Hundreds of supporters wore their country’s shirts, flags, kilts and tartan as they gathered in Leicester Square, Kings Cross and Hyde Park on Friday – with some pictured wearing very little at all.
They chanted and sang together ahead of the match between England and Scotland, the 115th in international football’s oldest rivalry.
Several Scotland fans who spoke to The Independent ahead of the match all predicted a 3-0 win, and said they were in good spirits despite the rain, and their team having lost their opening match of the tournament, against the Czech Republic on Monday.
“We are going to beat England 3-0, easy peasy,” one man, who did not want to be named, said. Having apparently brought the dreich Scottish weather with him, he added: “We are used to the weather so it is no big deal.”
David Miles, 22, agreed on both counts. “We are going to win 3-0,” he said, adding: “The rain does not bother us, we are from near Glasgow.”
One bekilted man said: “Scotland are going to win 3-0, no trouble.” His friend, Duncan Fraser, said the weather made them feel in their element.
“It is raining at home so it does not really matter. This is our comfort, this is where we like to be, out in the rain.”
However, Jim Smith, 62, was less optimistic about the scoreline, but was positive nonetheless.
“I think we will get beat. But I will take a draw. It is a brilliant atmosphere.”
Wembley Stadium will host 22,500 people for the 8pm game, and fans are predicted to buy 3.4 million pints during the game, while a total of 14.8 million will be sold across England and Scotland on match day, according to estimates by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).
It comes as the Met Police’s football chief warned fans not to travel to the stadium without a ticket.
Chief Inspector Joseph Stokoe said: “It’s a shame, it feels like there aren’t enough places for the fans to enjoy themselves, but that’s why the message has always been – if you don’t have a ticket, don’t travel.
“Enjoy the match, enjoy the event locally, in a safer event... don’t come here, because unfortunately because of what’s gone on across the world, we’ve been unable to provide the amount of fan zones you might expect in normal times.”
He said officers have been reminding fans that some Londoners are “still living under the fear of the pandemic”, adding that spreading the Met’s resources between fighting crime and policing the football is “a balancing act”.
Officers arrested two men on Thursday night, including a 25-year-old for indecent exposure in Hyde Park, before later releasing him.
Another man was arrested for attempted theft of a police officer’s hat, assault with intent of avoiding arrest and assault of an emergency services worker.
He is currently being held at a south London police station.
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, echoed the warning for Scottish fans to stay away from London, adding that coronavirus is not a fan of Scotland or England’s men’s football team.
She said: “I know these precautions are tiresome for everybody in every context and they’re particularly tiresome when people are trying to enjoy the normal pleasures of a football match.
“But this virus, it doesn’t care about football – it’s not a Scotland fan or an England fan, it only cares about spreading from one person to another.”
For the Scotland fans in London on Friday, the warnings had clearly not been enough to keep them away.
“They must have had a fair idea there was going to be a lot of crowds here, so they should have put a fan zone somewhere, then they would have been able to keep us together rather than fragmented here, there and everywhere,” one fan, who did not want to be named, told The Independent.
“It feels a bit pre-pandemic,” said Andrew Jahoda, 59. “They are probably quite right, but it is too late now.”
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