One of my favourite things about visiting different Spanish football grounds is getting to hear the club himnos!
Almost every club in Spain has at least one, an anthem specifically written for them, reflecting some aspect of the club’s history, the fanbase, the region they come from. No borrowed showtunes, tv show themes or pop/rock hits here! Although La Liga has its own official anthem, it might as well be AC/DC’s Thunderstruck considering how many teams use it as background music for reading out their teams before matches.
A “Spanish Football Club Himnos” Spotify playlist would defy classification, so many different styles, genres and regional influences are covered, so let’s take a dive into this wonderful, and occasionally weird, world!
Where it all began
“Nace de la historia muy cerca de mar…”Himno del 125° aniversario de RC Recreativo de Huelva
It seems appropriate to begin with Spain’s oldest club, and one very close to my heart, Recreativo Huelva.
Fiercely proud of their position as el abuelo (the grandfather) of Spanish football, Recreativo currently run out to their 125th anniversary himno which was recorded for the 2013/14 season by the flamenco singer Rocío Márquez.
Its lyrics contain evocative mentions of the club’s origins, above all in the line “Tu leyenda será siempre la primera” (your legend is that you will always be the first).
It also contains numerous vocal flourishes which are remarkably difficult for a large number of football fans to recreate when singing along before a game.
Hearing it brings back happy memories of my time living in Huelva, as even though the football wasn’t much to write home about, I loved the atmosphere and the spirit of community among the fans in the Grada 20 Diciembre.
The Big Boys
Barcelona’s “Cant del Barça” was the first one I heard in-person in a stadium. It was also the one I was already most familiar with, probably due to the Camp Nou stadium DJ’s habit of sticking it on the very second the whistle left the referee’s mouth at the end of Champions League matches.
Dating from the club’s 75th anniversary celebrations in 1974, it certainly has all the pomp and bombast you’d expect from a big club’s anthem and the “Barça, Barça, Baaarça!” hook certainly sticks in the memory, but I wouldn’t regard this as one of my favourites.
Real Madrid’s classic anthem “Hala Madrid” was written by Luis Cisneros Galiane in 1952 and commissioned by Santiago Bernabéu himself.
It was replaced ahead of the 2014/15 season (although it is used ahead of the women’s team games) by a new song “Hala Madrid… y nada más.” Recorded by the members of the 2014 Champions League winning team, it does suffer from the vocals being a bit monotone (I can’t really imagine many of that squad going on to enjoy successful recording careers) but the tune is simple and fulfils the objective of being a song that is simple for the crowd to sing along with. A couple of listens and it’ll be stuck in your head for weeks.
And for extra value it’s accompanied by a video featuring iconic moments from the club’s history mixed in with awkward “behind the scenes” footage of the squad recording their vocals where most of them look extremely uncomfortable.
There is a better version which combines the player vocals of those of legendary tenor Placido Domingo (who also recorded the centenary version of “Hala Madrid” in 2002) which thankfully also features shots of the players awkwardly singing along, although this time they’re much better dressed.
Atlético have had a number of himnos throughout their history, opinion seems to be divided on which ones count as official or not. The current one has been used since 1974.
It starts off in quite a simple fashion before the key drops down a level and the vocals kick in again in almost hushed tones…
“Yo me voy al Manzanares, al Estadio Vicente Calderón”
Before rising again with
“Porque luuuuchaaaaan como hermanooos“
I love that bit, it really makes the song for me and even though Atleti have left the Calderón behind, I hope they never change it.
Madrid’s Other Clubs
You’d expect the famously left-wing, anti-establishment barrio club Rayo Vallecano to have something alternative as their himno, something a bit punkish, something heavy rock. This is, after all, the club that plays 80’s hair-metal anthem The Final Countdown every time they score.
The reality couldn’t be much further from that.
Dating from 1952, the lyrics focus on the values of Rayo Vallecano, the valentía, coraje y nobleza which set them apart from other clubs
And it finishes off in great fashion with some chanting
¡El Rayo Vallecano!
¡Ra, ra, ra!
To the south of the city, Getafe’s players have run out to differing versions of Lucha Getafe since 1994, with the current version dating from 2004, recorded after their first promotion to La Liga.
It does sound a bit dated, like a cheesy Eurodisco effort that would have charted well in the UK for a couple of weeks after everyone heard it on their summer holidays in Marbella and Benidorm. I’m also pretty sure I once owned a bottle opener that made that exact “olé olé olé” sound effect at the start.
It’s fairly catchy although the simplistic chorus makes it a little too easy for fans of rival clubs to change the lyrics into something considerably less complimentary…
Speaking of rival clubs, their near-neighbours Leganés are one of those teams that routinely use two anthems. Their classic one, which speaks of them defending their colours in grounds all over Spain (or more specifically in Madrid, Galicia and Castilla), gets pride of place before games.
While the more modern effort, premiered in March 2015 following their promotion back to la Segunda, and a year before their historic promotion to La Liga, gets the slot immediately post-match, so it’s the last thing you hear as you walk out of the ground, often with a beautiful Butarque sunset taking place behind you.
