"Three Lions" - a 1996 song by two British comedians is top of the iTunes chart in the UK, and inspiring millions of English football fans dreaming of World Cup glory.
The phrase has been heard wafting from many a packed English pub, and has been littered across the internet where an army of memes has been unleashed in support of the country’s football team.
“It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming, football’s coming home.” The lyric sheet says “repeat five times” but many England fans have added at least one zero to that figure. They may be rarely in tune or even in time, but they are united in harmony in their delight at the team’s World Cup progress.
“Three Lions”, the song by British comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner with the Lightning Seeds which carried those lines in multiple repetition, has topped the iTunes chart. Meanwhile the hashtag #ItsComingHome was consistently trending in the UK’s top five on Monday morning ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final against Croatia. It’s now crossed international barriers to such an extent that Russia’s President Putin has even been "seen" playing it on the piano in viral social videos that are fake.
The song was released 22 years ago to coincide with Euro 96, the first time England had hosted a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup. England fans have embraced it to mean that victory will bring the trophy “home” to its rightful place — which they also claim is football’s spiritual home.
FIFA, the world football’s governing body, traces the sport in its current form back to 1863 in England, when rugby and association football parted ways. The Football Association (FA) in England became the first governing body and codified rules into the first official Laws of the Game.
The euphoria marks the first time England have reached the semi-finals at a World Cup for 28 years. But it’s compounded by a sense that this time the path towards the ultimate goal is clearer than ever — although the sentiment is not new (England’s World Cup song in 1982 was “This Time (we’ll get it right)”.
England were up against Germany in 1990, the year the country was reunited after the communist bloc collapsed. At the time, the former West Germany had won the World Cup twice and had reached the final in the two preceding tournaments.
In contrast Croatia, despite reaching the semi-finals 20 years ago, are currently ranked 20th in the FIFA world rankings, eight places below England.
A glance at the rankings of the teams England have beaten so far – Sweden (24th), Panama (55th) and Tunisia (21st) — suggests that ending the “30 years of hurt” the song refers to (the figure has since risen to 52) will not be a shoo-in. The other semi-finalists, Belgium and France, lie third and seventh respectively in the FIFA rankings.
But England supporters can point to the fact that after the victory against Colombia the penalties hoodoo is now broken — the team’s record in shootouts at major tournaments before this World Cup stood at Won One, Lost Six — arguably lifting a considerable weight from their shoulders.
And whatever the odds, many an England fan will cite another famous line from Three Lions, namely that any number of previous disappointments “never stopped me dreaming”.