NASHVILLE — It was easy to understand why the video flew around the world. There’s a lot happening in a short amount of time. A costumed man makes his way through a crowd and is introduced over the PA system as Soccer Moses. He picks up a guitar emblazoned with the Nashville SC logo and rips through a few lines of a couple songs known to music lovers, though with extra distortion, extra flair. He hits the last note with a flourish and smoke shoots into the air.
This is soccer in the Music City. This is Nashville SC. It will be again on display to the world Saturday when Nashville hosts the Leagues Cup final against Inter Miami CF.
“The opening riff concept when the team first arrived and was trying to figure out the identity of the team in this city was one of those things where I think everybody went, ‘Oh, this is unbelievably on point for who Nashville is and who Nashville has been.’” said Soccer Moses, also known as Stephen Mason, in an interview Friday. “The fact that this team is a fairly new franchise, putting those two things together in a way that is thoughtful and honoring of the city’s history and also showing where it wants to go was perfect.”
That was the point. While fans from outside North America cracked jokes, people in Nashville nodded their heads. It was a little over-the-top. It was definitely weird. But it was fun as hell. Er, sorry Soccer Moses. Fun as heck. Just like Nashville.
“When we started everything, from the development of the club, the brand and started building our supporters’ group, we used this phrase: ‘Uniquely Nashville’,” Nashville CEO Ian Ayre said Friday. “It was never about, ‘Let’s do something like somebody else. It was always about what’s right for Nashville.
"Anyone who has spent a lot of time in this city knows people aren’t impressed by celebrity or bling. I think that’s necessary in some cities in the world, but (here) it’s about being wholesome and good and being together.”
So, Old Testament heroes rocking out? Sure. Spending big on a name with global soccer recognition that may or may not ring a bell with the after-hours crowd at Dino’s? Maybe not.
Unsurprisingly, given its roots and venues, music has been an important piece of how Nashville SC has built out its fan culture. The Back Line supporters’ collective name references the gear needed to power a concert, but like many other supporters across the U.S. they often take center stage with their songs during matches at GEODIS Park.
There are few places in American society where we sing communally, where we truly come together with one voice and lift the same words in song. Other than religious services and some college sports events, the soccer stadium may be the place Americans come together and sing most often.
“The beautiful surprise of NSC’s arrival into our city, and the culture that has come with it, is there are people from all walks of life, especially in those supporters’ sections, singing in English, in Spanish, taking traditional chants from all over and repurposing them for the Boys in Gold,” Mason said. “It’s quite something.
“It’s overwhelming, really, that this sport and club and stadium provide a venue for such a gathering.”
Mason hopes to help foster more of those spaces in the Nashville community as an extension of the community NSC supporters are building, hosting fundraising events for causes he supports like next week’s “Nuns N’ Moses” tribute concert raising money for the Nashville Humane Association. The foundation the club is laying is a strong one.
The team worked with the family of Johnny Cash to produce the Man in Black kit last season, referencing the legendary musician’s on-stage, all-black outfit worn to reference those without a voice in their community or as rebellion against the status quo.
Like Nashville, Miami is a city with its own rhythm. From the days of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine to its place in the modern history of hip-hop and reggaeton, South Florida long has been a place pushing musical genres forward, often blending what’s happening with the U.S. music scene with what artists are doing in South America and the Caribbean.
So, it was no surprise that Inter Miami opted to tap in to that feeling and introduce Lionel Messi with a remix of Muchachos, the La Mosca Tsé-Tsé track that became the anthem of Argentina’s successful 2022 World Cup campaign. Itself a rework of a previous La Mosca song, Argentina supporters sung "Muchachos" with increasing fervor as their team moved through each round in Qatar. With the World Cup's best player arriving, it made sense to utilize the song and the positive vibes associated with it to unveil Messi as an Inter Miami player.
“Miami is something of a capital for Latin America, a place where now sport and soccer is reflecting itself in art in a way that never had happened before. That’s thanks to Leo. With that song, us being the soundtrack, it’s like a movie,” Guillermo Novellis, singer of La Mosca Tsé-Tsé told LeaguesCup.com. “First, it surprised us and then it filled us with pride that the melody of Muchachos was selected for the presentation and to accompany Leo on his American soccer adventure.”
Fans in Miami were helped with a karaoke version during Messi’s presentation last month and have learned the new lyrics to the song, but they also have their own musical traditions. Supporters in the La Familia collective have reworked a number of songs including a version of “Nunca Es Suficiente” the Natalia Lafourcade song about always wanting more from a relationship, like the supporters who love their club want with their soccer team.
Many of those supporters will be present Saturday, ready to back their team on the road with songs, instruments and music representative of South Florida and the fan culture Miami has been building as well.
Various sounds have blended and wrapped around fans’ ears during the Leagues Cup, perhaps none more so than Leagues Cup anthem “Tiki Taka Toco”. The soccer-themed number by Fuerza Regida plays before every match, is featured on the TV broadcasts and also has been heard ahead of goal kicks and across social media.
“They chose the right group and we're really happy about it. “Our relationship with MLS and Leagues Cup is that we're from the same place, the same country. And we love soccer,” said Jesús Ortíz Paz, the singer known as “JOP”.
The Regional Mexican group puts yet another twist on a soccer song, singing about the sport in a different genre than what The Back Line or La Familia does. It’s what Leagues Cup and the sport in this region is about.
There are different ways to support and enjoy, but the sounds of soccer continue to draw people in from their cities and their corners of North America and the world.
With Nashville's blend of blues, country and rock, Miami's Latin beats and the occasional cumbia blasting from the speakers, the soundtrack for the Leagues Cup final will be a mix of everything. It sounds like it shouldn't work, but like Soccer Moses' riff it will draw in those who get it, who are intrigued by something new, different and lots of fun.