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Meet the Croydon composer who wrote the iconic Champions League anthem

Meet the Croydon composer who wrote the iconic Champions League anthem
Jun 01, 2019 Shaking Hands 0 comments
This post was first published by My London on 31/05/2019.

Meet the Croydon composer who wrote the iconic Champions League anthem

Some of the world’s greatest players have stepped out onto the football pitch listening to the spine-tingling anthem, which was composed by a Croydon man.

It’s one of the most iconic songs in the world of football and even if you aren’t a fan of the sport you will have heard it for sure.

Whether you’re a player or a supporter or just an avid music lover, there’s something special about the Champions League anthem.

Millions of people watch European’s greatest football competition every year, and all eyes will be on Liverpool and Tottenham on Saturday (June 1) as they take each other on in an all-English final.

But one man – the musician who wrote and composed the spine-tingling anthem – always goes unoticed.

Croydon’s Tony Britten was approached by UEFA to write the song in 1992, and it took him just a matter of days to complete the masterpiece.

The former Trinity School pupil took inspiration from the record Zadok the Priest by Handel, with the recording itself performed by London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and sung by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields.

The chorus is in UEFA’s three official languages: English, French and German.

“They [UEFA] knew they wanted something classical,” Tony recalled. “I just pulled together a whole lot of music on a tape and said ‘what do you like?’

“They said they liked Zadok the Priest by Handel so I nicked it. Then they said it needed words. They wanted something that expressed the grandeur and that it was the best football you would see.”

Tony added: “The whole notion of branding with music just didn’t happen back then. I think we were really the first to brand a sporting championship.

“People hadn’t really thought about it.”

Crystal Palace fan Tony admits he is “proud” every time he hears the song, and even gets royalties every time it is played.

In his younger years, Tony grew up in Croydon and would often go to football matches every few weeks or so.

At a young age he realised he enjoyed music, and his first instrument was a recorder.

He also “started messing around on the piano” and his Estonian aunt, who was a former concert pianist, told his parents she believed he had a talent. This led to his parents buying him a £10 piano.

“I think from about 13, I probably knew what I was going to do,” said Tony.

He graduated from the Royal College of Music and went on to do some professional singing and “quite a lot of conducting.”

Tony went on to work for British theatrical producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh before Mackintosh’s rise to fame and fortune, including serving as a musical director for the original Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre.

His music career evolved and he then started to move into film and TV.

“Before I got the gig for the Champions League, I was off doing a lot of commercials and jingles,” Tony said.

Tony visited Thornton Heath station this week ahead of the nail-biting Champions League final in Madrid on Saturday.

He even found time to play the anthem on the piano situated next to the footbridge.

While playing, the station’s new mural of Palace’s mascot Kayla the Eagle caught Tony’s eye.

“It’s great for the local station to have something like this,” explained Tony. “We want the kids to start supporting Palace so anyway we can have a presence in the local community is great. Everyone knows the eagle!”

What are the Champions League anthem lyrics?

Ce sont les meilleures équipes
Es sind die allerbesten Mannschaften
The main event

Die Meister
Die Besten
Les grandes équipes
The champions

Une grande réunion
Eine grosse sportliche Veranstaltung
The main event

Die Meister
Die Besten
Les grandes équipes
The champions

Ils sont les meilleurs
Sie sind die Besten
These are the champions

Die Meister
Die Besten
Les grandes équipes
The champions

Translated in English:

They are the best teams
They are the best teams
The main event

The master
The best
The great teams
The champions

A big meeting
A great sporting event
The main event

The master
The best
The great teams
The champions

They are the best
They are the best
These are the champions

The master
The best
The champions

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