TThey came from Bern, Berlin, Luxembourg and Dubai, some giving up a night’s sleep while crossing the Alps or taking red-eye flights. Some of the most ardent soccer fans bought tickets two years ago; others bagged them in the last-minute race that followed England’s historic win over Germany on Tuesday.
They were rewarded with an extraordinary, emphatic and exhilarating 4-0 victory over Ukraine, and those inside the stadium sang until their voices ran out.
Each goal was greeted with thunderous roars from 2,500 England supporters in the stands of Rome’s Olympic stadium, a predominantly ‘expatriate’ army crowd after coronavirus restrictions prevented most fans living in the UK from traveling. .
However, they arrived in Rome, many could not believe the luck of being in the Italian capital to experience the victory of England.
“It feels a bit surreal,” said Robert Cummins, a Briton living in Zurich, sipping a beer before kickoff at the Drunken Ship bar in Rome’s Campo de ‘Fiori square. “It was a great opportunity after England beat Germany, and we thought ‘why not?’ And so we book at the last minute. “
Cummins had arrived in Rome with fellow England fans Richard Hay, who also lives in Zurich, and Manish Patel, who lives in Berlin. All three were among the army of “expats” that made up the 2,500 England supporters allowed into the stadium after coronavirus restrictions prevented most fans living in the UK from traveling.
“It would probably have been impossible to get a ticket any other way. I feel very lucky to have one,” said Patel, who was in Germany when it hosted the World Cup in 2006. England also reached the quarter-finals on that occasion. . , before losing to Portugal. “I remember there were about 200,000 English fans back then. It is much quieter here than in Germany. “
Sam Massenhove, originally from East London, finished his job in Bern at 5pm on Friday and crossed the mountainous border of Switzerland into Italy with his girlfriend, Joanna Mendham, also from London, and his friends John Brown and Kieran Porter, both originally from Birmingham.
“We left the car in Milan around two in the morning, slept on the street and then took the first train to Rome early this morning. It’s my first time in Italy, ”said Massenhove, who promised to propose to Mendham if England won the tournament.
“We got tickets yesterday and we wanted to make the most of it,” said Brown, who had also not visited Italy before. “I hate to say it, but if it weren’t for the pandemic, we probably wouldn’t have made it.”
At the request of Italy, UEFA canceled all tickets sold since Monday to England fans residing in the United Kingdom for fear that people will try to violate the five-day coronavirus quarantine rule in force for travelers arriving from Britain. The quarantine rule for people traveling from the UK was reimposed in mid-June amid concerns about the spread of the Delta variant.
But some UK residents came to Rome, having bought tickets to the quarterfinals two years ago. They arrived in town before knowing if England would compete in the match, which gave them enough time for quarantine.
“I bought tickets for three of the matches in 2019, in three cities I wanted to go to, and Rome was one,” said Sagar Gondhia of London.
And it wasn’t just England fans who traveled to Rome for the game, among those who drank at Campo de ‘Fiori were four Germans, one wearing an England jersey. The group had also bought tickets to the quarterfinals two years ago, keeping their fingers crossed for Germany to participate.
“It’s a sensitive topic but we wanted to come anyway,” said Laura Eisenbarth.
Florian Huber joked: “We knew that not many England fans would be able to attend so we have come to help cheer on the team.”
The celebrations in Rome continued well into the night.
“We didn’t book a hotel because our flight leaves tomorrow at 8:30 am … so we plan to find a bar that’s open late enough to greet us before we go to the airport,” said Barry Edwards, who had come from Barcelona with his friend. Jordan Radley.
“It would have been worth coming even if England had won 1-0 … as soon as we booked the tickets we knew it would be special.”