Members of the Anyone But England brigade – including football fans in Scotland and Wales – prepare to be Italian… for one day (complete with pasta and chianti)
As the nation finally dared to dream of football glory, fans further afield declared themselves members of ABE – Anyone But England – with some in Scotland and Wales vowing to watch the Euro 2020 final against Italy with a bowl of pasta and a glass of chianti.
In Merthyr Tydfil, Welsh restaurant owner Jamie O’Leary, 38, said: ‘I supported Denmark in the semi-final and Germany before that.
‘I’d support Afghanistan if England were playing them.’
Welsh opera singer Phillip Joll, 67, said: ‘I will be supporting Italy and the fact my wife is Italian has nothing to do with it. I’d find it impossible to cheer on England so we will watch the game together with a bottle of chianti.’
Alun Davies, 57, a Labour member of the Welsh Senedd, will watch the game with a bowl of pasta with his football-mad son Rhys, ten, adding: ‘I’m tired of the non-stop media coverage being rammed down our throats, it will become even more unbearable if England win.’
Football fans pose with an Italian flag on their way to Wembley Stadium ahead of the UEFA Euro 2020 semi-final football match between Italy and Spain on July 6
In Scotland – home to 75,000 people of Italian descent – pubs, restaurants and homes have hoisted red, white and green Italian flags.
Some are backing the Azzurri due to the long-standing sporting rivalry with England, others for fear of cross-border gloating.
Hamish Husband, spokesman for supporters’ group the West of Scotland Tartan Army, said: ‘There is a grudging respect for the England manager and players, but that stops and for a day we will all be Italian.’
A popular image being circulated on social media in Scotland shows Mel Gibson in the famous battle scene from the film Braveheart, but instead of his face painted blue and white, it is striped the red, white and green of Italy’s flag.
A variation on that theme saw independence-supporting newspaper The National run a front page with a picture of Italy’s manager Roberto Mancini depicted as Scottish hero William Wallace.
Across Europe, politicians, pundits and fans are praying for England to lose. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she would support Italy.
Harry Kane celebrates England’s victory in the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship semi-final match between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium
Italian fans celebrate the victory of Italy over Wales in Rome on June 20
In Italy, newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport claimed England were only awarded a penalty against Denmark in the semi-final because Uefa wanted to thank Boris Johnson for helping thwart the breakaway European Super League.
Meanwhile, images emerged on social media showing Italian fans holding a banner that read: ‘F*** the Queen.’
In Spain, a presenter on football TV show El Chiringuito claimed ‘the most shameful competition that we have covered’ was biased in favour of England, adding: ‘We’ve got a final that was prepared for a country that left the European Union.
It has been totally prepared. They’ve played every game at home except one. It has been totally conditioned for England.’