LONDON - Tens of thousands of supporters descended on London's Wembley Stadium on Sunday, kick-starting an alcohol-fueled party hours before England play Italy in the final of Euro 2020.
By lunchtime the pavements around England's national stadium were slick with beer, while supporters sang, chanted and hurled drinks while police looked on. Some climbed on top of buses.
Around two hours before the game, security staff told Reuters that some fans had run past stewards to get into the ground without tickets, forcing officials to halt arrivals briefly.
Wembley rn pic.twitter.com/3lXRRvG7d0— Rave Footage (@RaveFootage) July 11, 2021
Clips posted on Twitter appeared to show fans running towards the stadium and past stewards who failed to stop them. The BBC quoted a stadium spokesman as saying the incident had happened at an outer security perimeter and no one had entered the ground without tickets.
Across the capital, many had set up camp early with thousands queuing to get into pub gardens before lunchtime and others packed into city squares.
Some four hours before the 8:00 p.m. local kick-off, Wembley Way was crammed with supporters all the way from the underground station to the stadium. Beer cans and bottles flew through the air as acrid smoke from flares drifted through the crowd and supporters, dressed in England shirts of various vintages, sang and chanted. The exuberant scenes at the stadium were replicated across the city.
Three hours before kick-off, police urged supporters not to travel to Wembley if they did not have match tickets, and complained of multiple cases of flares being set off within the vicinity of railway stations in London.
Gus McKay, a 53-year-old England fan from Bradford-on-Avon, joined the party at Leicester Square in central London.
"I think it feels incredible," he said. "I've been waiting all my life (to reach a final)."
Dave Woodall from York echoed the sentiment: "I was one when we won the World Cup and it's a dream that I never thought would happen," he said. "So I'm like a kid at Christmas. It's the best feeling ever. I had to come down for the day, I couldn't miss this."
England are bidding to win their first major title since lifting the 1966 World Cup.
(Reporting by Ossian Shine, Editing by Ed Osmond)