Key workers bask in sun at fanzone as England start Euro 2020 campaign
Hundreds of key workers watched on at a special fanzone in central London as England began their Euro 2020 campaign against Croatia.
Those invited to the event in Trafalgar Square said an England win would be the “cherry on the top of a very long year”.
Fans arrived ahead of the game draped in England flags and wearing official team shirts.
Rows of benches were set up inside the square, with two large screens either side of Nelson’s Column.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan praised the “heroic” key workers and said the excitement of the Euros was needed after “the darkness and trauma” of the pandemic.
After the darkness and trauma of the last months we need this to uplift our spirits. The best thing about football is that it brings people together
“We’ve invited our amazing key workers to thank them for all they’ve done for our city,” he said.
“They’ve gone above and beyond over the last 18 months … this is our way to thank them.
“After the darkness and trauma of the last months we need this to uplift our spirits.”
He added: “The best thing about football is that it brings people together.”
Fans stood for the national anthem and cheers erupted as Phil Foden came close to giving England a sixth-minute lead when he hit the post.
Announcements reminded supporters to stay hydrated and respect social distancing in the sunshine and high temperatures.
Rosie Baldock, 26, an emergency resource dispatcher for the London Ambulance Service, said the invitation to the fanzone was recognition for “how hard we’ve been working”.
“It’s been awful with a lot of pressure and it sort of reminds us what’s really important at the end of the day,” she told the PA news agency.
“The fact we can celebrate out here today shows how hard we’ve been working.
“I just really want a good result, it would be a nice little cherry on top after a very long year.
“This shouldn’t have been possible if not for the policies we have in place and how hard we’ve been working.”
Ms Baldock, who attended the match with her brother Sam, said she expected a 1-0 win.
John McCarthy, 41, a TfL staff trainer, said the event felt “normal” and he was “looking forward to being a bit more normal”.
“It’s really good because it was a long, hard slog and fairly constant, so it’s nice to be recognised,” he said.
“Who wouldn’t want to be here on a day like today?”
Draped in an England flag and wearing an England shirt, he said: “I am a little bit excited, just a little bit.”
He added: “I’m quite comfortable being here, there’s a lot of signs telling people to wear their masks and people are generally sticking to it.
“I’m glad it’s open air because obviously that makes you feel a bit safer.”
However, some workers said despite the “nice gesture”, more support was needed for key workers in the ongoing pandemic.
Dr Sarah Helps, 50, a consultant clinical psychologist, said: “It’s been a phenomenally difficult few months and we’re still not out of this.
“We still need to work very hard as a nation. We need to take things slowly.
“It’s a lovely thing to do and a very nice gesture, but it doesn’t solve the need for NHS workers to have a decent pay rise and better working conditions and sufficient PPE.”
Asked about his prediction for the game, her son Thurston Gibbs, 17, said “3-1″, adding “we had better win”.
Raj Bassi, 46, a TfL worker, said: “The sun is out, the football is on, and the beers are flowing, and it’s great to be here.”