LONDON, July 12: British police made 49 arrests and said 19 of its officers were injured after confronting volatile crowds near Wembley Stadium while policing the Euro 2020 final between Italy and England on Sunday.
Fans clashed with each other and officials, breached security cordons and charged into the perimeter area of Wembley before the start of the match, which Italy won after a penalty shootout.
“We made 49 arrests during the day for a variety of offences. We will have officers on hand throughout the night”, the Metropolitan Police said on Twitter.
A day of alcohol-fuelled festivities had begun with rowdy scenes in central London and tens of thousands made their way to the national stadium for the game, with flares being let off in railway stations and singing on trains.
Around two hours before the game, fans burst past stewards and some reached the concourse while bottles were thrown in from outside the perimeter.
Some security staff were attacked, witnesses told Reuters, and entry to the stadium was halted for over 20 minutes while order was restored at the entrances.
Outside the ground, several thousand fans continued drinking and partying in the area immediately adjacent to the entry points with empty beer cans lining the street.
Police said they helped the security teams at the ground.
“Wembley security officials have confirmed there were no security breaches of people without tickets getting inside the stadium,” the Metropolitan Police said on Twitter.
Some witnesses, however, said they saw isolated cases of fans running through the seating areas inside the ground being chased by security.
Inside the stadium, there was a party atmosphere with fans singing “Sweet Caroline” and “Three Lions” – the unofficial anthem of the England team.
Police had previously 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.
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. Hundreds of fans draped in red and white flags threw and smashed bottles in Leicester Square earlier in the day.
Hours before the 8 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.
Gus McKay, a 53-year-old England fan from Bradford-on-Avon, joined the party at Leicester Square in central London.
“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.”
As per reports coming out from London, Asians and blacks were targeted by rowdy English fans after England lost the Euro final against Italy.
Racial abuse of Rashford and team-mates is unforgivable, says Southgate
England manager Gareth Southgate condemned as “unforgivable”‘ the racial abuse targeting his three players who missed penalties in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy.
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were the victims of a stream of abuse on Twitter and Instagram following the 3-2 shoot-out loss at Wembley.
While some people identifying as England fans used racial slurs in blaming the trio for the defeat, other offensive messages were accompanied with “forza italia” hashtags.
England’s players have made a strong stand against racism at the tournament, taking a knee before their games including Sunday’s final.
“For some of them to be abused is unforgivable,” Southgate said at a press conference on Monday.
“Some of it has come from abroad, we have been told this, but some of it is from this country.
“We have been a beacon of light to bring people together and the national team stands for everybody.
“We felt the energy and positivity from the fans and I’m incredibly proud of that.”
Southgate has earned huge praise for his actions on and off the pitch since he took the job on in 2016 after Sam Allardyce had been forced to resign.
On it he has guided England after years of under-achievement to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and to a heartbreaking loss in the Euro final after the game ended 1-1.
However, his decision to send on Rashford and Sancho as extra-time neared its end so they could take penalties has been questioned.
Off it he has been credited for putting together a team that England fans can love after years of not doing so when the so-called ‘golden generation’ like David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard were in their prime.
The overwhelming desire, though, is for Southgate to sign a new contract.
He is expected to sign a new deal as England manager after the tournament to stay until the next Euros in 2024.
His current £3.5 million-a-year ($4.8m) deal is due to expire after next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
However, on Monday whilst saying he wanted to stay on till the World Cup he would not commit to whether he would sign a new contract.
“I don’t think now is an appropriate time to be thinking about it,” he said.
“We have to qualify for Qatar. I need time to go away and reflect on Euro 2020. I need a rest.
“To lead your country in these tournaments takes its toll.
“I don’t want to commit to anything longer than I should.
“It’s not a financial thing. As I sit here today. I would be wanting to take the team to Qatar.”
One dead, several injured during Italy Euro 2020 celebrations
One person died and several were injured during sometimes wild celebrations in Italy after its soccer team’s triumph over England in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final.
A 22-year-old man died in a car crash in Caltagirone, in Sicily, as he was rushing to the town centre to join victory festivities, police said.
In the financial capital Milan, 15 people were hurt, three seriously, in rowdy, post-match partying. One of them lost three fingers when a firework exploded in his hand.
In a town near the southern city of Foggia, police believe a hitman took advantage of the chaos in the streets to settle a score, shooting dead his target in the crowd before escaping on a motorbike.
The victim’s six-year-old niece was also wounded in the attack and was in a “very serious” condition, media said.
Italy won the championship in London for the first time since 1968, with a 3-2 penalty shootout win after the teams had fought out a 1-1 extra-time draw. (Reuters/AFP)