England football songs rang out across Lenin Square yesterday, as hundreds of fans basked in sunshine and enjoyed cheap beer ahead of England's game against France tonight.
England play all three group games in Ukraine. High costs, accommodation chaos and fear of violence have led to the smallest travelling support at a main tournament in living memory.
Only 3,000 fans took up tickets through the Football Association. Yesterday evening there were still several hundred seats available for tonight's game, and touts were trying to offload tickets at face value outside the 50,000-seater Donbass Arena.
But fans who are here say they are amazed how welcoming the city is. Bob Dickerson, 63, travelled from Ipswich with his son Kevin. He wished that more fans had travelled.
"The media coverage has stopped a lot of people from coming, and that's a real shame, because it's absolutely fantastic here," he said.
The shortage of hotel rooms and the astronomical price of those on offer has meant many supporters have headed to a giant makeshift camping park on the outskirts of town.
"I'm not used to travelling like this – it's the first time in 10 years I've been on a holiday where I have to bring my own towel," said James Baxter, a London-based lawyer who arrived at the park yesterday. "But I wasn't prepared to shell out £1,000 for a hotel." There is anger in Donetsk over what city officials feel is unfair British media coverage of the Euros, but the attitude of local hoteliers and rental agencies has not helped UK fans. It appears that owners prefer to keep rooms empty rather than lower prices.
A spokesman for the British Embassy in Kiev said there had been no major incidents involving England fans, and that the major concern was the hot weather and making sure people drink enough water. More England football fans are expected in the city today.Reuse content