Wales recruits foreign fans for crucial Euro 2020 tie
Wales supporters are hoping to bolster their ranks with adopted fans when their team play their crucial Euro 2020 match in Amsterdam on Saturday.
Coronavirus restrictions in the Netherlands mean fans have not been able to travel there from the UK, and only a handful who have come directly from places within the EU will be attending the game against Denmark.
One Welshman who will be lucky enough to be inside the Johan Cruyff Arena is Dai Rees, 36, who moved to the village of Woubrugge near The Hague about a year ago but is originally from Penarth near Cardiff.
Mr Rees, a music teacher and presenter on the Welsh football Coleman Had A Dream podcast, said he has been busy assembling an international group of football fans to help cheer on Wales, though they will be heavily outnumbered by Danes.
We've built a little Welsh army of people who aren't Welsh but are following us because their teams aren't playing
He told the PA news agency: “We’ve built a little Welsh army of people who aren’t Welsh but are following us because their teams aren’t playing.
“We’ve got an Aussie guy, a New Zealander, a couple of Irish lads, a friend of mine from Germany is coming over, and others, so we’ve kind of built a little league of nations to support Wales.
“I think there’s probably going to be about 15 of us, and then I reckon there’s going to be about 10 to 15 others from Wales who we’ve been in touch with who will hopefully join us at some point.”
Asked how the Wales contingent would be heard over the thousands of Denmark fans in attendance, Mr Rees said: “We’ve made a couple of jokes about seeing if we can smuggle in a loudhailer or something like that. Maybe a traffic cone we could shout through.
“But to be honest I think it’s going to be a little bit of a flat atmosphere. Even with the sections of Danes, they won’t be close together.
“So as long as everyone who goes is nice and loud I think we’ve got a good chance of making ourselves heard.”
We'll try to make a lot of noise
Another adopted Welshman at the game will be Marcel Kouwenhoven, 52, who hails from the Dutch village of Wateringen but became a Swansea City fan about seven years ago after making friends with the club’s Dutch former owner John van Zweden.
Mr Kouwenhoven, a supply teacher, said he will be singing the Welsh song Hymns And Arias – which he has as his ringtone – in full voice at the stadium while wearing his red Swansea shirt alongside Dutch friends.
“I’m at the top of the stadium, but we’ll try to make a lot of noise. Me and a group of friends will be sitting in the same area as the Welsh and we will try to find them before the game,” he said.
If Wales win they could face the Netherlands in the quarter finals, but Mr Kouwenhoven said his loyalty would still be with Gareth Bale and co.
“The Dutch players are cocky. They’re playing OK, but I don’t like all the tricks and the stupid things and irritate the other teams. Wales play football.”
On Friday, Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford said he was “hugely grateful” to football fans who have stayed at home to support Wales rather than travel to Amsterdam.
He told a press conference the advice of the Welsh Government, Football Association of Wales and the Foreign Office had “been clear from the very beginning” on foreign travel, and that ministers had not made representations to allow fully vaccinated fans to attend games in Europe.
“The safe way to enjoy the football and to support the Welsh team is to do it from home,” he said.
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