Euro 2020: Fans dejected after day of jubilation in central London

‘The place is gonna be a mess,’ predicts a security guard as fans crowd into central London

Liam James,Peter Stubley
Monday 12 July 2021 01:16
England fans celebrate Luke Shaw goal

Hope turned into heartbreak in pubs, fan zones and living rooms across the country as England lost to Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 final.

Supporters who had spent the day celebrating the build-up to the match – and the chance of winning a first major tournament since 1966 – were left dejected as the rain poured down on Sunday night.

In central London, some frustrated fans took out their anger by smashing bottles, overturning bins in the street or kicking the fence around the fan zone in Trafalgar Square.

Shortly afterwards the Metropolitan Police confirmed they had made 45 arrests while policing the final.

The day had begun with scenes of jubilation as tens of thousands of England fans had crowded into central London to soak up the atmosphere – and industrial quantities of alcohol – despite not having any event tickets or pub bookings.

While most were happy just to enjoy themselves by singing football anthems, some took the opportunity to climb buses, lampposts and traffic lights, set fire to an Italian flag and even uproot a decorative tree to hurl it back and forth across Leicester Square.

Police also had to intervene to stop a crowd of ticketless fans trying to push into the fan zone in Trafalgar Square, and King’s Cross station was briefly evacuated because of smoke from flares.

In Soho, a pair bouncers stood outside a bar were admitting fans on booking only. “It’s either gonna be really bad or really good; either way the place is gonna be a mess,” one said. By then the streets were already carpeted with broken glass, plastic bags and other litter.

As kick-off approached, fans were still streaming out of the train stations on their way to the West End. One fan freshly arrived at Waterloo expressed confidence that the most inebriated fans would “be in bed by the game... better that way”.

Some supporters arrived in Trafalgar Square thinking they could watch the match on the giant screens in the fan zone – only to discover they needed a ticket.

The walls outside the National Gallery, at the north of the square, were lined with fans determined to get a free view of the match one way or another.

A fan throws a decorative tree which has been uprooted from Leicester Square

Katie, who headed down from Northamptonshire with her daughters, said: “We can’t get in. Need a f***ing ticket. I didn’t know that.”

As the national anthems were played, England fans stood on tables in Trafalgar Square, held their hands to their chests and sang “God Save the Queen”.

Just two minutes later the crowd erupted as one as Luke Shaw scored the opening goal. Cheers, chants and screams were heard echoing through streets, followed by the familiar lyrics of the Three Lions song. A few, more unhappy, supporters were spotted throwing up in the street.

The chanting of “It's Coming Home” continued at half time as fireworks were set off in Trafalgar Square.

However, fans grew increasingly nervous after Italy equalised to make it 1-1 midway through the second half.

Supporters were silenced by the goal, some visibly shocked with heads in hands.

The tense atmosphere was only lifted by the arrival of substitute Jack Grealish, whose onscreen appearance prompted cheers and shouts of “Super Jackie Grealish”.

Fans remained optimistic as the game moved towards penalties, but security staff could be seen in increasing numbers in Trafalgar Square as the game moved towards its climax. Toilet rolls were thrown as response officers told some supporters to calm down.

When the end finally came, fans reacted in wildly different ways. Some embraced each other or applauded their team's efforts, while others collapsed to the floor in tears. Several took out their frustrations by smashing bottles and hitting inanimate objects.

Many trudged quietly away on their long journey home. One man walking alone did not have much to say about the result, sighing: “Is what it is, mate”.

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