By Special Request: “Mer stonn zo dir, FC Kölle.” Our Hymn, in English.

Somewhat recently, I received a comment from a “naomivictoria” on my post from last season’s decisive home victory over Union Berlin.

“Hi Randall

I’d be really interested to see the translation you did for the FC Koeln Hymne? I’ve been searching the internet and your site is the only that comes up. Google translate doesn’t do “Koelsch”!

I’d be so grateful if you published it!”

I believe I have shared publicly that I once stayed up quite late into the night trying to translate Höhner’s “Mer stonn zo dir, FC Kölle” into English. I think that was actually the first time I came to realize that there was such a thing as “Kölsch” dialect and that it might as well be an entirely separate language for someone whose German was never that good even when using it on a daily basis.

Now, my German comprehension has improved immensely since that night, primarily because I spend so much time listening to Bundesliga matches with German commentary, including nearly every Effzeh match the last few seasons. I’ve also taken to listening to Kölsche music and even occasionally watching TV Total (sorry Stefan, but I get a kick out of it!). Of course, part of the reason this blog exists is the dearth of English-language Bundesliga coverage beyond the two teams every football fan outside of Germany knows.

That said, I am no translator.

A funny thing about having done the translation for my own needs is that, at the time, I had no idea the song was specifically addressing the club. I was vaguely familiar with “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and its use by some fans in serenading their club’s players, so I assumed this was something along the lines of that, but in German. As soon as I started with the very first line, though, it was clear I was dealing with something more than a bad song from an American musical being used woefully out of context as a loving tribute to the idea of fan support.

Clearly, if I was spending time trying to figure out what was being sung by 40,000-plus to the players as they entered the pitch, I was already on the path to the spiritual equivalent of the Geißbockhem; yet, looking back, I’m certain that my discovery of the specific intent of this song in its genesis and how it was embraced into ritual by everyone, helped me learn something vital about the relationship between 1. FC Köln  and its fans and members. It was easy enough to be drawn close by the obvious bits of the support, but upon closer examination, the pull was irresistible.

So now here I am, publishing my attempt at an English translation of the hymn, not only to fulfill a request of another English-speaking fan, but also so it goes out there with all the other things I write about the club in the hopes it can bring more like-minded folk into the fold, because it really is “e Jeföhl dat verbingk,” and if anyone is moved by it the way I have been, then it’s not fair to let a language barrier get in the way of that verbingk-ing!

And now that I’ve made you wait for it, naomivictoria, here’s my semi-annotated translation of the lyrics to “Mer stonn zo dir, FC Kölle,” as published by German Karneval legends Höhner on their website:

Ehrenfeld, Raderthal, Nippes, Poll, Esch, Pesch, and Kalk
Everywhere, there are fans of FC Köln
In Rio, in Rome, (Bergisch, definitely not Mönchen) Gladbach, Prüm, and Habbelrath
Everywhere, there are fans of FC Köln

Joy or sorrow, future and past
a feeling that unites – FC Köln
Whether forward, whether back – a new match means a new chance
a feeling that unites – FC Köln

We pledge to you here our loyalty and honor
We stand by you, FC Köln
and we walk with you, through fire if it must be
remaining always by your side

(whether) Young or old – poor or rich
together, we are strong, FC Köln
through thick and through thin – no matter where
only together are we strong, FC Köln

We pledge to you here our loyalty and honor
We stand by you, FC Köln
and we walk with you, through fire if it must be
remaining always by your side

note: “FC Köln” in the Kölsch dialect is the distinct “FC Kölle” you hear in the song. The pronunciation of the “FC” part of it, of course, is where the favorite club hashtag “effzeh” was born. Thanks to Dwragon for the input offered in the comments to help me tidy this translation a bit.

That’s it!

So, if you ever see the word “üvverall” attached to photos of the club logo somewhere other than Köln, that’s referencing the song’s assertion that there are fans of the club “everywhere.”

It is also not uncommon for someone to interject “durch dick und durch dünn” into an internet discussion about club goings-on to remind someone that we stick with our FC through thick and thin. Or someone might conclude their voiced concerns following a loss with ” neues Spiel heiß neues Jlöck” to remind themselves and everyone else that each “new match means new luck.”

The real meaning here, however, is that the song is THAT ingrained into the minds of German Effzeh fans. Well, not just the Germans, as I have learned to do the exact same thing over the last few years. If I’ve not mentioned it, my affinity for the club somehow triggered my personal interest in cultures and language in a way I never could have suspected, to the point where my family is frequently subjected to Effzeh propaganda.

I hope this has been somewhat enlightening to, at least, “naomivictoria,” but also to anyone else who stumbles onto it. If you happen to be a football fan in search of a club to support, and you happen to have an appreciation for something deeper than just a fair chance at celebrating titles (and, believe me, those are coming, too), read the words, watch the videos, and stick around.

It’s a great club.

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2 Comments on "By Special Request: “Mer stonn zo dir, FC Kölle.” Our Hymn, in English."

  1. Great thing you are doing this. I am only a German so my English is not on your level, but I have some questions concerning the translation:
    1) “joins” is the correcct meaning, but you could not sing it, maybe “unifies” is better?
    2) “means” I think it´s better translated with equals
    3) “swear” I am sure it means “swear by” and not “swear of”.
    4) and we walk with you, through fire if it must be – why not literal: with you, if it must be through a fire.
    sometimes you use “by” sometimes “with” is there a meaning to this?
    5) “Whether yound or old, “Whether” poor or rich
    6) No matter “whereto”
    7) “we are strong”

    phonetics: the song is written in kölsch, a German dialect. I would let “Kölle” the way it was, cause it gives a better impression of how it´s sung.

  2. Hi there! Thanks for reading and giving input.

    1) Now that you say that, the word should be “unites.” I’m changing it!
    2) I can see why you’d suggest that, though neither word, to me, sounds perfect there. I should work on it.
    3) This one is a problem of phrasing, I think. “Swear by” doesn’t quite work, in my opinion. I need to dig deeper on a better way to reframe this one, too.
    4) The “literal” sounds to me, in English. as if it’s saying, “If you have to walk through fire, we’ll walk with you,” but the walking with is conditional on the fire. Make sense?
    5) I think most would infer the “whether” there, but probably a valid suggestion.
    6) We don’t bother to add the “to” in these cases. “No matter where you go” would probably be better English, but I feel funny adding that much text!
    7) “are we strong” is correct for that phrasing.

    Appreciate your input. Really gave me some things to consider, and I will make some improvements!

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