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Last year, I visited Italy in the summer. This was shortly after Italy had won the world cup, and it was rather clear that the country was still on a collective high.

Watching Italian television, I saw lots of advertisements for football-related memorabilia. "Italia - vincetori del mondo" proclaimed one advert. Perhaps the strangest phenomenon that I noticed, however, is the strange importance that the White Stripes' song Seven Nation Army has assumed. The (rather distinctive) bassline has become a football chant, cheered by crowds of Italians as they support their national team. So I was at first rather confused when I started seeing adverts for mobile phone ringtones of crowds cheering it.

Most people don't seem to know the real name of the song. The Italians call it "po-po-po-po-po-po-po" (the riff written phonetically). Some enterprising person made a song sampling the chanting crowds, going straight to #1 in the charts. I did see the original song used as the title music on an Italian gameshow.

Some quick research into the history of all this was interesting: the song was first used in connection with football by Brugge, a team from Belgium, in 2003. A match between Brugge and AS Roma "infected" the Rome fans, who then spread it to the rest of Italy. There's also some speculation as to whether the original lyrics to the song helped its spread - "I'm gonna fight 'em off, a seven nation army couldn't hold me back"; a national team must defeat teams from seven other countries in order to win the world cup.

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