I had the immense priviledge to be at the Adelaide United vs Liverpool exhibition game held at the Adelaide Oval. While I really enjoyed the game and the atmosphere of Adelaide's premiere sporting venue, what really captured me of the event was the rousing rendition of the Liverpool anthem - 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. Some commentators on social media have critised the Adelaide crowd because there were parts of the piece which were not as audible as others... admitedly the gates opened at 4:30 pm and by the time the song played at 7:15 many a 'rouser' had already had a few drinks and were slurring the opening stanza - however, they all sang as one during the chorus of their team song:
"Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart - And you'll never walk alone, you'll never walk alone...
You'll never walk alone!"
In my time as a sports fan I've heard many a spirited sporting anthem - I was moved at the Rugby World Cup in 2013, when 'Flower of Scotland' was sung by rugged throaty men wearing facepaint and kilts in defiance to their American opponent at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium. Another memory of Brisbane sporting culture is from the 2003 AFL Grand Final, where on my way home from work I took a bus with a particularly proud Brisbane Lions fan who sang Brisbane's anthem - 'The Pride of Brisbane Town' to the tune of the French national anthem; the entire 45 min bus ride home! One of my first memories in Australia is from 1993 and hearing the SBS Broadcast in Spanish of Argentina vs Australia in the World Cup Qualifiers - when the Argentine anthem started, the crowd began to belt - 'Ta... Ta.... Ta, Ta!!' as for international events the Argentine anthem is too long to be sung so they only played the instrumental introduction. But to the Argentinean fans, it did not matter! They shouted those 'Ta, ta, ta's as loudly as they could!
Sporting anthems have a capacity to move fans into a frenzy, and fans can try and out-do each other with their singing and chanting. But what I think moved me most about the Liverpool anthem was the sense of comraderie that it implied... 'With hope in your heart, you'll never walk alone'. This song, which according to Wikipedia is originally from the musical 'Carousel', is sung to the widow of one of the principal characters following his death. It may seem a somber reason for this song, but even in that context, it speaks to the solidarity that we can experience in various times in life. One of my favorite things about this song, is that when it was sung at 'An International Tribute to a Free South Africa', Mandela turned to one of the artists and asked what the song was to the reply '... a football song.'
I hope not all anthems are diminished to simply '...a football song' or '... a rugby song' - imagine that were said about 'Flower of Scotland' or 'La Marseillaise'! But this speaks to the power of song, especially songs that can move a crowd and unite those who are gathered! In our world of cynicism and pragmatism, it's good that we still have somethings that can so unite a people... all be it for 90 mins.