How ‘Three Little Birds’ Became a Soccer Rallying Cry in the Netherlands

June 25, 2020
Bob Marley’s classic song has been adopted as the anthem of the Ajax football club. Here’s the story, in honor of our new “Three Little Birds” tees and hoodies for grown-ups and kids.

It’s impossible not to be moved by over 50,000 voices joined as one to sign a song of peace and love. But anyone entering the Ajax Amsterdam football stadium might be surprised that the crowd of Dutch fans is joined in a rousing rendition of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, a hit from his 1977 album Exodus. It might seem like an unlikely anthem for the team, but it’s been wholeheartedly adopted by the club as a show of solidarity and support for the players on the field. What many of the singers in the stadium might not realize is how happy Bob, a lifelong footballer, would have been to hear his lyrics floating out over the pitch at every game. After all, it was Bob who once said: “Football is a whole skill to itself. A whole world. A whole universe to itself. Football is freedom.”

The tradition began in 2008, when Cardiff City’s then-announcer Ali Yassine played Three Little Birds for a crowd of Ajax fans following a tied pre-season game. The crowd joined in, joyfully singing and chanting along in the spirit of the song. Then, they just kept playing it, until it became an integral part of being an Ajax fan. Bob’s son Ky-Mani heard about the
phenomenon, and in 2012 traveled to Amsterdam to sing the song on the pitch with the fans and honor his father’s legacy. He called it a life-changing experience, saying, “My father was a big football fan, and football and the music went hand in hand. Being able to perform the song there, to feel the energy and the vibration there that day did something to me I’ll never forget. Ajax, that’s my team. From now until the day my number is gone.”

Ky-Mani’s message, that football and music were inextricably intertwined as Bob’s two passions, is explored in-depth in the latest episode of the documentary series LEGACY: The Rhythm of the Game, in which Bob Marley’s son Damian shows how soccer is an integral part of Jamaican life. Soccer is also important to Cedella Marley, who is the Ambassador to the Reggae Girlz, who made it to the Women’s World Cup in 2019. Bob instilled in all of his children a love and respect for the game. As he said: “If you even have a bad day or you’re stressing about something or you have something on your mind—at least for the time you’re on the ball field, playing ball, you release all of that and you really just focus on the game. In that kind of way, it’s freedom.”

Now, fans can celebrate Bob’s legacy with the 75th Anniversary Kit, available in FIFA Ultimate Team for a limited time on Windows, PS4, and Xbox One. Inspired by the game, you can also shop the newly-added BobMarley 75 soccer jersey, and snag tees designed to highlight his love of thegame and the importance of Three Little Birds to fans around the world. Be sure to watch the newly released official music video for Three LittleBirds—a cartoon in which a pig and the Big Bad Wolf make friends. It’s an anthem of hope and friendship that translates across borders and languages.

Posted in Public News