I’m a huge football fan. I mean the soccer kind, although I also love the NFL kind. But soccer is my number one sport, and my number one love apart from U2 (oh yeah, apart from my family too). I probably spend more time reading and watching football than anything else I do. I’m an Arsenal fan, have been since I was a kid. For those of you who don’t know, Arsenal is a team in London, England, and are of course the finest team the world has ever seen. I finally got to go to England and see them in 2013 (saw three games, three wins). I watch all their games, read all about them, deeply committed fan.
So it was to my surprise that when I was watching the Arsenal game in Monaco today that I saw several shots of U2 sitting in the crowd watching the game. Why surprised? Well, it being St Patrick’s Day, I guess I assumed they would be somewhere in Dublin, probably at the hotel they own, getting hammered with everyone else. But no, they were in the south of France (where they all have holiday homes with easy access for fans to record the music they’re playing), and somehow decided to take a trip to Monaco and check out the football on show. I’m happy to report they got to see Arsenal win 2-0, but bitterly disappointed to report that Arsenal were eliminated anyway, due to the away goals rule (which I’m not going to explain right now, since it’s a little off-topic).
In the numerous photos, Edge was sporting a vicious looking sunburn, Bono was looking kind of old, and Larry, umm, Larry was laughing. Yes, I said laughing, there is actually a photo of it. Go look it up, you might never see it happen again. Most of the stories only mentioned those three, but I did see a picture of Adam there as well, apparently he had nipped out to the loo while the others were photographed. And Adam was looking, frankly, terrible - if you ask me he looked like Bob Geldof with an explosion of white hair.
U2 has a lot of history with football. Larry helped write a song called Put ‘Em Under Pressure for the Republic Of Ireland team when they qualified for the World Cup in 1990. I’m not going to give that song a rating, it is absolutely awful, although par for the course for football songs. Basically a chant and some quotes from the manager of the team make up the whole song. Go listen to it. Once.
Their other big thing has been their collaborations with ESPN for World Cup commercials over the years. They started in 2006, narrating several commercials (Bono did two, Edge and Adam one each, but Larry never did, although it was reported he was going to, don’t know what happened there). The ads played U2 music in the background, while the band members talked over images of different things. The most impactful was about the Ivory Coast team, Bono telling the story of how the civil war stopped when the team qualified for the World Cup. I’m sure that hit home for him given his history with Africa.
They went on to do different ads for the 2010 World Cup - the “It’s not about…” ad is particularly powerful - and their music was used in 2014, although I don’t think they recorded anything in particular for it then.
They have of course played football stadiums all over the world - every kind of football, that is. They’ve done a Superbowl halftime show, and a music video about an NFL player. But in this case I’m talking about football, not football.