Robert in Lockdown – 15.7.21

Robert witnessing the football atmosphere in London from the relative safety of an Italian restaurant.

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After the Euros final on Sunday, a kind reader drew my attention to my pre-competition prediction regarding champions Italy.

Before a ball was kicked in the tournament, I had written in this article: ‘I would say it’s hard to judge Italy’s chances at the football. I wouldn’t have them down as winners but, you never know, Scotland might meet them in the final if Italy make it that far…’

As it turns out, not having Italy down as winners was a big mistake that may have cost me my budding career as a football journalist. You certainly won’t be coming to me for tips before going to the bookies anyway.

As chance would have it, though, I ended up enjoying some fantastic Italian hospitality the evening England dispatched Denmark and booked their place in the final against Mancini’s side. Not in Glasgow, nor in Italy, but in London.

I had been down for a meeting and found myself wandering the streets looking for a pub with any space to watch the semi-final. As you can imagine, not a space was to be found. Every pub had signs up saying they were totally full and my Scottish accent was not exactly helping as I begged with some bouncers to let me in to catch the game.

Eventually, I settled in my own hotel bar which was empty but for one group of folk from Leeds and two lads sitting directly under the screen. I took my seat and asked if I was blocking anyone’s view. The two lads at the front immediately turned and said: ‘Thank goodness! Another Scottish accent!’ It turned out they were from Midlothian and I enjoyed the game with them.

Some friendly banter went back and forth with the English group behind us. When the game finished, we congratulated our English neighbours for reaching the final and myself and one of the boys decided to go back out into the streets to try and soak up some of the atmosphere – without getting too close to the crowds.

We walked down the street and were genuinely in awe of the celebrations. Obviously we wished it was Scotland but, footballing rivalry aside, it was great to see so many people so happy and there was certainly no sign of trouble at that stage. Cars were driving past beeping their horns and groups of all ages were spontaneously bursting into ‘It’s Coming Home’.

That said, there was only so much we could take so we eventually took refuge in an Italian restaurant.

Ordering two beers, we explained we were Scottish. The old woman who owned the place served us and said: ‘You will be supporting Italia on Sunday then!’ She then produced a bottle of Limoncello (a beautiful Italian liqueur) and sat down and toasted her team’s success with us. It was a great night and, despite my Oban Times prediction last month, her toast seemed to work!