So, 'football's coming home' ... what does England's World Cup song/slogan mean?

So, you might have heard that football is coming home. With England charging to its first men’s World Cup semifinal since 1990, you’ve heard it in song; in memes; from celebrities and players; blurted out as an all-encompassing greeting that means both nothing and everything.

The saying has become so popular that specifying what exactly is coming home – football, duh – is now unnecessary. The slogan has transformed into simply, “It’s coming home.” Google search trends offer proof:

England players are in on the bit:

At news conferences, they’ve been asked, “is football coming home?” Some refrain from guarantees. Others gleefully tell fans that it’s coming:

After England dispatched Sweden in the World Cup quarters, even Crouchy is on board:

But, uh, what the heck does “football’s coming home” mean?

What does “football’s coming home” mean, literally?

“Football,” obviously, is the British term for soccer. “Home” is England, the birthplace of the modern game. Various ball games, some of which involved kicking, had been played for centuries, but Oxford and Cambridge graduates codified the rules of “association football,” now known as either soccer or football, in the 1860s.

So the English proudly lay claim to having invented the sport. England is football’s home. But why, exactly, is it coming home?

That’s where the literal analysis breaks down, because the World Cup wasn’t invented in England. England didn’t even enter the first three tournaments. But oh well … let’s just go along with the fun. Because it’s coming home.

Why has “football’s coming home” become a thing?

The story begins in 1996, with this lovely song:

It was originally written and recorded by a couple of comedians and a band you’ve probably never heard of in the buildup to Euro 1996, which England was hosting. So in ’96 – 30 years after England hosted and won the 1966 World Cup – football was, more literally, coming home.

The song was catchy, so England fans adopted it as their very unofficial anthem at the time. It also jibed with the official slogan for the ’96 European Championship, “Football Comes Home.” The song, though, popularized the saying.

The song has now made a comeback. It’s been heard on London streets and in pubs after England World Cup victories. It rung out around the stadium in Samara during England’s 2-0 win over Sweden. It’s everywhere.

But “football’s coming home” has become much more than the song now.

Send a text to a British friend, or any World Cup fan, with the three words “it’s coming home,” and he or she will know exactly what you mean.

The only thing that remains to be seen is, well, whether football is actually coming home. England faces either Croatia or Russia in the semifinals on Wednesday.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

Football is coming home, in case you haven’t heard. (Getty)
Football is coming home, in case you haven’t heard. (Getty)

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