Ed Thomas has never shown the European Championships in his bar, but this time he’s hung up the bunting and will watch his team play their first Euro 2020 opening match with muted glee.
But who to support in today’s England v Croatia game, a “rematch” of the 2018 World Cup semi-final? For Thomas is half-Croatian and half-English.
Thomas, 28, is wisely diplomatic in his response. “I don’t mind this game. This is the first one of the groups and everyone is just getting into the groove. I didn’t consciously support either side in 2018, I just had to take what happened and run with it.
“I think England will win, but my support does sometimes sway towards my mum’s side of the family, as she is always on her own, cheering on Croatia.”
Thomas was born in Whitstable, Kent, and his cafe bar in the town is named after his Croatian grandmother, Amedea.
“We have loads of pictures of Amedea across the bar, along with her beautiful flower paintings and some Istrian dancing clothes and instruments. Thankfully, she is still alive. Of course, inside here we’ve got a scattering of Croatian flags too.”
For Thomas, the hardest part of the day will be setting up the televisions to stream the football match.
He said: “The TVs will be propped up on cardboard boxes, and I have to make sure they all work. We’ve never shown any kind of sport before at the bar, so it’s all very overwhelming.”
In Glasgow, Marko Curic, the co-owner of Zinfandel, is optimistic. His two-chef system – one Scottish, one Croatian – means there is little appetite for supporting the Three Lions.
“So many Scottish fans have booked a table here to watch England v Croatia. Most of this country will be supporting Croatia. I’m sure we will win.”
Paul Eastwood, 38, manager of the Famous Three Kings in west Kensington, west London, is also expecting a lot of Croatian football fans. He said: “The old manager used to run the Cadogan Arms, in Chelsea, and that was full of a Croatian community. When we moved to our new location, we moved a lot of those Croatian crowds here.”
Eastwood usually streams football matches in Croatian. “We have a Croatian satellite box, so we could show the Croatian games in the Croatian language. It’s a bit of a joke between us and the fans, and kind of a unique selling point.” Today, however, he will stream in English.
“What tends to happen with the different satellites is they tend to be on slightly different times. One half of the room will start to cheer, and the other room hasn’t seen what’s happened yet. A few people can start to get annoyed with it.”
What does he think of the Croatian football fans? “They probably have a little bit more respect than the English fans,” he said. “Especially at the moment when we are running on coronavirus restrictions, since singing and chanting are forbidden.”
For Thomas, even though the coronavirus restrictions are in place, it will still be an event.
He said: “It will be a horrible, and brilliant, game to watch. My aunt and uncle on my mum’s side are here, I guess we’ll just go in and celebrate whoever wins afterwards.”