After losing a tense shot on goal 3-2 to Italy in the European Championship final on Sunday night, the young England football team’s high hopes of ‘bringing home’ the trophy were dashed at the last minute. The tight result rocked London, where, despite the increase in the number of coronavirus cases, every ad was full.
On the London Picadilly line underground, a Scottish woman asked a group of English men decked out in goods to wear masks. They thought she was American. “Fk off American!” They yelled at him. “It’s not your day!”
The metropolitan police announced Sunday evening that 19 police officers had been injured in the face of “volatile crowds” unleashed on the city.
Several people at the station told me they came to London “for the atmosphere”. James, 22, from Bristol, has worked as a supermarket cashier for the 16-month lockdown.
“I just decided to come to London for the big game, I booked a hotel,” he told me, “We’ll probably be bottling it, though.” His plan is to “get mad and walk around” and then watch the game in his room.
Earlier this week, even British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who faces legal action for potentially causing tens of thousands of preventable deaths from COVID-19 and who is more of a rugby fan, took to the train in walked and teased the audience with the prospect of a national vacation if the home team won the game.
The final at Wembley Stadium in London was one of many “pilot events” to test the safety of mass gatherings before what Johnson calls “Freedom Day” or July 19, when the British can choose whether whether or not they want to continue wearing masks indoors. Johnson says vaccinations “severed” the link between cases and deaths, but a coalition of more than 100 scientists said his “mass infection” strategy was dangerous and unprecedented. Tests of stadium events indicate they can be safe, with only 8 of 30,000 spectators testing positive after attending test events in June, but the results are only based on the miserable 15 percent of participants who returned their PCR tests.
Two hours before the match, supporters without tickets tried to break into Wembley, where 60,000 people attended the final.
Two minutes after the kick-off, a slow then massive cry was heard in Leicester Square, the “unofficial fan zone” of London, among the hundreds of young people who had gathered around a miniature park to be raving and toss smoke bombs into the air. “What what?” a girl shouted. And suddenly everyone in the square was running in all directions trying to spot an outdoor TV in one of the full pubs. “England scored !!!” Then it started to rain. The crowd stayed outside, launching rockets and cheering at random times. “The kids just party, don’t watch the game,” a slightly older teenager told his friends after moving under a nearby cinema awning to stream the game live on his phone.
Outside London Central Bus Station on Sunday morning, a group of young men with travel bags checked directions and walked along the road singing Atomic Kitten’s “Whole Again”: “Baby you are the only one… you always turn me on…. ”The song, once the staple of dance instructions in Noughties Girls magazine, is now a fan ode to England football manager Gareth Southgate (“Southgate, that’s you.”) Why Atomic Kitten? “Because it’s been 55 years apart,” said Sam, a 19-year-old student from Bath, after thoughtfully humming “thinking back to our first meeting …” In 1966 England won the Cup. world. They haven’t won a major trophy since (or before) then.
During the day, a huge crowd of mostly teenagers and young adults gathered in Leicester Square. In Trafalgar Square – the “official fan zone” – people needed tickets won in the public lottery to enter a cordoned off area surrounded by angry fans trying to break in. Before the game in the unofficial fan zone, people made room for a man to throw a bright yellow traffic sign at another man, who the latter tried and failed to head butt . Against a candy store stood a man with a sleeping bag rolled over one shoulder called Nathan, who said he was from the Shetland Islands and was here to ‘see life’ and ‘meet people. “.
“We saw it on social media,” Bella, a 20-year-old with a heavy West Country accent, referring to the video of a man waving an English flag while clinging to the side of a moving bus in North West London.
At an evening of the Magic Mike male striptease show, men spun around on stage, as half of the all-female audience pulled out their phones to watch the England goal. “It’s coming home,” some women sang to r & b music from the early 2000s.
I also tried talking to one of the large groups of men, dressed in English flags or blazers and tight beers, who were walking on the road outside Buckingham Palace, but the conversation was cut short when one blank stared man wrapped me in a headlock and sprayed me with the message: “Tell the daily beast”, – long pause – “THIS IS. COMING. HOME”