FIFA World Cup

Fifa World Cup: Football teams who sing their national anthems with passion likely to perform better

New research suggests that a football team’s rendition of its national anthem says a lot about its level of togetherness.

Football games are enormously unpredictable, which may explain why spectators are often willing to embrace superstition to try to predict the winner. During the 2010 football world cup, many of us actually put our trust in an octopus to tell us the outcome of each match. But, with the 2018 world cup about to kick off, are there more reliable ways of working out who will be crowned champions?

Our new study, published in the European Journal of Sport Science, shows that looking closely at how passionately each team’s players sing their pre-match national anthem can actually give a clue about how likely they are to win. But what causes this effect?

It may seem that most team members just sing their national anthem out of obligation. However, we had a hunch that there may be more to it than that. To find out, we looked at how football teams at UEFA Euro 2016 sang their national anthems before each game – and what impact it had. It turned out they did this with varying degrees of gusto.

Our observations included both verbal and non-verbal clues of passion. We looked at whether players sang at all and, if so, to what intensity (greater intensity indicating greater passion). But we also examined players’ facial expression and body language – for example how closely players stood together and whether they put their arms around one another.

We found that the level of passion displayed by players predicted their team’s success or failure in the subsequent match. In particular, football teams who collectively sang their national anthem with greater gusto went on to concede fewer goals (but did not score more goals). Crucially too, in the knockout stage (but not the group stage) singing with more passion led to a greater likelihood of victory in that game.

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National anthems of Belgium and Wales

Switzerland and Spain were two countries that sang with low levels of passion. Neither of them made it through to the quarter finals. In contrast, Wales and Italy were two of the countries that sang with the most passion. Italy made it to the quarter finals and Wales made it all the way to the semi finals. The winners, Portugal, also scored high on passion across their games.

Interpreting the results

We think a football team’s rendition of its national anthem provides an insight into the level of togetherness in that team. Passionate singing signals a sense of team unity that profoundly says “we are ready to fight, going above and beyond, for our team” (and more broadly “for our nation”).

Passionate renditions may therefore be a catalyst for “us”, and detrimental to “them” – intimidating the opposition. New Zealand rugby players, who perform a posture dance known as “haka” before games, may benefit from a similar effect.

The level of passion displayed during anthems is profound when the chips are down. When the 2018 World Cup progresses into the knock-out rounds in Russia, the stakes will become higher and the consequences of success (or failure) will be intensified. It is at this point that teams are most dependent on their members demonstrating a willingness to put themselves on the line for the group.

But is it the passion that leads to greater football performance or the other way around? It could be that players sing with more passion when they know they have a better chance of winning. But we didn’t see this pattern of results – there was a range of gusto from players across teams considered strong and weak.

You may be thinking that, in order to win more matches, international coaches should simply instruct their players to display more passion during national anthems at the 2018 World Cup. Indeed, at the last world cup in Brazil 2014, it was widely reported that England manager Roy Hodgson instructed his players to sing the national anthem.

However, this may not be the best strategy. The message here is that it is what passionate renditions represent that is crucial – the strength of connection with and enthusiasm for the group.

If players are genuinely passionate because they identify strongly with their nation and its team, it is likely to increase collective effort and performance – but if players only show passion because they have been instructed to do so then this is unlikely to be a recipe for success. You do not just have to sing like you mean it, you actually have to mean it.

So if you and your friends are making bets on who will win a certain game in Russia this year, consider watching more closely during the singing of the national anthems. The chances are it’s a better strategy than asking an octopus.

Matthew Slater, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology, Staffordshire University.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.