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UEFA EURO 2024 | Diary of an England Football Fan

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Devoted England football fan, writer James Harrison, embarks on an unforgettable journey following England during UEFA EURO 2024.

England fans Gelsenkirchen, EURO 24, Germant. England v Serbia
© James Harrison

Updates by England fan James Harrison on the ground in Germany…

An incredible moment has arrived.

A European Championships consisting of the 9 of worlds top ten ranked teams and for once, it’s our England that are favourites. Real emotion. Real fans. Real football.

Follow my moments of pain, joy and the unreal right here.

LATEST… In sickness and in health…

As the Euro 2024 group stages start to take shape, the tournament is now heating up nicely to the boil.

Last Wednesday (19th) I was in the German town of Bochum.Germany were playing against Hungary with host nation looking to seal their safe progression through to the knockout stages and as we took our seats at the three sixty sports bar we ordered our beers and sat down to watch our potential future opponents.

Now when England play, it is a sort of unspoken rule that when the national anthem plays, as fans we sing it. Loud and proud, however here in a home tournament I witnessed what I believe to be the biggest shock of the tournament so far. The hosts fans didn’t sing the anthem. Total silence. Nothing. 

I looked around thinking to myself if this was at home we would have to have a national enquiry in to why. 

Mental. 

Germany got the victory and secured their qualification to the knockouts and have the chance to rest players. I wish we did. 

The evening ended with Scotland doing Scotland things against a Shaqiri inspired Switzerland side scraping a 1-1 draw. 

The day after it was England’s turn to play again…

Denmark 1-1 England, Thursday June 20 2024. Deutsche Bank Arena, Frankfurt. 

Denmark 1-1 England Euro 24, Germany
© James Harrison

I got up early, gathered my things and started the twenty minute walk through Herne to the train station.

Over one hundred miles to Frankfurt lay ahead and I started to feel a little queasy.

Was it nerves? – I thought.

Was it a concoction of nearly a weeks worth of beer and no sleep?

Had I eaten something?

I had no idea but one thing is for certain, I wasn’t feeling well. I started to get sweats. I was thinking “it’s not going to be my day today”.

Upon finally arriving into Frankfurt station, you greeted with a metropolitan yet very evident economic and vibrant city.

It’s clear that this is the industrial and financial hub of the country. 

It is like a mini London.

We walked into the city and were immediately greeting by the touts who were busy at work trying to sell tickets under the veil of “tickets needed” signs. 

My friend James thought it would be interesting to ask the tout what price he would give him to sell his ticket. 

The touts opening offer? €250.

My friend said thanks but no thanks and we carried on. He probably could have fetched double. 

It’s crazy really, people will do anything to watch England at a major tournament and are clearly willing to pay well over the odds.

We made our way through the city, with the sun beating down. Danish fans were out in force and started to actually make little comments as we walked towards the England fans who had taken over the square.

The one main thing the Danish we’re exclaiming was the song “European Champions – you’ll never sing that”

After hearing it a few times we snapped back. “World Champions, you’ll never sing that”

The Danes backed off quicker than I had drank pints a few days before. Fast!

Denmark 1-1 England Euro 24, Germany
© James Harrison
Denmark 1-1 England Euro 24, Germany
© James Harrison
Denmark 1-1 England Euro 24, Germany
© James Harrison
Denmark 1-1 England Euro 24, Germany
© James Harrison

Upon arrival into the main square it was like walking into a scene from a movie. There were people everywhere you looked. 

Surrounding a fountain with flags, and literally thousands of England fans. 

After a few hours in the square we made it to the train station and the journey to ground began.

The train was packed and the smell of hundred’s of sweaty football fans wasn’t pleasant but I didn’t care, I was going to see my beloved England. 

We arrived at the stadium to what felt like a twenty five minute walk through a forest with more touts lining the route.

Finally, the Deutsche Bank Arena came into view.

Now I’ve been to many stadiums, some of very best in world football but this was stunning. Beautiful in fact. I couldn’t help but think of my next Football Manager save being here !

The view I had was mental. 

