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The UEFA Champions League anthem: curiosities and insights
A tribute to “Zadok the Priest”: Tony Britten's Handelian roots

Every fan recognizes it instantly: the Champions League anthem is an unmistakable icon of European football. But do you know that its origins are rooted in classical music?

Composed in 1992 by the British maestro Tony Britten, the official anthem of the UEFA Champions League is inspired by “Zadok the Priest”, one of Georg Friedrich Händel's most famous coronation anthems. Britten masterfully integrated elements of Handel's well-known choral piece, giving life to a melody that immediately became the symbol of European football.

The words of the anthem, composed in English, French and German (UEFA's three official languages), celebrate the purest values of sport: passion, dedication and excellence.

The anthem is performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and sung by the choir of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Its full version lasts about three minutes and includes two short verses and a chorus, which are expertly intertwined in the three official languages.

As the Swedish writer Johan Fornäs points out, Britten's anthem “uses several elements of Handel's original composition, but rearranges and transforms them to fit the new context“, creating a perfect song for the competitive and international environment of the Champions League.

Since its first performance in 1992, the Champions League anthem has accompanied the exploits of football legends and ignited the passions of millions of fans around the world.

If you want to know more about the Champions League anthem, here are some interesting curiosities:

  • The song has also been recorded in other languages, including Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.
  • The anthem has also been used in other sporting events, such as the Olympic Games and the Football World Cup.
  • In 2009, an online vote declared the Champions League anthem the most beautiful of all European sports competitions.

Here are the verses of the hymn in their original version and in the Italian translation:

  • “Ce sont les meilleures équipes” (French)
  • “Sie sind die allerbesten Mannschaften” (German)
  • “The main event” (English)
  • “Die Meister” (German)
  • “Die Besten” (German)
  • “Les grandes équipes” (French)
  • “The champions” (English)
  • “Une grande réunion” (French)
  • “Eine große sportliche Veranstaltung” (German)
  • “The main event” (English)
  • “Ils sont les meilleurs” (French)
  • “Sie sind die Besten” (German)
  • “These are the champions” (English)

The Italian translation of the anthem is:

  • “These are the best teams”
  • “These are the best teams”
  • “This is the main event”
  • "Teachers"
  • "The best"
  • “The Biggest Teams”
  • "The Champions"
  • “A great match”
  • “A great event”
  • “The Main Event”
  • "Teachers"
  • "The best"
  • “The Biggest Teams”
  • "The Champions"
  • "They're the best"
  • "They're the best"
  • “They are the champions”
  • "Teachers"
  • "The best"
  • “The Biggest Teams”
  • "The Champions"

There is more

Anthony Christopher Britten is an English composer. A graduate of the Royal College of Music, he spent the first years of his career in the world of theater as a musical director, also collaborating with Cameron Mackintosh as musical supervisor for many shows including Godspell, The Rocky Horror Show and Oliver!. He collaborated with the National Theater as arranger and musical director. Having worked in the cinema and television sector, he oversaw productions such as RoboCop. He also collaborated with director Clive Donner. In 1992, UEFA commissioned him to compose the UEFA Champions League anthem, which was performed for the first time in November 1992.
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