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Juanes, The World Cup And Seven Great Soccer Songs

Download The Full Interview With Juanes In Spanish

Like many Latin Americans who live in the U.S., I often find myself struggling to explain my passion for soccer. It's difficult to explain to those who are not fans the depths of this all-consuming passion.

For me, It's not a pastime. And don't say it's just a game: It's a way of life. In fact, it is life itself.

Music and soccer are joined at the hip, and fortunately, many great rock songs have been written about the beautiful game. They range from odes to team loyalty to complaints about annoying girlfriends who don't want to watch soccer matches. Here are a few of my favorites. --Jasmine Garsd

Today's theme song is "El Milagro Ruso" by the Argentine band La Cosa Mostra. For more about the band, click here. Please leave your thoughts on soccer, music, soccer-themed music, Juanes and the first-ever episode of Alt.Latino in the comments section below.

Below you'll find the full versions of the songs featured in today's show

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

La Vida Tombola

The band Mano Negra eventually disintegrated, but lead singer Manu Chao went on to experience a brilliant solo career. He continued composing odes to soccer, including the beautiful "La Vida Tombola" (Life Is a Raffle). The equally melancholy video for the song shows the ups and the many, many downs of an embattled soccer player's life.

Santa Maradona

This song re-creates the adrenaline rush of being at an actual stadium for a match -- the yelling, the beating of drums and the ambulance sirens. "Santa Maradona is a tribute to controversial Argentine soccer icon Diego Maradona, who now coaches the Argentine soccer team.

Holigan

Soccer fans are insanely loyal to their teams. I don't think you find this kind of obsessive attachment anywhere else in life. "Holigan," by the Turkish ska/punk band Athena, is an anthem about that undying love. On top of heroic guitar riffs, lead singer Gokhan Ozoguz chants about following your team through thick and thin. Soccer martyrdom at its best.

You can hear "Holigan" on YouTube.

Fut Callejero (Pura Diversion)

Yes, the World Cup is one of the most exciting events ever. But few things beat the joy of playing soccer in your neighborhood, with your friends. It doesn't matter if the playing field is rocky or if your opponent's makeshift goal is suspiciously small. Maldita Vecindad's "Fut Callejero (Pura Diversion)" reflects the idea that the true soccer lover will always play as if he or she were competing in the World Cup final -- and getting paid like Beckham.

Meio de Campo

Brazilian music icon Elis Regina could sing about having an ingrown toenail and still make it sound exciting. Check out her rendition of Gilberto Gil's "Meio de campo" ("Mid fielder"). This kittenish song stands out among all the other super-macho songs on this list. But don't let her playful tone fool you: She's singing about Afonsinho. Afonso Celso Garcia Reis was an amazing midfielder in the 1970s whose opposition to the country's ruling military dictatorship prevented him from joining the national team.

Ponta de Lança Africano (Umbabarauma)

It's not surprising that five-time World Cup winner Brazil has an enormous catalog of songs celebrating soccer. Rio de Janeiro-based singer Jorge Ben's "Ponta de Lança Africano (Umbabarauma)" is about an imaginary African player who is slick on the field. It's a funky mix of infectious guitar grooves, girl-group choirs and fantastic drum beats. Sounds like Shaft playing soccer.

Strachan

This Irish band's ode to Scottish soccer player Gordon Strachan is also about an experience many of us soccer fans have had: a partner who doesn't share our love of soccer. Singer Andy Gallagher sings in exasperation about a lady friend who waits until the game begins to pick a fight.

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Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.
Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.
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