road.