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Three Lions

Three Lions Football

The English national football team, The Three Lions, have a notable place in the history of football, being from Britain, where the game was invented in many aspects. The England Football team were involved in the very first matches ever between countries.

3 Lions english football badge, lion in the background

History of the Three Lions

England's national football team and Scotland's national football team were formed at the same time, in 1870, when they played their first match against each other. The first game between the nations was played on the 5th March 1870, in The Oval in London. The match ended with a draw, 1-1.

Before the rest of the world adopted football, England and the rest of the British nations contested in the annual British Home Championship. England won the tournament for the first time in 1888, after being runners-up to Scotland in the first four editions.

The British Home Championship was in existence for over a hundred years, and England became the most successful team to compete, with 54 wins.

England's football team were successful in the tournaments played in the Olympic at the beginning of the 20th century. When football was included for the first time at the 1900 London Summer Olympics, the national teams of the country represented themselves as Great Britain. They won thr tournament against the only other two partaking nations, France and Belgium.

After their absence in the 1904 Summer Olympics, Great Britain won the gold medal again in the 1908 Summer Olympics. Their domination in the Olympic football tournaments continued up until 1920 when Norway defeated the British team.

The British national team returned to the Olympics in 1936, after a two year absence due to a dispute between FA and FIFA. In the second round of games in the 1936 Olympics, Great Britain were eliminated by Poland.

After the invention of the World Cup, the Olympic football tournament was no longer the leading settlement of which the best national teams would compete.

Why are they called the Three Lions?

England's national team are nicknamed the Three lions due to the Three Lions badge on the shirts worn by England's players. The badge is to show that they represent the Football association, whose logo is also the Three Lions crest.

Since their first international fixture against Scotland in 1872, England's team have worn the Football associations Three lions logo. The reason why both the Football association and England's team were the Three Lions Badge goes back to the 12th century battlefield.

Standards with three golden lions on a red background carried into the battleground to inspire the army at war. The logo was adopted by the football association during formation in 1863.

The three lions was used as the "coat of arms of England", dating as far back as the 12th century, whose arms are described as “Gules, three lions passant guardant Or”. It is seen in more recent history the design came from Henry I, whose standard had a lion, becoming two when he married the daughter of a man who had a lion on his shield.

The design became three when Henry II married the daughter of a man who adopted the lions design.

The Three Lions design was changed in 1949 to a new version, taking the crown that sat on top of the lions away, so they didn't resemble England's cricket team.

In May 2021, the football association changed the original three lions badge for their grassroots programme, it was replaced with a lion, lioness and a cub.

What is the Three Lions Anthem?

England fans can be heard chanting the words to Three Lions (Football's Coming Home) whenever their is an English game, most prominently at Wembley Stadium.

"It's coming home" or "Footballs coming home" is a song by comedians David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and the rock band Lightning seeds, the song was released ahead of the 1996 UEFA European Championships hosted by England.

"Footballs coming home" known as the Three Lions anthem, is in reference to football returning to the home of its birth, with Euro 96 being the first major tournament held in England since the 1966 World Cup.

From the perspective of football fans, the song expresses the disapointment and hope of being english fans, where the many oh-so-nears wear them down, with no hope of football coming home.

The music was written by Ian Broudie, the singer of the Lightning seeds, with presenters of the football comedy show Fantasy Football League, Baddiel and Skinner providing the lions lyrics.

The song often reappears in the UK music charts when Englands football team have any major tournaments. It is the official song of English football, and has been since 1996, the chorus is the most popular chant for fans watching England play football.

What do the lyrics mean?

The lyrics of the chorus "its coming home" were a reflection of the fact England were hosting their first game since 1966, but has since evolved to include the concept of the cup returning to its home turf. The football song makes reference to several England players;  Bobby Moore, Nobby Stiles,  Bobby Charlton and Gordon Banks, who played in the 1966 World Cup

Among the references in the song are the following:

  • "That tackle by Moore": Bobby Moore's tackle of Jairzinho in a group match against Brazil at the 1970 FIFA World Cup.

Bobby Moore tackling Jairzinho

  • "When Lineker scored": Gary Lineker's goal against West Germany in a semifinal at the 1990 FIFA World Cup.

Garry Lineker celebrating

  • "Bobby belting the ball": Bobby Charlton's goal against Mexico in a group match at the 1966 FIFA World Cup.

picture of Bobby Charlton

  • "Nobby dancing": Nobby Stiles dancing with the Jules Rimet Trophy after England won the 1966 FIFA World Cup.

Picture of Nobey Stiles

Unlike other, more optimistic, football songs, the lions lyrics speak of the bad news from the point of view of a football fan and since the 1966 FIFA World Cup, how every tournament played, England lost. Despite these years of hurt, football fans have not lost hope that the england team will win again ("Three lions on a shirt / Jules Rimet still gleaming / Thirty years of hurt / never stopped me dreaming")

David Baddiel said the song was "really about magical thinking. About assuming we are going to lose, reasonably, based on experience, but hoping that somehow we won’t." Despite the failures of past England games, each match is met with fresh ambition that football's coming home.

Stick with Tournamentfootball.co.uk to keep up to date with all the upcoming World Cup 2022 news, including further insight into the Qualifications, Schedule and the draw. As well as all things Fantasy Football for the forthcoming event.


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