homecoming

Harry Kane 2021

Well tomorrow is the big day. It’s coming home. England are in an actual major final for the first time in my entire life, and with a (current) Tottenham player as captain no less. I find it hard to get excited, after a lifetime of (a) watching England and (b) being a Tottenham fan. But excited we are. That’s Harry Kane above, by the way, for those who don’t know. Also for those who don’t know, “it’s coming home” is what people in England say now when England do well at the football, and it’s taken the meaning of a hopeful “we’re gonna win it!” It’s a reference to the 1996 song by Baddiel and Skinner and the Lightning Seeds, “Three Lions”, which sings that as an opening refrain, “it’s coming home, it’s coming, football’s coming home”. Great song, I still have the original CD. Kind of a little overused in England the past few years. That line, “football’s coming home” was the tagline of the Euro 96 tournament, which was held in England. Why home? Because the sport originated in England. Now a lot of people are getting a bit uppity, oh no no it didn’t, football was invented thousands of years ago in this country or that culture, and all of that is probably true, they all had some sort of game that involved kicking a ball, though not always exclusively and . The sport that is played now and called “football” in England – “soccer” in America – however did originate in its modern form with its modern rules in Victorian England, and that is where the modern rules were first codified with the first ‘Football Association’ in 1863, which by the way is why people call it soccer. You might have heard posh types in Britain refer to Rugby as ‘Rugger’, well Association Football was shortened to ‘soccer’, a British – not American – term. Prior to this, there were a great number of different forms of the sport in England, such as the ‘Sheffield Rules’ or the ‘Cambridge Rules’. It was probably a bit like when you go to someone’s house and play Charades and they play the rules slightly different from you, and it can be problematic unless some great minds come together to form the Charades Association, or something. It was that form of the sport (football, not charades) that was exported around the world, and many great clubs and institutions were founded by expat Englishmen, such as AC Milan (note how they use the English name of the city); similarly, Genoa (not ‘Genova’) still go by their original name ‘Genoa Cricket and Football Club’ Basque team Athletic Bilbao has its origins in the shipyard workers who emigrated from various English ports; British emigrants kickstarted soccer in South America, and Brazilian team Corinthians was formed after the visit of amateur English side Corinthian FC. It’s not to say that the idea of playing sport on a field with a ball (or even calling it football) was inherently English, various other sports called football exist in other countries today, but those are different sports. They all have origins in the idea of sports with a ball but this particular one, Association Football, the one that is played with same rules worldwide, that one came out of England. Once it was out it went everywhere, and had many many different styles, but the FA rules were universal – sorry, not the ‘rules, I mean the Laws Of The Game. You have to call them that or referees get cross. FIFA was founded in Paris in 1904, replacing the FA as the global governing body of the sport but guaranteeing to only play games according to the FA’s Laws. The great tournaments of the game, they were not English in origin – the FIFA World Cup was organized by the Frenchman Jules Rimet (he of the “still gleaming” lyric in Three Lions) and held in Uruguay, and England refused to take part until 1950, when they were roundly beaten by the United States. UEFA, the European governing body, was founded in 1954 in Switzerland, and the great European tournaments followed – the European Cup (now the Champions League) in 1955, started by the French (ironically only one French team has ever won it, Marseille in 1993, and that was questionable given they were relegated for match-fixing that year), and of the course the European Championship itself, founded by UEFA with the trophy named after Frenchman Henri Delauney who had been having this idea for decades (he died before he could see it finally play). England have never won this tournament, never even been in the final. Or should I say, England’s Mens Team has never been in the final – the Womens Team has been to the final of the European Womens’ Championship twice.  But in this tournament England has never been to the final, until now. When England sing “it’s coming home” they aren’t referring to themselves as the founders of the competition, or as previous winners, they mean as the birthplace of the current sport, they aren’t saying “Football Including All Other Versions Of The Game Going Back Over Thousands Of Years In Different Unrelated Cultures Is Coming Home”, and they don’t have to actually point out “Association Football Is Coming Back To the Country Which First Codified the Laws Of The Game in 1863”; it doesn’t actually need pointing out. You don’t need to worry about football songs being literal. I don’t actually believe “Tottenham Are The Greatest Team The World Has Ever Seen”. Honestly, don’t worry about it. The song itself is self-deprecating in a typically English way, while also being hopeful, and saying we don’t need to always be so negative. It’s a much nicer song than some of the others that get sung by England fans, although as much as I like it and it makes me feel like it’s 1996 again, I hope another song comes along (not ‘Vindaloo’, I hated that one) that is just as good so people aren’t utterly sick of “It’s Coming Home” (I am sure many of you already are). It will probably come along in 2051, thirty years after our last trophy, which of course will be won tomorrow against Italy…

Ok, I’m not getting ahead of myself but I can still believe. We’ll see what happens. Italy haven’t won this trophy since 1968 but they’ve had a couple of World Cups since then. They don’t even call it football, they call it ‘Calcio’, and that name has origins in a sport that goes back centuries…don’t get me started on that story. But if it happens, if England win it… I will be running around Davis in my one England shirt singing “It’s Coming Home” at the top of my voice. Even in this 111 degree weather…  

       

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