UEFA Champions League Anthem
The UEFA Champions League Anthem, officially titled simply as "Champions League", is the official anthem of the UEFA Champions League, written by English composer Tony Britten in 1992, and based on George Frideric Handel's Zadok the Priest. The complete anthem is about three minutes long, and has two short verses and the chorus. The chorus is in UEFA's three official languages: English, French, and German. The climactic moment is set to the exclamations "Die Meister! Die Besten! Les grandes équipes! The champions!"
Official anthem of UEFA Champions League
|Also known as||Champions League|
|Lyrics||Tony Britten, 1992|
|Music||Tony Britten, adapted from George Frideric Handel, 1992|
The UEFA Champions League Anthem
The anthem is played inside the stadium before the start of each UEFA Champions League match, in addition to the beginning and end of television broadcasts of the games. Special vocal versions of the anthem have been performed live at the UEFA Champions League Final. UEFA's official website states, "the anthem is now almost as iconic as the trophy."
In 1991, UEFA instructed its commercial partner Television Event and Media Marketing (TEAM) to develop new ways of branding the European Cup (which would be renamed the UEFA Champions League in 1992). This process resulted in the Champions League's anthem, as well as its "starball" logo and distinctive house colours.
The anthem was written by English composer Tony Britten in 1992, adapted from George Frideric Händel's anthem Zadok the Priest, which is traditionally performed at the coronation of British monarchs. In a 2013 newspaper interview, Britten stated that "I had a commercials agent and they approached me to write something anthemic and because it was just after The Three Tenors at the World Cup in Italy so classical music was all the rage. Hooliganism was a major, major problem and UEFA wanted to take the game into a completely different area altogether. There's a rising string phase which I pinched from Handel and then I wrote my own tune. It has a kind of Handelian feel to it but I like to think it's not a total rip-off." Britten also mentioned that he does not own the rights to the anthem, which are retained by UEFA, but he receives royalties when it is used.
For the recording used in television transmissions of UEFA Champions League matches and events, the piece was performed by London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and sung by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chorus. The chorus is in UEFA's three official languages: English, French, and German.
The majestic music which rises to an impressive major key crescendo signifies the installation of a new head of state. The baroque music of the Zadok anthem associates the Champions League with the monarchies of Ancien Regime Europe. The baroque music also interconnects with the silver house colours, for the aristocratic connotations evoked by the silver are reflected and affirmed in this noble music. It is notable here that the anthem is associated with the (silver) cup itself because, in the introductory sequences, the music reaches its climax just as the footage of the Cup being lifted at the end of the previous year's competition is shown. It is interesting that the anthem is orchestrated so that the most prominent instruments at this climax are horns; they communicate a shining metallic sound which musically reflects the trophy itself. Music and colours merge together as one dense signifier, communicating a concept of silver in both sound and vision.
Fornäs also gives commentary on the lyrics of the anthem, writing:
The words express the strength of the teams and of the sports events: on the one hand "These are the best teams", "The masters", "The biggest teams" and "The Champions", on the other hand "The main event", "A big gathering" and "A big sports event". Together they designate the greatness of the national sports teams that fill UEFA with specific competence, and of the pan-European Champions League that is organised for them by UEFA. The climactic moment is set to the exclamations "Die Meister! Die Besten! Les Grandes Équipes! The Champions!" It is no coincidence that the German words in the hymn include the word "Mannschaften", which is the standard synonym of "teams", belonging to the many words that tend to link sports to a masculine sphere, mirrored by the persistent privileging of male football also in this traditional context.
Ce sont les meilleures équipes
Sie sind die allerbesten Mannschaften
The main event
Les grandes équipes
Une grande réunion
Eine große sportliche Veranstaltung
The main event
Ils sont les meilleurs
Sie sind die Besten
These are the champions
Les grandes équipes
The anthem's chorus is played before each UEFA Champions League game as the two teams are lined up, as well as at the beginning and end of television broadcasts of the matches, and when the winning team lifted the trophy after the final. Special vocal versions have been performed live at the Champions League Final with lyrics in other languages, changing over to the host country's language for the chorus. These versions were performed by Andrea Bocelli (Italian) (Rome 2009, Milan 2016 and Cardiff 2017), Juan Diego Flores (Spanish) (Madrid 2010), All Angels (Wembley 2011), Jonas Kaufmann and David Garrett (Munich 2012), Mariza (Lisbon 2014, unlike the previous final performers, Mariza sang the main lyric of the anthem), and Nina Maria Fischer and Manuel Gomez Ruiz (Berlin 2015). In the 2013 final at Wembley Stadium, the chorus was played twice. In the 2018 and 2019 finals, held in Kiev and Madrid respectively, the instrumental version of the chorus was played, by 2Cellos (2018) and Asturia Girls (2019).
The complete anthem is about three minutes long, and has two short verses and the chorus. In addition to the anthem, there is also entrance music, which contains parts of the anthem itself, which is played as teams enter the field. The anthem has been released commercially in its original version on iTunes and Spotify with the title of Champions League Theme. Also, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chorus can be heard singing the influential piece "Zadok the Priest" on the 2002 album World Soccer Anthems. In 2018, composer Hans Zimmer remixed the anthem with rapper Vince Staples for EA Sports' FIFA video game FIFA 19, with it also featuring in the game's reveal trailer.
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- UEFA Champions League anthem on the UEFA home page