The best ever only eight rows back directly behind the goal. 

As the game kicked off I didn’t feel right. And as it turns out, England couldn’t get things right – again. 

1-1. 

Time for some rest, recuperation and much needed hope.

Turkey 3-1 Georgia, Tuesday June 18 2024. Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund.

Electric.

That’s the word needed to describe the atmosphere around the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund as Georgia got ready to make their Euro 2024 bow against seasoned participants Turkey.

We didn’t have tickets for this one and no matter how much we tried, we just couldn’t get them in fact, it was comparable to England games for availability. 

Turkey 3-1 Georgia, Tuesday June 18 2024. Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund.
© James Harrison
Turkey 3-1 Georgia, Tuesday June 18 2024. Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund.
© James Harrison
Turkey 3-1 Georgia, Tuesday June 18 2024. Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund.
© James Harrison

As we moved around the outer perimeter of the stadium all you could hear was the smoke bombs and screaming voices of the Turks. 

It was electric. 

I’d be mid-conversation with my friends and “bang” another smoke bomb. 

Fire engines whizzing past, ambulances sounding the highest of emergency notes as the Dortmund skyline became overcast with the red flares and thick smoke. 

Talking of the Dortmund skyline, the clouds were black. Black can only mean in thing.

Torrential rain. 

From a dry and slightly warm walk to stadium turned to huddling under a tree as the rain hit harder than an Anthony Joshua punch. 

We ran to the train station and huddled, under an overpass with a minimum of 100 Turks. 

After an age we got brave and took the elements on, grabbing a train back to Dortmund and into a crazy place of “what’s just happened here ?” syndrome.

Upon arriving back into Dortmund we needed anywhere dry to sit. 

Where we needed up will stick with me forever, we had landed in a Turkish supporters heaven. 

A packed bar of at least 250 Turks, and not only had five random Englishmen managed to get in, we had secured a prime seat in front of the TV. 

As kick off neared the bar became that full that the staff had to start turning fans away. The looks of “they are English” were noted by myself. 

They were sat in the floor, stood up against windows and literally everywhere, we were deep in Turkish territory and it felt great.

Electric. 

For the fans inside the bar, hospitable was an understatement, they were welcoming, engaging and friendly towards, inviting us into their zone. 

As for the match, wow. Some of the loudest roars I have ever encountered took place in that bar. 

I was totally invested.

I was invited back to Turkey to watch Fenerbahce and you know what ? 

I might go.

After the game the party spilled into the Dortmund city centre with fans dancing in the rain, and even the fountains. 

It was electric. 

Friday 14th June

I completed an early shift at work and was simply buzzing to finish and get packed for flight later that evening. 

I knew it would be a long day but what laid ahead was the most unexpected and unreal 60 hours a football fan can have. 

I left home for Germany and enjoyed the lounge offerings at Gatwick. I’ve always been a nervous flyer and so the opportunity for an early alcoholic beverage to settle the nerves was very welcomed. 

After sinking down some bubbly and ploughing through the on offer buffet breakfast I was ready to get to our pit stop In Amsterdam .

A coffee later and I find myself speeding through the Dutch countryside to Arneham on a train. The plan was grab a pre-booked bus to Dortmund and get to our hotel from the host city. 

From this seemingly boring, straight forward journey the age of saying of Sod’s Law came into my view from the heavens. 

No bus. 

Half hour later – no bus. 

I had a tired, weary 7 blokes, all looking at me for an answer as to what had happened.

I checked my app and tickets and found the impossible had occurred. 

I had booked the wrong day and for that brief moment it was only me that knew it. 

I briefed the guys “there’s been a technical difficulty”.

The look of amazement had cast its shadow over the group like a cloud seen in the high heavens of Everest’s base camp.

Luckily, we got a free bus which was being laid on especially for England fans as the trains had stopped running due to an obstruction on the track. 

Bullet dodged – or so I thought. 

After 40 hours being awake, hundreds of miles travelled and with a beating, unhealthy headache, we arrived at our apartment in Marl, Germany. 

