Euro 2020: EU-based England fans revel in Rome
“I made the journey from Amsterdam today,” Netherlands-based Englishman Ryan Wilkins told DW. “We don’t get an opportunity like this very often, do we? The England-based England fans will have the semifinal so this is a rare moment for the English that are living in Europe. We usually get forgotten about these days!”
There are 1.3 million Britons living in the EU, and it felt like half of them were at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday night. With the delta variant accounting for more than 90% of UK cases of COVID-19 and threatening to rage, the two-week quarantine period for arrivals in Italy made it almost impossible for UK-based England fans to make the trip.
Such is England’s impressive progress at this tournament, that those ‘native’ fans will still have a semifinal and potentially a final too at London’s Wembley Stadium. But this 4-0 statement win in Rome was as impressive on the field as it was a rare demographic spectacle off it.
‘It’s Coming Home’
Away from the raucous energy of Wembley Stadium a few days ago, where England beat Germany, this was a potentially tricky affair for the English. On neutral soil against a team that had just beaten Sweden and have been making strides under coach Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine were ready to cause an upset.
England are confident under coach Gareth Southgate though, and inside the stadium that confidence was seen among the fans too. Whether they sang the England anthem ‘It’s Coming Home’ or the Gareth Southgate song, best described as an adapted version of ‘Whole Again’ by Liverpool-based pop group Atomic Kitten, spirits were high.
Unlike at Wembley, UEFA staff were keen to prevent clusters of fans from developing, so it was harder for a song to catch fire than it had been at Wembley. But after England had disposed of Ukraine with ease – thanks partly to two goals by captain Harry Kane – the party started in the shadow of the Stadio Olimpico.
Home from home
“We really feel like we’ve got a chance this year,” said Julia Coperton, who travelled to Rome on Saturday morning from Vienna, where she has lived and worked since 2017. “Gareth Southgate has restored our pride in the England team. He makes us believe again – that’s the greatest compliment you can say about what he’s done with this team.
“And just look at this atmosphere. There are so many England fans around the world but especially in Europe and maybe we get a little forgotten with Brexit and the pandemic. So this was a nice opportunity to represent England. And what a result.”
From Paul Gascoigne’s tears in Turin to the countless penalty shootout failures, supporting England comes with its baggage. But from Southgate’s revenge against Germany to this euphoric night in Rome, they are slowly banishing those memories to history. And for at least a night, Rome was a home from home for the thousands that made the pilgrimage from across the continent.
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