Can Orange play better André Hazes or hardstyle in the dressing room next World Cup?

Sunday, September 18, 2022 at 11:00• Tom Rofekamp • Last update: 08:30

In top football you will rarely find a locker room where no music is played before the match. After all, music motivates; it makes you happy, it connects, it creates combativeness. At least we think. Because how big is the influence of dressing room music on the field? Is it there at all? We dive into the empirical archive and may come up with useful advice for Louis van Gaal and his associates.

By Tom Röfekamp

Our lives are laced with music. You hear music in the supermarket, in the pub and in the telephone queue for the IKEA helpdesk. You listen to it on the bike, in the shower (yes, what you yourself whine you can also call music) and while driving. Even if you in the middle of nowhere and you think you have banned any chance of outside stimuli from your environment, chances are a bird flying overhead will still chirp its happy melodies in your ear. Music is everywhere.

Just imagine the 2010 World Cup without vuvuzelas.

So it should come as no surprise that sport is also imbued with it. Imagine a Saturday run without earphones. A bench press without headphones. Or, zooming out more, a packed football stadium, where all you hear is the buzz of people chatting quietly in the stands, without chants, vuvuzelas or thump of drums brought along. It wouldn’t be the same.

We will stay in the stadium for a while. We go through the players tunnel, take one or two exits and then pass the door frame of the dressing room. There, one of the teams present – ​​say Liverpool – is preparing for the game of the year. Let’s say the Champions League final. The chosen team DJ (say Jordan Henderson) connects his phone to the included speaker system as usual and looks up ‘the’ number: All of the Lights by Kanye West. He presses ‘play’, and the music starts playing.

When it comes to music, Erik ten Hag’s policy during his time at Bayern Munich left a lot to be desired…

Does music boost performance on the pitch?
In 2013, researchers from the Leibniz University in Hanover took the test. They had two teams of five play three games and moved the variables per performance. In the first game, neither team got to hear music beforehand. In the second, one crew heard fast, electronic compositions on wireless headphones, synchronized to the nearest thousandth of a second. The other team got after asynchronous numbers, varying in rhythm and tempo. During the last game, the roles were reversed: the ‘asynchronous’ team got the coordinated music, and vice versa.

The results were evident: a team performed significantly better with synchronous music than without or with asynchronous music. Researcher Gerd Schmitz, who presented the findings to the German Football Association (DFB) after the experiment, described it as “a medium to large effect.” When trainers in Germany became aware of the results, they were immediately enthusiastic to test them in practice, the professor said afterwards.

Professor Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University in London picked up where his colleague across the Channel left off. In 2018, Karageorghis and his colleagues followed 34 youth players from a (as yet unknown) Premier League club over the course of a season, with the aim of charting their ‘psychological use of music’. It emerged from the questionnaires, reflections and interviews that the right sounds resulted in more self-confidence and a better ability to suppress nerves. Music could also lead to better performances in training and competitions and give a sense of group cohesion.

In fact, players could even bad feel prepared if they were not told music before a competition or training session. Erik ten Hag’s match policy during his time at Bayern Munich therefore left something to be desired.

Maybe the repertoire of hardcore DJ Angerfist isn’t quite the right choice for a competition, but with Beethoven you might be cutting yourself even more.

Whether you’re preparing for an important pot of the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata setup or the repertoire of hardcore DJ Angerfist makes quite a difference. Higher tempos provide motivation and improved performance during short, intensive efforts; slower music is especially helpful for endurance sports. Researchers at the University of South Queensland discovered this in early 2020 in a large-scale literature study. In the study – in which Karageorghis also co-wrote – it was discovered that a slower music tempo can help maintain a calmer heartbeat. Sports that mainly revolve around endurance, such as running, would benefit from this. More explosive sports, for example CrossFit, thrive better with uptempo numbers. Although football falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, it can most often be characterized as an endurance sport. Angerfist doesn’t seem so the way to go.

There’s a caveat, though: the Queensland findings involved music during the day sporting efforts. It can be said with certainty that the arbitral quartet will come and get a story when Denzel Dumfries walks onto the field with Bluetooth earphones in the upcoming World Cup. That is why Orange has to get the most out of the music before the game. The ‘instant effect’ of slower songs then falls into the water: it is better to choose at that moment to give the heartbeat a boost.

