Football: With live screenings binned, fans lap up Euro 2020 action at home, Football News & Top Stories

SINGAPORE – The 2020 European Championship is in full swing and in yesteryear, places like Our Tampines Hub, Chijmes and Boat Quay would be buzzing with activity.

But these are not normal times.

While most pubs and bars have re-opened gradually following the circuit breaker last year, customers have not flocked back, especially as the sale and consumption of alcohol in all food and beverage establishments is prohibited after 10.30pm.

Neighbourhood coffeeshops are also devoid of fans as dining-in is restricted to just two persons currently.

With the Covid-19 restrictions in place, fans have taken to having the watch parties at home.

Nitin Nambiar often catches major international tournaments like Euro 2020 and the 2018 Fifa World Cup with up to 20 people, including friends and relatives.

This time, he has had to settle for five.

The 33-year-old technical support adviser at Grabyo, who hosted a watch party at his home in Woodlands for the Portugal versus France match on Thursday (June 24) morning for his brother, aunt, cousin and a family friend, said: “I miss the boisterous atmosphere that you’d get with big groups but it’s also a good thing that it’s less noisy and rowdy especially since there have been plenty of 3am kick-offs at this tournament.

“But ultimately, it’s great to be able to watch matches with people again. It adds so much more excitement. That’s the beauty of football – it can bring people together even at such an odd timing.”

Engineer Alexius Koh, 40, has also been watching matches with his fellow Italy fans Nigel Gan, 41, an engineer, and Alessandro De Lulio, 42, a manager at a telecommunications firm.

The trio caught the Hungary versus France match as well as the Germany versus Portugal game on June 19 at De Lulio’s home. In previous years, they would lap up the fun at pubs in Robertson Quay as well as at German restaurant Brotzeit in Raffles City.

Said Koh: “We were delighted to meet up to watch the games together amidst all these restrictions. Although it wasn’t the game we were looking forward to, we were still very happy just to mingle and soak up the Euro atmosphere.

“Watching football with friends is a totally different kind of experience against watching it alone at home. With friends, it’s kinda like a mini pot luck party, where everyone will bring along food and beer etc to share and have a good time together… Also, nothing beats that hyped-up feeling when it comes to kick-off.”

But Imad Baatiche, 36, a French- Algerian insurance broker, said watching the action at home is not the same even with friends present.

“There is a significant patriotism behind matches involving countries so you want to celebrate your defeat or victories with others (in the open),” he said.

“This year, the Euro 2020 feels so different. This is my 10th year as an expatriate in Singapore and it’s my first time experiencing this. With Covid restrictions, watching matches with some friends is still better than watching it by yourself on your couch but it’s still not the same.”

Some have also linked up virtually to watch matches. Rights holder LiveNow has introduced Watch Together, where up to four friends can gather in a virtual room on its platform with a synced stream. The function allows viewers to communicate throughout the match via the live chat feature.

Nicholas Tan, who works in the finance industry, has watched at least one match during Euro 2020 this way.

Said Tan, 27: “I had two friends who had a match pass and we figured why not have a go.

“And it was quite an interesting way to watch the match because it’s just your friends and you in the virtual room and you can be free with the comments you make in the chat while watching. I think it became a trend earlier on during the initial circuit breaker where friends would have watch parties for Netflix. I didn’t think we’d have one for football matches.”

While pubs and eateries have lost out on the footfall of football fans, food delivery services have benefited.

Food delivery service foodpanda told The Straits Times that there has been an increase of approximately 10 per cent for orders across its services between midnight and 4am on match days.

A foodpanda spokesman said: “Snacks and alcohol continue to be customers’ highly ordered items on pandamart, and in the wee hours of the morning, the most ordered food items are fast food and popular supper favourites, such as prata.”

Tan said that while he looks forward to being able to be out at mass screenings again, it is great just to have some form of company for now.

He said: “In times like these, I think it’s nice to just forget the misery and enjoy good football with friends, be it in person or virtually.”

The Euro 2020 concludes with the final on July 11.