For the last fifteen years or so, football coverage has increased dramatically. There’s now live coverage of several Premier League games every weekend, European matches live during the weeks and, if you’re a subscriber to pay TV, coverage of matches from an array of leagues across the world – I know I’m not complaining.
Harking back to an era when football wasn’t on our screens as much it seems one thing that stood out was the theme music. Today there’s a lot of rehashed versions of songs that have already been in the charts which is all well and good (think of Kasabian’s Club Foot for Sky Sports alongside the excellent animated Rooneys, Defoes and Drogbas.) However some haven’t really struck a chord – Beautiful Day by U2 for example – remembered now as the signature tune for ITV highlights show ‘The Premiership’ with more adverts than football and Andy Townsend’s Tactics Truck at 7:30 on Saturday nights. *Shudders*
So this week I take you through some of the more memorable football theme tunes, some you’d hear throughout the season, others just for a couple of weeks in the summer during an international tournament. Either way, when you heard them you knew it was time to settle down and watch the beautiful game.
10: ‘Requiem For A Tower Movement II-IV’ – Clint Mansell, Sky Sports News & Soccer Saturday
Ever wondered what that music was when you flicked over to channel 405 for the latest sports news? Well, this is it. Requiem for a Tower Movement II-IV was the signature tune for Sky Sports News and Soccer Saturday before the channel began broadcasting in HD last year. Prior to watching Jeff and the boys muse over Saturday’s football with an accumulator in hand or preparing for a marathon drinking game, you’d hear this intro. OK it’s not strictly used to introduce football matches but it is memorable.
9: Jean Michele-Jarre & Apollo 440 – Rendez-Vous ’98, ITV World Cup Theme 1998
The first World Cup many of us here at OptaJoke can say we had a real interest in and off the back of Euro 96 the feeling surrounding the England team was all positive. The BBC went for a more classical sounding theme for their coverage whilst ITV opted for an energetic europop synth-driven intro from Apollo 440 and Jean Michel-Jarre. A great theme which suited the French World Cup well, sadly when England played exclusively on ITV during this tournament they lost twice – to Romania and Argentina.
8: Sportsnight, BBC 1968-1997
Sportsnight covered a whole host of sports from skiing to boxing – but back in the days when there were a handful of TV channels and very little live football Sportsnight on Wednesday offered highlights of FA Cup Replays and European ties involving our big sides – the sort that nowadays would be broadcast live. The show ran until the late 1990’s when Des Lynam was fronting it and the theme-tune remained throughout.
7: Vusi Mahlasela – When You Come Back, ITV World Cup Theme 2010
Both the BBC and ITV went for intro themes with African influences for the first African World Cup and despite ITV being criticised for their quality of football coverage their theme choice was better than the Beeb’s. When You Come Back by South African singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela was uplifting and when set to classic World Cup moments was a great introduction to their World Cup coverage. They even invited Vusi into the studio to sing the song live, with Adrian Chiles, Andy Townsend and Gareth Southgate gazing on longingly from behind.
6: The Big Match, ITV 1970’s
The Big Match was ITV’s answer to Match of the Day, showing highlights from chosen matches every weekend. Uniquely between the 1960’s and 1970’s each ITV region would have their own highlights programme featuring the teams in their patch – even showing extended highlights of fourth division games alongside top flight ones. If regions didn’t have their own programme or a game was being broadcast live they’d show the Big Match, fronted from London by legendary presenter and commentator Brian Moore.
The show had several great theme tunes throughout it’s run, including this from the late 1960’s, but I’ve gone for one from 1978. Look out for a young Ray Wilkins with a full head of hair and the goalkeeper walking on his hands. Imagine someone like Paul Robinson doing that nowadays.
5: Sky Sports Football Theme 1992-1997
The tune with the lyrics ‘Here we Go’ introduced Sky’s football coverage from 1992 to 1997 back when the broadcaster was still in its early years covering the Premier League. It’s a rousing theme and even makes the prospect of West Ham v Blackburn exciting. Their intros in the modern-day are feats of animation, but it would be great if they went nostalgic and brought this theme back.
4: Football Italia, Channel 4 1990’s
What a theme tune! For many a football fan, weekend editions of Football Italia provided the only opportunity to watch live Italian football (during the 1990’s arguably the best league in the world) with star names like Paolo Maldini, George Weah and the Baggio brothers whom we could only dream of seeing play in England at the time. There was the Saturday Gazetta programme fronted by James Richardson sat in a café with a coffee and newspaper going over the latest transfer rumours, however on Sunday afternoons – with the aroma of roast dinner in the air – this tune signalled the beginning of 90 minutes of live European domestic club football at its best. All together now: “Goooolacccioooo!”
3: Luciano Pavarotti – Nessun Dorma, BBC World Cup Theme 1990
One of the few World Cup themes chosen by a broadcaster which lives long in the memory and is synonymous with the summer of 1990. For the year’s World Cup in Italy the BBC chose a fine piece of music sung by Italian tenor Pavarotti and throughout the tournament became increasingly popular – even getting to Number 2 in the singles charts.
The World Cup had it all – West Germany winning the trophy, Cameroon beating Argentina, England reaching the semi-finals before a heroic defeat and Gazza’s tears. Set that alongside the classic image of Marco Tardelli’s emotional celebration in 1982 and you have an iconic World Cup intro.
2: UEFA Champions League Anthem
Pretty much every football fan on the planet knows this adaptation of Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’ as it has been the theme tune for the Champions League for nearly 20 years. The players walk out to it prior to every game and it is used by television stations across Europe for their opening titles.
The version I’ve chosen is from 1997, purely because it is from the time when only ITV covered Europe’s premier club competition. It reminds you of cold, dark Wednesday nights sat at home watching Manchester United (usually) trying to capture European glory. It’s never quite been the same since Bob Wilson retired.
1: Match of the Day, BBC 1970 – present
A pretty obvious choice maybe, but when thinking of a football theme tune, this springs to mind instantly. Since 1970 it’s been part of football folklore and in an age where we’ve lost great programmes like Grandstand with their iconic themes, it’s good to see Match of the Day still going strong. Even when the theme was changed slightly in the 1990’s, the BBC received so many complaints they reinstated the original.
Composed by Barry Stoller, it’s one of the most easily recognisable theme tunes on British television and has lasted for generations. The best bar none.