This image will have been seen often enough in the dressing room, when ex-Crystal Palace teammates Damien Delaney and Wilfried Zaha clashed over their differing musical tastes once again.

Who gets the auxiliary?
As Karageorghis and colleagues concluded in their 2018 study, can music lead to a sense of group cohesion. Only we as humans differ fundamentally in our listening preferences. Just think of a nightclub you walk into and the music isn’t your thing at all. Okay, the part of your group of friends that also likes to do ‘the butt shake’ in their spare time bass-heavy reggaeton beats from the Latin American filing cabinet might persuade you to stay for one beer, but after that you’ll want to leave with your tires screeching. Why else would it work in a dressing room?

It doesn’t, Karageorghis confirmed. A song or selection of songs where an entire group of players wants to scream their lungs out ensures mutual unity, the willingness to go through fire for each other. Music that doesn’t resonate with everyone has the opposite effect. “The amount of crap I had to listen to…” lamented former Crystal Palace defender and rock and roll enthusiast Damien Delaney in early 2021. The Athletic. “I think I officially gave up when someone told me there was a genre of music called ‘drill’.”

Partly for this reason, players are increasingly withdrawing into their own listening bubbles. The image of footballers preparing for a match with their own chosen music on their earphones or headphones is becoming more and more prevalent. “That does very little for team unity,” Karageorghis said. “If you ask me as a psychologist whether individual preparation for a sport in which you are mutually dependent on each other is optimal, I would say ‘no’. Yes, do some individual preparation. But you have to walk onto the field in a common rhythm. In harmony. As a unit,” said the scientist.

Karageorghis believes there should always be one song that can bring the team together. One of the best examples of this in recent football history is perhaps that of Chorley FC, which plays at the sixth tier of England. In the 2020/21 season, Chorley surprised friend and foe by making it to the fourth round of the FA Cup and knocking Championship club Derby County out of the tournament 2-0. The victory song? A lament about the aftermath of a broken relationship – better known as Someone Like You from Adele. And don’t forget the Orange Lionesses, who seemed more united than ever at the 2017 World Cup ceremony. You Can’t Get That Smile Off My Face by John de Bever blared from the speakers.

The Soundtrack of Champions
Back to Liverpool. With the final notes of Rihanna’s rousing chorus still ringing in the players’ ears, they get ready to hit the Wanda Metropolitano field. Tottenham Hotspur is the opponent tonight. Already in the second minute, Mohamed Salah puts his team ahead by shooting a penalty decorated by Sadio Mané impeccably. Tottenham then has possession of the ball, but hardly creates any chances. Liverpool keeps things closed without any problems, is more dangerous and closes the game just before time via Divock Origi. The Reds win their first Champions League in 14 years, and manager Jürgen Klopp can hold up the big-eared cup for the first time.

Why this example? It’s true – including the song that buzzed the walls of the Liverpool dressing room beforehand. Although the qualities of the Liverpool of 2019 should certainly not be misunderstood; music makes a difference. Science proves it. Adele may have been unable to get Chorley FC past Premier League club Wolverhampton Wanderers two seasons ago; it did provide that extra bit of team spirit, which allowed ‘David’ Chorley to triumph against ‘Goliath’ Derby County. It could give just that little bit you need in a paper-matched battle.

Liverpool captain and team DJ Jordan Henderson holds up the Champions League trophy after a season in which Kanye West’s ‘All of the Lights’ was the anthem.

So what can the Orange learn from this for the coming World Cup? Which song should the chosen team DJ permanently pin to the top of his Spotify library?

Well, that depends. André Hazes may be a Dutch icon, but if the majority of the selection prefers to turn their ears inside out when hearing Mokum tearjerkers, his music should be kept out of the dressing room. The trick is to find common ground, as Karageorghis said. One song that leaves everyone on the same page. And preferably one that has a bit of pace. Angerfist, maybe. Maybe Henderson has some tips.

And if it all doesn’t help, there is always music to comfort them.

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