Upon arrival I was immediately confronted with a group of England fans in a fit of rage, voices of anger ripping through this tiny German backstreet. 

“They have double booked us!!” Was the scream. 

My heart sank.

“The business has closed down, gone bust apparently”

Wowzers. 

That hit like a tonne bag of excretion had detonated above my life. 

Missing the bus was one thing, but the hotel going bust was another .

Luckily after three hours of back and forth with booking.com – we were rehoused with a full refund. 

I was starting to think that every-time we had an issue we would fall on our feet. Wishful thinking ? Probably.

Serbia 0-1 England, Saturday June 16, 2024. Veltins-Arena, Gelsenkirchen.

England fans Gelsenkirchen, EURO 24, Germant. England v Serbia
© James Harrison

After a day of drinking with like minded England fans, the trip to the Gelsenkirchen was initially great. Two and a half hours to the arena sounded like plenty but you always need to give yourself time. 

Into a tram we got, an hour and a half straight to the Veltins Arena – perfect.

The tram was moving along nicely, inching toward the ground with good speed until – we stopped. 

Conversations with fellow England fans and local German fans attending were great, touching on the obvious subjects that our nation share, albeit with a mutual respect and understanding for the beautiful game we all know and love. 

45 minutes later the tram hadn’t moved. Fans were becoming restless, with the heat and tightly packed followers of England being squashed together like anchovies being pressed into place in their packaging for the supermarket shelves.

The fans started to talk about breaking through the doors and walking it.

We were sick of sitting in the melting pot of the train cabin with no communication, no fluid and no hope of making kick-off. 

We got off the tram, and began to walk.
You need to picture the scene, hundreds of England fans walking the tram lines of Gelsenkirchen in the rain hoping to make kick-off.

Luckily, the German officials put on additional trams and we made it.

Upon arrival to the stadium we were greeted  by fans desperate for tickets coupled with the obligatory touts trying their luck of one last score. 

The ticket process from UEFA was seamless, perfect in fact. 

I got into the ground and was amazed. As a follower of football around Europe I’m used to the moment you walk into a ground but this was different. It was a moment I’ll never forget, thousands of England fans singing beautifully, all together in unison, harnessing the moment, revelling in the passion and cheering our Three Lions to a crucial 1-0 win.

James Harrison is a football writer and member of the England Supporters Travel Club. You can follow James’ work on X.

UEFA EURO 2024 promises to be an exhilarating tournament showcasing some of the best football talent across Europe. This prestigious event will be hosted by three-time winners Germany, marking the first time the country has held the tournament since reunification. The competition will take place from June 14 to July 14, 2024, offering a month-long festival of football for fans worldwide.

The opening match between Germany and Scotland will be held at Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena in Munich on June 14, 2024, promising a thrilling start to EURO 2024.

Allianz Arena Bayern Munich
Allianz Arena, Munich. © Colin Wachholz

England, one of the tournament favourites, will be eager to make an impact after their near triumph at EURO 2020, where they finished as runners-up. Their campaign begins on June 16, 2024 against Serbia, at Schalke 04’s Arena AufSchalke (Veltins-Arena) in Gelsenkirchen

Following their opener, England will play their second group stage match on June 20, 2024, at Eintracht Frankfurt’s Waldstadion (Deutsche Bank Park). Their final group stage fixture is scheduled for June 25, 2024, at Cologne’s RheinEnergieStadion.

The final will be played on July 14, 2024 at Hertha Berlin’s iconic Olympiastadion Berlin.

Olympiastadium Berlin
Olympiastadion Berlin. © Colin Wachholz
England football fans: Euro 88, West Germany.
England supporters at the against the Republic of Ireland. England lost 1-0. Euro 88, West Germany. © Lorne Brown
England fans. Wembley stadium, Euro 2020.
England fans, Euro 2020 at Wembley. © Alex Amorós

James Harrison is a football writer and member of the England Supporters Travel Club. You can follow James’ work on X.

Euro 2024, The 10 Host cities: Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Gelsenkirchen, Hamburg, Leipzig, Stuttgart.

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