Yes, folks, it is once again time for soccer fans to unite for the World Cup. This time, the festivities will be held in Brazil, and I can tell you that there is excitement in my home nation and my heritage nation. In Toronto, we have one of the most multicultural populations on the planet, so there will be tons of folks from all over watching the various matches at home, at the restaurants and even in the cafeterias underneath the skyscraper blocks downtown. Of course, Japan has become a huge soccer-loving country over the past 20 years, and my former soccer-playing student and I mutually hoped that the Blue Samurai can at least get into the Final 8.
Back in 2002, when the World Cup was held jointly by Japan and South Korea, there was a song that was being played all over the place while I was living in Ichikawa. Now, anyone who has lived in Japan for any length of time knows that for any international sporting event that involves the country in question, there has to be an officially sanctioned pop song. Usually, that means some J-Pop singer getting the nod. Well, that time there was no need since Greek composer Vangelis was able to create something so epic that it could only be titled "Anthem".
I remember Vangelis very well since he was the fellow who also created the scores for "Chariots of Fire" and "Blade Runner" back in the early 80s. But not having heard him in 20 years, I was surprised to hear that name once more when it came to the 2002 World Cup. And then "Anthem" started getting its due on the various sports reels in the run-up to the tournament. I was only able to hear the main refrain on TV but was sufficiently interested in the song that I decided to get the CD single. And once I popped the disc into my old Onkyo, I heard something that could have rivaled any of the major movie overtures by John Williams. I barely remember the opening ceremonies for that World Cup but I do remember the playing of "Anthem", and I could only imagine that any of the teams entering the stadium would have been standing even taller walking in to that theme song. Heck, even now, I wonder if "Anthem" should have been the proper theme for the "Thor" movies.
The song was released in March 2002, just a couple of months before the event started. It apparently did quite well in Japan at least, going up as high as No. 5 on Oricon and hitting Platinum in sales.
When I came across the Vangelis single in the music shop, the blue case was sitting right beside an almost identical CD except that it was in orange. At about the same time, Takkyu Ishino （石野卓球）and his outfit, Denki Groove, seemed to have their biggest moment in the mainstream spotlight, and I was picking up some of their techno material through albums and singles. The orange CD was Ishino's own take on "Anthem". So it didn't take much internal persuasion for me to kill two birds with one bill, and get both discs.
What Ishino's version lacked in the majesty of the Vangelis original, it compensated with the sheer fun of watching/playing the game. Screw pomp and circumstance...let's play football! Try keeping that theme in your head as you are warp-speeding to the net to score a GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!
In any case, wherever you are and no matter which team you are rooting for, I hope all of you have a fine time enjoying the next few weeks. And I certainly hope that Brazil pulls off a successful and safe Cup!
Now, just to go down Memory Lane, why not give a listen to Vangelis' "Titles" from "Chariots of Fire" to get those competitive juices even more fired up?