Anthems have long been a major part of the Fifa World Cup experience, as the power of music brings together people from all around the world, just like the sport. Think, K’naan’s ‘Waving Flag’, Ricky Martin’s ‘La Copa de la Vida’, Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez‘s ‘We Are One (Ole Ola)’, and of course, Shakira‘s ‘Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)’, which has people up on their feet and dancing even a decade later. While drawing comparisons would be deemed unfair to most, it’s only realistic that football fans, who count themselves in billions, expect the 2022 Fifa World Cup anthems to be just as, if not more, memorable. And so, the newly-dropped Fifa Fan Festival anthem ‘Tukoh Taka’ featuring Nicki Minaj, Maluma, and Myriam Fares was given a critical ear, and the reactions are mixed, to say the least.
Since releasing on November 18, the YouTube video for the song currently holds the #1 Trending spot on the platform with 14 million views at the time of writing. Given that this is the first time the championship is being held in a Middle Eastern country, the song makes history as the first World Cup anthem to feature Arabic lyrics alongside English and Spanish. It also reached number one on iTunes in the US within 12 hours of release, becoming the first World Cup song in history to achieve this position.
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However, aside from its accomplishments, the song has drawn criticism from fans in the region for various reasons. Some listeners perceived Lebanese star Fares to be “imitating” Shakira and shared their dislike for the song via harsh comments under her Instagram post teasing the track. “Whatever you do, you will never be Shakira… Enough of the failed imitation,” reads one of the top comments, while another says, “You embarrassed us in front of foreigners. You won’t be Shakira.” A number of Arab internet personalities also took to Instagram to share their views, with influencer Adeela posting a clip of the video with the caption: “Looks like Shakira was busy,” and comedian Nathaline Hajaig writing, “When you order Shakira from Ali Express.”
Other listeners also indicated that Fares does not best represent the Middle East, mainly due to her bold blue outfit in the music video, which is arguably inspired by the region’s traditional belly dancing ensembles. “Your presence as an Arab party with a Western party and a Latin party does not represent us, our culture, or our identity. The committee failed in choosing you,” reads another top comment. Those defending Fares are few but share the same, strong opinion, that it is never acceptable to hate on an Arab woman’s accomplishment while comparing her to another woman in the industry. “It’s amazing how much Arabs love to tear each other down,” reads a comment under Adeela’s post. “Instead of lifting each other up. Be proud of her & stop bullying her.” Directed not just at Fares, but at everyone behind the song is another opinion, and one that seems to be the general consensus: The track is just not good. With 26,000 likes, the most upvoted comment under the music video says: “The best thing about this song is that it ends.”
While the cross-continental song continues to garner views and criticism, one must remember that it is not the only Fifa World Cup song to have faced controversy. At the time of its release during the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa, Shakira’s ‘Waka Waka’ had stirred the South African artist’s union who did not agree with the association’s decision to enlist a non-African for the anthem, and thus called for a boycott of the opening ceremony where the Colombian pop star was performing.