Impetus’ Kris Goman is our roving reporter at the Euros. She is travelling the length and breadth of England watching matches at just about every venue possible. With the group stage now at an end, she reflects on the opening few weeks of the event (20/7/22).
Above: One of Kris’ favourite moments from the tournament the atmosphere created at Brighton when England crushed Norway 8-0. Photo: Kris Goman.
So I’ve been here nearly three weeks and seen nearly half of the group stage matches. The only teams I didn’t see play were Finland, Northern Ireland, and Belgium. I’ll see Belgium as they are through to the quarters but now won’t see the other two unfortunately.
It’s been a great tournament so far. Fairly well run, although I can think of quite a few improvements. The stadiums have been great but each time it’s a bit of a surprise as to where I’ll be sitting. I’ve got a range of cheap tickets and expensive tickets. The more expensive ones have, on a couple of occasions, meant I’ve ended up in a suite with extra catering and a free drink and pretty good seats.
Other cheaper tickets have meant I’ve ended up with the gods looking down from on high and I expect that’s where my tickets for tonight’s first quarter final will be, unfortunately. I really should have spent more money for the quarters and semis but when I bought the tickets I wasn’t even sure if I could go.
All the games have been great but the ones that really stick out are the ones where the fans are really engaged. Netherlands definitely have the best fans. They bring this huge orange bus with them that leads the fan walk. They have DJs on board and a cranking sound system and everyone knows all the words to all the songs. Many are chart hits but I don’t know if they’ve changed the words to be about the team or if it’s just the dutch version of the songs, as I don’t speak Dutch.
The passion is contagious and super fun and many of the fans dress up. They are really well organised. They even hand out flags to everyone following the bus and get them back afterwards. I think the Matildas supporters have a long way to go to reach this level of enthusiasm but I know we could get there with a bit of organisation and maybe some financial support.
The next best fans are the Icelandic fans. They have block booked a lot of tickets and look fantastic in their blue, red and white. What is noticable is that they are here for the women and almost all the fans have women players’ jersey on, not jerseys of male players which is often the case with other teams. They are here for the woman.
I heard the Icelandic Prime Minister was here and saw some people that looked like Mayors walking around too. They are passionate, have a small band leading the chants and again they are well organised, have great chants and of course, the world-famous, Thunderclap.
The next best are the English fans just from the sheer weight of their numbers. Less organised as there’s so many of them, but there’s power in numbers and with a rich history and tradition, they know what to do. If anyone starts a chant, they all join in. ‘Sweet Caroline’ is de riguer at the end of the match and with each goal and win the calls of “It’s coming home” get louder. One I particularly like is “Beth Mead’s on fire, your defence is terrified, Beth Mead’s on fire, your defence is terrified, naa, na-na, na-na naa-naa, na naa-naa, na na” to the tune of ‘Freed From Desire’ by Gala.
The atmosphere at Brighton the night they demolished Norway 8-0 is something I’ll not forget for a long time. I’m on my way to Brighton again, as I write this and am expecting something similar tonight against Spain as the knockout stages commence.
Today marks a year until the start of the World Cup in Australia and that should be the Euros on steriods. There’s certainly some improvements they can make and I hope that starts with the stadium food. I’ve been going to a match every day so most of my main meals have been at the stadiums and the sausage rolls and pies are wearing a bit thin.
Manchester Academy had slightly better food with a pulled beef roll and where I’ve lucked into the premium seats including hospitality, there’s been a half-decent pizza and some quite good chips but other better food on offer too. What’s noticable is the food and drinks of the sponsors and this limits healthy options when the sponsors are Pepsi, Heineken, and Doritos.
One thing I find weird that won’t be an issue in Australia is not being able to drink beer in your seats. No alcohol is allowed to be consumed in the stadium so it all needs to be drunk where the kiosks are. This is law in England to limit drinking so it’s great we don’t have these problems in Australia. Not to that extent anyway and never in the women’s game.
What has been good is access to the players and given the rise of Covid again, it’s been a little surprising. I’ve been able to get autographs and photographs from quite a few teams. Iceland, Italy, France, Austria, Norway, and Spain have all been good. The Danish players wanted to sign but were stopped by their management but did take photos.
This was a bit surprising as they’d just been knocked out so there wasn’t as much at stake while the Spanish players who were still in the tournament were signing everything. The English team wouldn’t sign anything but Beth Mead and Hannah Hampton were taking photos but most of the rest of them went straight to the bus after the match. I guess they are here to win and aren’t taking any risks at this stage.
Anyway, it’s onward and upwards as I try to get around to all the remaining matches via train. It’s a challenge right now as many services have been cancelled after the exceptionally hot weather yesterday and the day before. To make matters worse, there’s a train strike on the 27th which will affect the second semifinal at Milton Keynes.
I’ve found a way to get from Sheffield to Milton Keynes but I won’t be the only person and I expect significant delays. Thankfully all the games are at 8pm but I’m going to need most of that time to get there as will most people.
It’s generally been fairly easy to get around by train despite having to go from Sheffield or Manchester to Brighton or vice versa numerous times. I am wondering how it will be done in Australia and New Zealand with the vast distances between host cities. It’s just not possible to drive or get the train but I guess it will depend on the schedules. And flying will be expensive so I hope they release the schedules with plenty of time to plan and book ahead. I guess we’ll know in October when the tickets go on sale.
Regardless, this has been a fantastic experience and I can only recommend people buy as many tickets as they can to the World Cup and throw themselves into the tournament and the experience. I know I will.