What’s the Story Behind the Champions League Anthem?

In North America, we’re used to hearing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “O Canada” before sporting events. That trend doesn’t continue in the rest of the world, though. In European soccer, for example, national anthems are only heard before international competitions; when two domestic teams meet, there’s no need to evoke the entire country.

That’s not to say there aren’t any anthems at all, though. If you’ve ever watched the UEFA Champions League, you’ve surely heard the weird, choral arrangement that’s sung as soccer’s biggest stars walk onto the pitch. But what’s the story behind the song?

The history of the UEFA Champions League

While it might be hard to imagine European soccer without the Champions League, the competition is a relatively new creation. European teams initially met in the European Champion Clubs’ Cup, which, as laid on UEFA’s website, began in 1955. That tournament featured the champion of each nation’s domestic league; they were drawn into a single knockout tournament, with the survivor claiming continental supremacy. As soccer developed and became more commercial, though, things needed to change.

In 1992, the current Champions League was born. The updated tournament featured a group stage before the knockout rounds, allowing more clubs to participate; smaller nations still only send their champion, but larger countries like England and Spain enter multiple teams in the tournament.

A new name and format wasn’t enough, though. The tournament also needed its own anthem.

Creating the Champions League anthem

Prior to the Champions League’s rebranding, Tony Britten, a graduate of the Royal College of Music was tasked with composing the competition’s anthem. As explained by Goal, he decided to draw upon George Frederic Handel’s Zadok the Priest, which was originally written for the coronation of King George II. It was a fitting inspiration for a competition that crowns Europe’s best soccer team.

“The idea of the Champions League was to make the game beautiful again and the music had to reflect this quality,” Britten explained.

Once the arrangement was taken care of, official lyrics needed to be fleshed out in UEFA’s three official languages: English, French, and German. When everything was said and done, The Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields’ chorus sang over music performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

What are the Champions League Anthem’s lyrics?

Since the song is sung in multiple languages and only heard in stadiums full of raucous supports, most soccer fans don’t actually know the anthem’s official lyrics. You can read the English translation below and, depending on your taste, you’ll either find it inspirational or incredibly weird.

They are the best teams
They are the best teams
The main event
 
The master
The best
The great teams
The champions
 
A big meeting
A great sporting event
The main event

The master
The best
The great teams
The champions
 
They are the best
They are the best
These are the champions
 
The master
The best
The champions

And there you have it. Now, when a Champions League match is about to kick off, you can sing along (or, more likely, ignore the anthem like just about everyone else).

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