The presence of significant numbers of Russian fans wearing England team colours and apparently supporting England was one of the more unexpected elements of the visit to Donetsk by our consular team and myself in the run-up of the England’s Euro 2012 group game against France on 11 June.
Can a national team have an international following? Interesting question.
Other surprises included the holiday-camp atmosphere at the ‘’Camping Park” on the edge of Donetsk where we found large numbers of England fans camping, hiring space in pre-erected marquees, drinking beer and even swimming in a large inflatable pool.
It was good in the run-up to the game to meet England fans; to check out the preparations being made by our travelling consular team (take a bow Matthew, Billy, Vika and Alex); and to meet up with the visiting UK police team, headed by Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt.
The UK police, as is standard at international matches, are here to work with their Ukrainian colleagues in an advisory capacity.
Their uniformed patrols were a big hit with locals and visitors alike in Donetsk.
I am delighted that, on the day after the match, we have had very few reports of British fans getting into consular difficulties.
Now we’re preparing for the England-Sweden game in Kyiv on 15 June.
UK police officers in action in Donetsk
You can find our latest consular advice for visitors to EURO 2012 online.
I shall also be tweeting impressions of the tournament and practical consular advice on my “Kyivukambo” twitter account – see #EURO2012, #englandfans and #Kyiv.
Leigh Turner has been the British Ambassador to Ukraine since June 2008. You can read all his blog entries at blogs.fco.gov.uk/roller/turnerenglish (in English) or blogs.fco.gov.uk/roller/turner/ (Ukrainian)