Euro 2020: Fans optimistic ahead of first match despite threat of COVID-19

11 June 2021, 14:34 | Updated: 11 June 2021, 16:29

Everywhere you look, there is a Euro 2020 banner.

In Rome, there isn't the buzz of an ordinary major tournament - stadiums here is at 25% capacity and there are no large crowds partying.

But the pre-match excitement is building and at the Fori Imperiali fan zone by the Colosseum, "football is back," as Patrick Miccoli tells me, waving his Italian flag ahead of the opening match of Euro 2020.

"It's a beautiful game, it's a beautiful day and we've waited a long time and the Euros are here," he says.

Last year's Champions League match between Atalanta and Valencia in Milan is seen by many as a moment that sparked the first wave of COVID-19 in northern Italy, but Turkey fan Ali Mekik says "we are after coronavirus" and it's time for "a happy day after a difficult year".

Mr Mekik has come here from Germany, so hasn't faced the strict quarantine rules for fans coming from Turkey.

"We have waited more than a year for this moment," he says.

"It does feel different from other tournaments, but hopefully Turkey are going to win."

Turkey take on Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in their Group A opener, at 8pm UK time on Friday.

The mayor of this city, Virginia Raggi, says "Rome is ready" and has been waiting for the Euros since 2018.

Mrs Raggi says "of course" COVID regulations will make the competition different, but says the "personal attitude of every one of us is most important".

"I am optimistic, I'm confident that people really respect that there are COVID measures that everyone has to follow and let me tell you people are ready to start again, to live again," she says.

Rome is one of the host cities for the delayed European Championships, the first time matches are being held in 11 different countries, creating logistical challenges for fans travelling across Europe.

Seb, Sol, Dan and Shawn have come from the UK to see the opening match, but it means they can't watch England at Wembley on Sunday.

"We didn't know if it was going to happen," says Seb. "It's difficult with the tests and quarantine and everything, but it's great to be here in Rome, we're just glad we all made it."

The fans have waited a long time for the Euros, and rightly or wrongly there is optimism here that they have done enough to make sure it is safe.