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Why is White Stripes song 'Seven Nation Army' a football anthem?

12:37 PM EDT 4/26/21
Football fans White Stripes
With its instantly recognisable seven-note opening intro, the White Stripes' signature song has long since found a home at football stadiums

If you're at a stadium or watching the game from the television, it's pretty common to hear the White Stripes' classic 'Seven Nation Army' sung by supporters far and wide.

The song has developed a legacy as a popular, shared stadium anthem over the years, not tied to a particular set of fans.

Goal takes a look at how the White Stripes song has been permanently embedded within football culture.

Why is 'Seven Nation Army' a football chant?

The reason why 'Seven Nation Army' has become such a signature stadium song is, in part, due to the catchiness and legacy status of the song itself.

The first seven notes are iconic, instantly recognisable by anyone, rock music fan or not. 'Seven Nation Army' is one of those songs that you immediately try to play when picking guitar or bass for the first time, and its simple yet effective intro - "Doo, doo doo doo doo DOOOOO doo" – makes it the perfect formula for fans to chant.

'Seven Nation Army' is the White Stripes' most successful and trademark song, though it didn't have immediate success. 

It only debuted at no. 76 on the Billboard Hot 100 after its March 2003 release, but its legacy as a football anthem took only six months to catch on.

Belgian team Club Brugge are credited with turning the song into an iconic stadium song, and did so when they traveled to Italy for a Champions League match against AC Milan in 2006.

European nights are unforgettable occasions, and the Belgian fans were powered up on many a drink at a pub before the match, where 'Seven Nation Army' happened to be playing.

Legend has it, then, that after Brugge pulled off an incredible European upset – they beat the Italian giants 1-0 – they sang the iconic riffs of the song as they celebrated their victory on their journey home.

Club Brugge played against Roma three years later in the same competition, with the result going in the Italians' favour. Roma left Belgium with not just a 2-1 win, but the chant that Club Brugge had created during their own European victory against AC Milan.

Roma fans started singing the chant for themselves, which led to the Italian national football team adopting it during their victorious 2006 World Cup success.

Since then, the song has been heard during all the major tournaments, but especially during international competitions – with it being a universal fan anthem.

Reflecting on the song's immense popularity in world football over, White Stripes vocalist and guitarist Jack White said: "I am honored that the Italians have adopted this song as their own. Nothing is more beautiful in music than when people embrace a melody and allow it to enter the pantheon of folk music."

'Seven Nation Army' lyrics

I'm gonna fight 'em off
A seven nation army couldn't hold me back
They're gonna rip it off
Taking their time right behind my back
And I'm talking to myself at night
Because I can't forget
Back and forth through my mind
Behind a cigarette

And the message coming from my eyes
Says "Leave it alone"

Don't want to hear about it
Every single one's got a story to tell
Everyone knows about it
From the Queen of England to the Hounds of Hell
And if I catch it coming back my way
I'm gonna serve it to you
And that ain't what you want to hear
But that's what I'll do

And the feeling coming from my bones
Says "Find a home"

I'm going to Wichita
Far from this opera forevermore
I'm gonna work the straw
Make the sweat drip out of every pore
And I'm bleeding, and I'm bleeding, and I'm bleeding
Right before the Lord
All the words are gonna bleed from me
And I will sing no more

And the stains coming from my blood
Tell me "Go back home"