Soccer  

New England World Cup anthem

England fans have been singing that “football’s coming home” for almost 30 years and now a new version of the song that gave them that familiar refrain, “Three Lions” has been released ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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The song has been a terrace anthem ever since it was first released by comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner and band The Lightning Seeds in 1996 as the official song of the host nation of that year’s European Championship (which had the slogan “Football Comes Home.”)

Aside from the jaunty tune, part of the enduring charm of the song is the fact that the “thirty years of hurt” lamented in the original lyrics — a reference to when the England men’s team collected their only major international honour at the 1966 World Cup — is still slowly ticking up. They have come close to resetting that clock in recent years, but alas the count now stands at 56 years of hurt.

England were unable to make the most of football coming home at Euro ’96, losing on penalies in the semifinals to eventual winners Germany after Gareth Southgate — now England’s manager — missed a crucial kick in the shootout.

However, that didn’t stop the nation taking the song to its heart, and it hit the No. 1 spot in the U.K. singles chart on two separate occasions over the course of that summer.

A new version was then re-released two years later to coincide with the 1998 World Cup, complete with a new set of lyrics that referenced England’s deep run at Euro ’96 and how their “heroes dressed in grey” had renewed the hope of an ever-expectant nation.

It wasn’t to be — England exited to Argentina in the round of 16 after David Beckham’s red card and more penalty shootout woe — but that didn’t stop “Three Lions” from sound-tracking the national team’s exploits for the next two decades.

The song has had a new lease of life since 2018 when Southgate’s England went all the way to the semifinals at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and then finishing as runner-up at Euro 2020 to Italy — after losing the final at Wembley (yep, you’ve guessed it) on penalties and England fans will keep telling each other that “it’s coming home” in the run-up to and during every tournament, much to the bafflement and derision of the rest of the world.

On the back of that new wave of popularity, Baddiel and Skinner have returned with a brand new version of “Three Lions” ahead of the 2022 World Cup — an updated version of the classic with a new title that serves as a nod to the peculiar timing of this year’s tournament.

With the Lightning Seeds once again brought on board to provide the music, “Three Lions (It’s Coming Home for Christmas)” was released this week with another set of revised lyrics.

Amid a flurry of Yuletide puns (“Three Lions on a sleigh,” “the Christmas tree formation”) and wry jokes about FIFA “When they decided on Qatar, should have checked VAR,”) there are also references to the England women’s team managing to successfully bring football “home” at Euro 2022 in the summer. In fact, the video even kicks off with a clip of the Lionesses celebrating their triumph by serenading coach Sarina Wiegman with their very own rendition of the song.

Of course, the iconic “It’s Coming Home” refrain was rendered slightly redundant after the Lionesses finally did just that by beating Germany at Wembley, but Baddiel and Skinner have revealed they felt the need to belt out their anthem one more time to help the men’s side do likewise out in Qatar.

“We could not resist the fact that the World Cup was at Christmas, and people have said in the past that football songs are a little bit tacky, and obviously Christmas songs are a bit tacky,” Skinner told the BBC’s “The One Show.”

“In maths two negatives make a positive, so we think there’s so much tacky in this that it’s going to be a classic.”

Baddiel added: “The Lionesses brought it home, football came home and some would say that’s the end of the song, stop singing it.

“But we decided to give it one more go on the basis that the blokes have not brought it home.”

Whatever you think of the new version (even Baddiel and Skinner themselves sing “a football Christmas song, not at all demeaning…”), it’s likely that you’ll still be hearing England fans chanting “it’s coming home” in Qatar and at other tournaments for many years to come.