And then there’s Madrid’s newest Segunda club, Fuenlabrada who not only have a contender for the country’s most terrifying mascot, but seemingly have the most metal anthem too.
The a cappella opening eases you in and then in come the guitars.
I can totally picture this being sung by some band whose gimmick is that they all wear Chicken masks on stage in honour of the terrifying Kiriko. 🐔
Around the Country
Here are a few more that stick out in my memory from my travels around Spain since 2013.
Every time I hear Celta Vigo’s himno, I can’t help but feel they’ve just nicked part of the tune from Happy Birthday.
Over in Valencia, the introduction to their classic himno makes me expect The A Team theme tune, instead we get a smooth crooner who seriously ups the passion when he gets into the chorus. Love that chorus though. ¡Amunt Valencia! Visca el Valencia!
Real Sociedad’s benefits from a catchy, jaunty tune and from all the lyrics being in Basque, a language I have pretty much no knowledge of. The chorus is easy to sing along with though, which helps greatly.
Real Oviedo’s features celtic-tinged interludes mixed in with more typical oom-pah music.
They also have a second anthem, “Volveremos” composed by the Spanish rock singer Melendi, who is a big Oviedo fan.
Córdoba’s starts off like an Andaluz Ed Sheeran song, builds into something a bit heavier and then goes full pop anthem with the addition of other vocalists and flips back and forth between styles.
It’s not actually that bad in all honesty, although I have no recollection of it from when I actually went to a game there in September 2016.
The Depor Problem
To any long-term readers of the blog, my affiliation to Deportivo La Coruña will already be common knowledge. And if you have read my post about my first visit to the Estadio Riazor, you’ll know I’m not exactly a fan of the club’s official himno.
The club’s original himno, which had been used since 1924, was replaced in 1987 by Rock del Deportivo, written by Gandy, singer and guitarist of local band Cacahué. It became incredibly popular as SuperDepor were born and achieved success that would have been unthinkable previously. It even gained its own classical interpretation courtesy of the Galician Symphony Orchestra.
Alas, the glory days are long gone and Rock del Deportivo is very much of its time – and hasn’t aged very well.
Recently there have been attempts by various groups of Depor fans to get the club to change the anthem, with the song which has gained most support as a replacement being written by the Coruñés band Mar de Fondo.
I could totally get on board with this. A couple of different versions have been recorded and it would definitely be possible to retain the elements of traditional Galician music (bagpipes!) from the one above in a more rock-orientated mix to make it more suitable for amping up the crowd before a match.
Lower League Hidden Gems
As I said at the start, almost every club in Spain has at least one himno and there are some great songs to be found among the lower leagues, even if it is less common for these clubs to play them before games.
When I lived in Galicia I once went to watch fan-owned phoenix club UD Ourense, who had this short, sharp piece of bagpipe-infused rock as their anthem. Bagpipes in football club anthems should be worth an extra five or six points per season.
Good old Villaverde have a rock-influenced one. I’m ready to admit I haven’t a clue what most of the lyrics are, but I enjoy the “¡Villaverde olé olé!“ bit.
And you won’t know what you were doing with your life before you heard Rayo Majadahonda’s himno for the first time. All together now; “A la bimbam bimbam bimbam, a la bimbam bimbam ¡gol!
They might be in the Segunda B on the pitch, but if La Liga positions were decided on musical merit, Rayo would be a Champions League contender!
But even they can’t compete with the true kings of the himno game…
Sevilla: Spanish Capital of Football Himnos
Both of the major clubs in the capital of Andalucía have outstanding himnos, which stand among the best football-related songs in the world.
Hearing Betis’ simply conjures up images of balmy, early evening kick-off in Heliopolis as the Estadio Benito Villamarín gently sways to the music and close to 60,000 Beticos sing in unison.
It’s definitely one of the more chilled anthems in the Spanish game.
But even the most die-hard Betico would probably admit that their city rivals have a slight edge on them.
The glory of Sevilla’s centenary anthem hasn’t even been diluted by the fact they now claim 1890 as their date of foundation (rendering some of the lyrics obsolete) and it remains, for me, the undisputed number one.
It was recorded in 2005 by singer and lifelong Sevillista Javier Labandón, better known professionally as El Arrebato. The song became one of the biggest sellers in Spain that year and has become intrinsically associated with a golden era of success for the club.
It is also just a quite brilliant song.
Hearing it sung at full volume by a packed-out Estadio Rámon Sánchez-Pizjuan is a bucket list experience for any fan of La Liga – ideally before El Gran Derbí, something I’m sadly yet to see. And if you can’t quite remember the lyrics, fortunately Sevilla have them printed around the stadium for you!
And if your Spanish isn’t up to scratch, you can always join in with the “ooooh oooooh oooh oooh ooooh” bit after the chorus.
So what about you?
Obviously there are some I’ve missed out as I’ve not managed to get to every stadium in the country yet. What are your favourites? Feel free to tell me I’m wrong with anything I’ve said in the comments or @viajesenfutbol on Twitter.