You’ve Been Singing This “Three Lions” Line Wrong All Along

Plus, 6 other facts you didn’t know about the immortal anthem.

Originally Published: 
The three lions England crest on the England shirt in  2020
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You don’t need to be a football fan to have heard the famous three words “football’s coming home.” But 25 years after the song was first written, the ubiquitous refrain of “Three Lions” is being sung from the rooftops once again, this time for England’s Euro 2020 (but really 2021) campaign.

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Originally released in May 1996, the song marked England's hosting of that year's European Championships. The Lightning Seeds' Ian Broudie was on music, while comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner – presenters of football-themed comedy show Fantasy Football League – were on lyrics.

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Shooting to No.1 ahead of the official theme song (“We’re In This Together” by Simply Red), its success skyrocketed from there. “Three Lions” not only became the song of the tournament, but of English football.

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The song is actually about the pain of being an England fan, not the success

“We wanted to write a song about the real experience of being a football fan, which is not, with the greatest respect to various previous anthems, that we’re going to win it,” Baddiel told the Evening Standard.

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There’s two versions of the tune

The ‘96 version refers to the fact that by then England had not won a major tournament in three decades (“30 years of hurt”) and English footballing heroes and moments of the past, the ‘98 World Cup version focussed on the then-current squad.

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It's one of only three songs to ever top the British charts more than once with different lyric versions

The only other two are “Mambo No. 5” (originally by Lou Bega and then Bob the Builder) and “Do They Know It's Christmas?” (by Band Aid, Band Aid 20, and Band Aid 30).

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The refrain “it’s coming home” doesn’t mean what most people think it means

Most fans believe it to be about bringing a trophy “home”, but the refrain was actually a reference to England hosting its first major football tournament since the ‘66 World Cup when the song was released.

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It’s “Jules Rimet” still gleaming

Not “jewels remain still gleaming.” Jules Rimet was the longest-serving FIFA president and started the World Cup competition in 1929. As such, the original World Cup trophy was named after him.

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The song helped dismantle the aggression of the Cross of St George

The St. George Cross flag had associations with the far-right in the ‘90s, but circumstances at Euro ‘96, of which the song is part, created a “non-aggressive, non-triumphalist patriotism,” according to Baddiel.

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It wasn’t just popular in England

German player Jürgen Klinsmann said that German fans were singing the song themselves on the way to the stadium for the Euro 96’ semi-final game, and the crowd sang the song as the winners paraded the trophy on the Römer balcony in Frankfurt.

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