When the wrong verse was sung on Saturday, the German players sang along, using the words of the correct third verse. But afterward, they said that they were shaken and upset by the error.
“I thought it was the epitome of ignorance, and I’ve never felt more disrespected in my whole life, let alone in Fed Cup, and I’ve played Fed Cup for 13 years now and it is the worst thing that has ever happened to me,” Andrea Petkovic told The Associated Press.
The American tennis federation apologized for the gaffe: “In no way did we mean any disrespect. This mistake will not occur again.”
Anthem mishaps are surprisingly common at sporting events.
In a similar incident involving a troubling period of history, British organizers at an international field hockey game in 2012 played an anthem from the apartheid era, to the consternation of the South African team. “I thought, What is that?” said a South African hockey official, Marissa Langeni, who is black. “And when I listened further, I realized it was ‘Die Stem.’ I couldn’t believe my ears.”
International tennis has been a victim of such incidents before as well: At a Davis Cup match in Sydney, Australia, in 2003, a version of the Spanish anthem not in use since the 1930s was played. Though an instrumental version of the lively tune was played, there are popular satirical lyrics that include a man who wipes his bottom on King Alfonso XII. “It was an offense to the Spanish delegation and to the Spanish nation,” the country’s sports minister, Juan Antonio Gómez-Angulo, told The Guardian.
Even at the Olympics, where getting the anthem right would seem to be a high priority, mistakes are made. Before a Nigeria-Japan soccer game in Rio de Janeiro last year, the anthem of Niger was incorrectly played instead.
But at least that was somebody’s anthem.
At a skiing event in Kazakhstan in 2012, a snatch of “Livin’ La Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin came over the speaker instead of the anthem, as reported by Russia Beyond the Headlines and other local news media.
What is it about Kazakhstan anyway?
At the world shooting championships in Kuwait in 2012, a Kazakh gold medalist was startled when she was serenaded with a parody anthem from the comedy film “Borat,” which portrays the country as backward and intolerant.
At the Rio Olympics, many Americans complained that the version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” chosen, heavy on minor chords, was simply too sad.
Other recent examples include the Chilean national anthem instead of Uruguay’s at the Copa América in Phoenix last summer, the Isle of Man’s instead of El Salvador’s at a friendly soccer game in Washington in 2015, Canada’s instead of New Zealand’s at a rugby match in the Philippines last year and Uzbekistan’s instead of Ukraine’s at the world gymnastics championships in China in 2014.
Even the home country’s anthem is not immune from goofs. When the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus came out for the anthem at a Padres game last spring, the plan was to lip-sync to its recording. Instead, a woman’s voice emerged from the speakers, leaving the choir to stand awkwardly on the field.
Flags have also been a cause of trouble. North Korean’s women’s soccer team refused to take the field in London in 2012 when the South Korean flag was displayed on a video board. The mistake was rectified, and the game proceeded an hour later.
On at least two occasions at Rio 2016, an incorrect Chinese flag, with its stars improperly aligned, was unfurled, bringing complaints.
If history is any guide, we have not seen the last improperly played song at anthem time. We can only hope that next time it won’t be Martin’s “Shake Your Bon-Bon.”
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