Forget “Seven Nation Army” — this World Cup, the latest song to be hijacked by crazed football fans and turned into an anthem that is seemingly ubiquitous-among-winning-teams-and-their-fans is, surprisingly, a 1996 house-music inspired Italian crossover pop/club hit, “Freed From Desire” by Gala.
Not only was the song chosen as the official selection given to FIFA from three teams this World Cup (England, Switzerland and Poland) as the song to play over the PA when they score, but France’s stellar team has been seen on social media in their locker room celebrating wildly, shirtless, to the tune as they sang along after their thrashing of Denmark, and then Poland, as they swept into the quarter-finals.
How much of a global football anthem has this 26-year-old Eurodance song become? The French team has been popularizing it via their social media channels: They sang it after their win over Denmark at the current World Cup in their locker room on November 26, and posted a clip last weekend on their social media channels. A clip of Saudi Arabian soccer fans celebrating their win over Argentina in Qatar to the song went viral on TikTok.
It seems the song was first turned into a football chant by English fans back in 2011 via Bohemian F.C., and then later in 2012 by Stevenage F.C. fans for star player Luke Freeman. More English (and Irish) teams used the song in the years after that, and it went global in early 2022, when “Freed from Desire” was chosen via a fan poll as the post-match victory song of Melbourne Victory FC. England’s woman’s team, which made history with their 2-1 win over Germany at Wembley in the UEFA Women’s European Championship final earlier this year, also played “Freed From Desire” at a post-win celebration with fans. Gala herself performed it during the Euro 2020 Qualifiers in Belgium.
So why, exactly, is a 25-year-old song, which features a catchy chorus that perhaps lends itself well to a chant, catching fire among so many different football teams and fans the past decade?
According to Chris Milton, a writer at England’s iNews, “Freed From Desire” provides “space (literal and acoustic) for a communal action that still leaves space for personal expression.” He further writes: “The song is both repetitive and simple in the way it’s constructed…both these things are often thought of as negative aspects but in much music (across all genres) but they are a power tool. The repetition, of lyrics, of themes, of chords, harmony and accompaniment create a framework of familiarity and cozy reassurance.”
For her part, the song’s vocalist and co-writer says she is thrilled with the additional attention “Freed From Desire” has received recently, thanks to football fans worldwide. “I don’t follow any specific soccer team, but I’m beyond happy to know that my song inspires many athletes from different sports and different teams around the world,” she wrote on her official Facebook page earlier this year while posting a link to a La Repubblica (large Italian newspaper) article about how large football club AC Milan was using her song.
And while Gala’s song was never a hit that charted in the United States the same way it did in the UK and Europe back in the late 1990s (where the song was a Top10 hit in multiple countries), it is far from unknown in America. “Freed From Desire” has become a staple at clubs, LGBTQ events and large raves amongst touring DJs, who still play remixes and edits of the tune. Gala told Trax magazine that she wrote the song in New York during the 1990s, while she was “observing the disparities between the rich and the poor, between the powerful and the common people, between the celebrated and the abandoned.”
It’s all a long way from fields of football glory and chanting fans in Qatar — but that’s the beauty of music.