Tonight, Belgium v England. The biggest challenge Belgium will have faced this World Cup. Yet, the omens look good, as a united Belgian team has faced all opposition so far with crushing victories. But despite the chemistry within the team between the French-speaking Walloons and the Dutch-speaking Flemish, one question may have stumped the voyeurs of the game: what language do they sing the Belgian national anthem before games?
Alas, like all things Belgian, there is never a simple answer to a seemingly straightforward question. The Brabançonne, as it is most commonly referred to, is the national anthem of Belgium – and it has four versions.
The anthem was created in 1830 and was to be sung in French, hence the French title: “Brabançonne”. Only in 1938 was it translated to a Dutch version. Then, a third German version came along – to compensate for the small German populace in Belgium’s eastern peripheries.
In any case, there is no “official” version at all, just as long as the tune and lyrical content remains the same throughout each language. So what do they sing as the football national anthem? Well, here is where the fabled fourth version comes in, the trilingual version! Every player on the team is meant to sing the national anthem in their own language. The team is almost always filled with only Flemish and Walloonian players, so the German part never gets a mention.
But where you can truly see this trilingual anthem is on Belgium’s national day – 21 of July. Every 2 lines, the language changes: from French, to Dutch, to German – and then the cycle repeats. It is no wonder that many people do not know the trilingual version, but it certainly makes for one unique sounding anthem!