Wales fans who have made it to Amsterdam for their country’s crucial last 16 Euro 2020 match against Denmark have said it is “desperately unfair” they will not be joined by thousands of others in the stadium on Saturday.
With Dutch coronavirus rules banning non-essential travel from the UK, only fans who have followed the team from their previous game in Italy or those living in EU and Schengen areas can freely travel into the country for the game.
Hundreds of Wales fans were in Rome to see their team lose 1-0 to their Italian hosts last Saturday, but only a handful stayed in the city so they could travel directly to Amsterdam and bypass the Covid-19 restrictions.
Tim Hartley, 61, a writer from Cardiff, said he and four friends were advised by the Dutch embassy in Rome that Schengen rules meant all they would have to do was present a negative Covid test on the day to be able to attend the match at the Amsterdam Arena.
Speaking from Amsterdam, Mr Hartley told the PA news agency on Thursday: “We’ve seen two or three other Welsh friends, but it’d be great to think that more people have been able to do it legitimately through this route.
“I feel very sorry for all those Welsh fans who wanted to travel to Amsterdam. It just seems so unfair that the rules have always been difficult to follow and were changed at the very last minute. It’s desperately unfair.”
He added: “There were very few of us in Rome, and indeed in Baku, but we made as much noise as we could. We hope that we really will raise the team’s spirits, and that once again little Wales, we may be underdogs, but we can do it.”
Another member of the group, Nick Williams, 34, a publican from south London, said he had spent nearly £500 on a dozen Covid tests to be able to follow Wales from Azerbaijan to Italy and now to the Netherlands.
He said the atmosphere in the Dutch capital was “non-existent” due to a lack of Welsh and Danish fans, and said it “wasn’t clear” either from tournament officials or the Dutch authorities that fans who made it to Rome could have continued to follow the team.
“I feel sorry for the people who went home and can’t come back out again, but we stayed out and we haven’t done anything wrong as far as I can see,” he said.
One of the fans unable to make the game, Tom Phillips, 28, a content writer from Carmarthen now living in north London, attended all of Wales’s games apart from the semi-final during the team’s historic Euro 2016 run.
But after spending more than £300 on tickets for their group matches and potential knockout fixtures, as well as hundreds of pounds more on travel, he became one of many whose plans were wrecked by Covid rules this time.
He told PA: “It seems hypocritical to let fans from a country like Denmark in and not people from the UK.
“We’ve got to pin our hopes on a couple of shock results and a semi-final in London, now. That’s the only way we’re going to see some live action this tournament, so it’s an extra incentive maybe for the players to get through.”
Mr Phillips added: “You ask any Welsh fan who was out in France in 2016 and you’ll hear that it was the best summer of their life. This time round, it’s not quite like that.”