English expatriates living in Italy and Europe stepped in to support the Three Lions when it became clear that English residents were not welcome in Rome due to fears over coronavirus pandemic and the more aggressive Delta variant.
Brits came from as far afield as New York and Dubai for the big game and the slightly more well-heeled fans soaked up the culture, sightseeing and touring Rome’s historic streets on e-scooters before the match at the Stadio Olimpico.
Ollie Burke from County Durham, who lives in the Netherlands, said he had been to visit the Spanish steps and Trevi fountain before coming to the Stadium.
“It’s my first time seeing England play. The atmosphere has been great, considering there are not many fans able to come.”
Supporters said they fans had bonded more than usual. Andrew Hacking from Shrewsbury, who lives in France, came alone but said: “I’ve met so many people from all different places, all living abroad. It’s nice to represent England but it feels like a slightly different kind of England fan that’s here. We already live in Europe so maybe we have more respect.”
Kirwenn Nunes, originally from London but who currently lives in Lisbon, said: “We are a slightly less barmy army, just as passionate, but slightly less ridiculous.
“It would be nice if we left and everyone said the English were lovely. My mum is Irish and people always say Irish fans are incredible. If English people behave that way today then maybe we could heal that reputation a bit. The worst we can do is sing.”
Erica Rolfe, who lives in Rome and works at the European Space Agency, said it was “a unique opportunity to get tickets as it’s normally impossible. It’s the one benefit of Covid.”
Another Anglo living in Italy, Angela Mcdonald, said it was a last minute decision to attend the quarter-final. “We heard that they would let fans in so we felt it was our duty to come and support, so here we are.”
Fans are being subjected to rigorous security checks to make sure they have not been in England in the past two weeks, by Italian police.
Nunes said: “I haven’t told any of my friends I’m coming. I think they could still pull something and say you’re English you can’t come in. Once I’m in my seat I’ll tell them.”