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Why do England fans sing ‘It’s coming home’ and what does it mean?

It’s coming home‘ is perhaps the most iconic football song of all time and if you have followed English football for even a small period of time, the chances are that you have heard this song and chant in a stadium, during a match, or even seen a clip on social media.

The lines ‘It’s coming home, it’s coming home, football’s coming home’ are originally from a song called the ‘Three Lions.’ The song is named after the English national football team who are called the Three Lions because of the emblem on their shirt which contains three lions on a sleigh.

The song first became popular in the 90s but has now struck a chord with the modern generation and is frequently sung and played during any major international tournament. In fact, the chants of ‘It’s coming home, football’s coming home’ were extremely common during the World Cups in Russia and Qatar in 2018 and 2022 and also during Euro 2020.

England finished as runners-up in the final of the European Championships in front of their own fans at the Wembley Stadium in London. Ironically enough, the song ‘Three Lions’ also talks about the heartbreak and failure of being close but not becoming champions over the years.

So what is the chant ‘It’s coming home’ and how did it originate from a track called ‘Three Lions’? Let’s find out:

It’s coming home – How the England song began

The chant ‘It’s coming home’ is actually from a track called Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) which became a smash hit in 1996. The song was written by comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner and was performed by The Lightning Seeds. The original song was released just ahead of the European Championships in 1996 which England were hosting. Although it wasn’t the official song of the Euros, it quickly became adapted by England fans during the tournament.

What was special about that European Championships is the fact that a major international football tournament was being hosted in England 30 years after the World Cup in 1966, which remains their only World Cup victory till date. In the 1966 World Cup final, England had defeated West Germany in the final to win the Jules Rimet trophy.

Also Read: FIFA World Cup 2022

Therefore, the song talks about the 30 years of hurt and pain that England fans had suffered for the national team’s failures and near misses. They started to believe that maybe 30 years later, England could finally win the trophy.

A new version of the song was then updated and released in time for the 1998 FIFA World Cup hosted in nearby France. Another version of the song also came out during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and it also featured the vocals of famous international star Robbie Williams.

However, the song truly found its revival 20 years after the 1998 World Cup in France and became extremely popular at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Since then, it has been used in all the major international tournaments as well as back home for friendlies and home games.

What is “It’s coming home” and why?

TournamentYearHostsResult
European Championships1996EnglandLost to Germany on penalties in the semi-final
FIFA World Cup1998FranceLost to Argentina on penalties in the Round of 16
European Championships2000Belgium and the NetherlandsKnocked out of the group stage
FIFA World Cup2002Japan and South KoreaLost to Brazil in the quarter-final
European Championships2004PortugalLost to Portugal on penalties in the quarter-final
FIFA World Cup2006GermanyLost to Portugal on penalties in the quarter-final
European Championships2008Austria and SwitzerlandDid not qualify
FIFA World Cup2010South AfricaLost to Germany in the Round of 16
European Championships2012Poland and UkraineLost to Italy on penalties in the quarter-final
FIFA World Cup2014BrazilKnocked out of the group stage
European Championships2016FranceLost to Iceland in the Round of 16
FIFA World Cup2018RussiaFourth-place finish
European Championships2020EuropeLost to Italy on penalties in the final
FIFA World Cup2022QatarLost to France in the quarter-final

The ‘it’ in the song refers to the sport of football and believes that football is coming home with England’s win in the World Cup. The song rests in many ways on the modern origins of the game. The first official governing body in football, the Football Association (FA) was formed in England in 1863 and the first rules of football started taking shape. Professional football also first found its roots in England and many fans believe that the country is the natural home of football.

As such, the lyrics of the song work in two different ways. The first is that England were hosting a major international tournament after three decades and as such, the sport of football was coming back home to England.

The second way it works is as the half-plea or a prediction for England to go all the way and win the tournament. Despite being the first country to adopt football, England haven’t even come close to being the best. The 1966 World Cup at home remains their only major triumph in the sport and England have often suffered disastrous failures, ranging from shock upsets to minnows, missed penalties, refereeing mistakes, superstars failing to turn up and have also been subject to frequent mockery and joke.

Of course, England didn’t win the European Championships in 1996 either. Germany, the side that England had defeated in 1966 to win the Jules Rimet trophy, knocked them out of Euro 96 in the semi-final. The match had gone till penalties and current England manager Gareth Southgate ended up missing his spot-kick.

Also Read: How many times Germany won the FIFA World Cup?

Because of the persistent failures since the song came out as well as the perceived arrogance from England fans for calling their country the ‘home’ of football. Baddiel and Skinner defended those accusations of arrogance and said that it wasn’t meant to be nationalistic and that the ‘It’s coming home’ chant doesn’t capture the full meaning of the lyrics.

“What I notice about Three Lions is you get generalised statements about it, how it might be an arrogance about Englishness and England-only football, and what that ignores is a deep reading of the actual song as opposed to the pure words of that chant”, he said.

“Because the song itself is, I think, a very vulnerable, melancholy bit of magical thinking, that tries to look through the disappointment of many years to the hope that it knows is irrational that England might do it this time.

“That is not a nationalist, entitled piece of work but it sometimes get transformed as that.”

‘It’s coming home’: Full Lyrics

The full lyrics of the song ‘Three Lions’ as well as the chant of It’s coming home are as follows:

(I think it’s bad news for the English game

We’re not creative enough, and we’re not positive enough)

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming

Football’s coming home (We’ll go on getting bad results)

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming

Football’s coming home

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming

Football’s coming home

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming

Football’s coming home

Everyone seems to know the score, they’ve seen it all before

They just know, they’re so sure

That England’s gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away

But I know they can play, ’cause I remember

Three lions on a shirt

Jules Rimet still gleaming

Thirty years of hurt

Never stopped me dreaming

So many jokes, so many sneers

But all those “Oh, so nears” wear you down, through the years

But I still see that tackle by Moore and when Lineker scored

Bobby belting the ball, and Nobby dancing

Three lions on a shirt

Jules Rimet still gleaming

Thirty years of hurt

Never stopped me dreaming

(England have done it, in the last minute of extra time!

What a save, Gordon Banks!

Good old England, England that couldn’t play football!

England have got it in the bag!)

I know that was then, but it could be again

It’s coming home, it’s coming

Football’s coming home

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming

Football’s coming home

(England have done it)

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming

Football’s coming home

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming

Football’s coming home

(It’s coming home) Three lions on a shirt

(It’s coming home, it’s coming) Jules Rimet still gleaming

(Football’s coming home

It’s coming home) Thirty years of hurt

(It’s coming home, it’s coming) Never stopped me dreaming

(Football’s coming home

It’s coming home) Three lions on a shirt

(It’s coming home, it’s coming) Jules Rimet still gleaming

(Football’s coming home

It’s coming home) Thirty years of hurt

(It’s coming home, it’s coming) Never stopped me dreaming

(Football’s coming home

It’s coming home) Three lions on a shirt

(It’s coming home, it’s coming) Jules Rimet still gleaming

(Football’s coming home

It’s coming home) Thirty years of hurt

(It’s coming home, it’s coming) Never stopped me dreaming

(Football’s coming home)

FAQs

Is there a version of the song that is dedicated to the England Women’s team?

Yes, earlier in the summer of 2022, the song was re-written in order to celebrate the triumph of the Lionesses at the European championships. The lyrics also included a reference of Alessia Russo and her famous backheel goal.

Who were David Baddiel and Frank Skinner?

David Baddiel and Frank Skinner were English comedians. They hosted a well-loved football show at half-time. The duo wrote the song ‘Three Lions’ from where the ‘It’s coming home’ chant became very famous.

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