England awaits: As fans prepare for World Cup final, why do they sing Sweet Caroline?

Lionesses fans will be hoping they are in the mood to belt out Sweet Caroline after Sunday's World Cup final

England fans sing during a screening in London of the Fifa Women's World Cup semi-final in London. AP
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The Lionesses’ success in Australia means a familiar tune is being belted out – several times over – at the stadium, in people’s homes and anywhere else fans gather to cheer on the team.

Sweet Caroline may not be an obvious football song – it is, after all, a love ballad – but it is one of England's favourite footballing anthems.

Even the Welsh Guards Band performed it during Wednesday's Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace after the Lionesses' win against Australia, ensuring their place in the final this weekend.

But the question is, why has it become so popular among England fans?

The answer is rather peculiar, and harks back to when it became a victory song for the Boston Red Sox baseball team, after the employee in charge of the music at a 1997 game played it in honour of a friend who had just had a baby whom she called Caroline.

Over time, it became good luck anthem among fans, to be belted out whenever the team was playing well.

And that somehow caught on in the UK.

It is believed Arsenal was the first UK team to adopt it at the 2017 FA Cup semi-final win.

But others have used it as well, including Aston Villa and boxer Tyson Fury.

It cemented its place as an English team anthem in the 2020 Euro football tournament, when the DJ for matches at Wembley, Tony Perry, decided to use it to follow up Three Lions following the team’s win against Germany.

Some of the German fans even reportedly sang along.

“It’s kind of become like a good-luck charm in this tournament,” Perry told The New York Times.

He had first heard the song’s “special powers”, as he described them to the paper in 2019, when the Red Sox and the New York Yankees played two games in London. When the song came on, the crowd started singing along.

“That’s where I picked up on those special powers,” Perry said.

The Lionesses sang it themselves on the pitch following their Euro final victory last year.

What is the song about and who wrote it?

It was once believed that the 1969 Neil Diamond song was an ode to the daughter of John F Kennedy and Jacqueline.

But decades later, in 2014, Diamond revealed that he actually wrote it for his wife at the time, Marsha.

“I was writing a song in Memphis, Tennessee, for a session. I needed a three-syllable name,” Diamond said told the Today show in the US.

“The song was about my wife at the time – her name was Marsha – and I couldn’t get a ‘Marsha’ rhyme.”

Diamond has said in the past how happy he is that it has become an anthem of not only the Red Sox, but the England football team.

In 2021, when the tournament was being played, he told the Times: “It’s a song to celebrate good things, and it seems to bring good luck to those who embrace it.

“It’s also a song of unity and can bring together even the fiercest of competitors. But of course I want England to win because I love the way they sing it with such gusto.”

What are the lyrics?

Where it began, I can't begin to knowing

But then I know it's growing strong

Was in the spring

And spring became the summer

Who'd have believed you'd come along

Hands, touching hands

Reaching out, touching me, touching you

Sweet Caroline

Good times never seemed so good

I've been inclined

To believe they never would

But now

I Look at the night and it don't seem so lonely

We filled it up with only two

And when I hurt

Hurting runs off my shoulders

How can I hurt when holding you

One, touching one

Reaching out, touching me, touching you

Sweet Caroline

Good times never seemed so good

I've been inclined

To believe they never would

Oh no, no

Sweet Caroline

Good times never seemed so good

Sweet Caroline

I believe they never could

Sweet Caroline

Good times never seemed so good

Updated: August 18, 2023, 6:03 PM