The Washington Post

U.S. soccer fans’ ‘I believe that we will win’ chant started with Navy football


If you’ve watched a U.S. soccer game during this World Cup, chances are you’ve heard the chant coming from the sizable contingent of American supporters in Brazil, or from the hordes that have packed bars around the country: “I believe that we will win!”

But the chant didn’t originate with American soccer supporters. Rather, it all started with fans of Navy football, not futbol.

Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote about the chant in December 2003, when the Midshipmen won eight games — after winning just three over the three previous seasons combined — and qualified for just their second bowl game in 22 years:

A new tradition has been born at Navy football games this season, one that would’ve been utterly unimaginable, even downright ridiculous, just one year ago. It is a victory chant — for a team that went 1-10, 0-10 and 2-10 in its previous three seasons but today is a three-touchdown favorite over Army and headed to a bowl game.

Navy — the team that could always be counted on for Bill the Goat, the Statue of Tecumseh and a five-touchdown deficit by halftime — suddenly has a superb second-year coach in Paul Johnson, a saner schedule, the nation’s leading rushing offense and the kind of Brigade-wide morale that arrives when 20 years of football frustration finally gets released. The Midshipmen, with their triple option and their rumpled, strict-but-funny racetrack-loving coach, are taking out their frustrations on just about everybody.

In October, the Midshipmen were in the last minutes of a 28-25 win over Air Force, then ranked No. 25. Navy had not beaten a ranked opponent in 18 years — longer than some Midshipmen had been alive. Yet some in the Brigade, which stands throughout every game, began jumping up and down at FedEx Field. “I,” they chanted softly, then louder, “I believe . . .”

Sources say a group of Navy lacrosse players started the ruckus, though you can’t be sure because urban legends are quickly springing up around Johnson’s 7-4 team.

“I believe that,” they yelled as more joined in. “I believe that we . . .” Until finally, the whole Brigade, more than 2,000 strong, was bounding up and down, screaming, “I believe that we will. . . . I believe that we will win!” …

Now, as they prepare for Army, Navy even has an “I Believe That We Will Win” T-shirt. “I’m going to pick up my T-shirt after practice,” senior quarterback and co-captain Craig Candeto said this week. “I love it when I hear that chant because I know we’re probably going to win.”

ESPN did a nice video feature, tracking down the Midshipman who originated the chant.

After spending the first 17 years of his Post career writing and editing, Matt and the printed paper had an amicable divorce in 2014. He's now blogging and editing for the Early Lead and the Post's other Web-based products.
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