MUNICH: French, German and other fans toasted the kick-off of Euro 2020 with beers and a determination to keep the good times rolling despite COVID-19 restrictions that have limited the number of people in the stadium and streets.
Local resident Sepp Mayer, 54, failed to get tickets to the Group F match between France and Germany on Tuesday but was happy to soak up the atmosphere at Munich's famed Hofbrauhaus beer hall with German and French supporters.
"We've all had a bad time over the past year and now we need to have fun," Mayer said holding his personal beer stein as groups of France supporters chanted in the garden. "I'm happy to be back here drinking beer."
The Allianz Arena will host Germany's three Group F matches against world champions France on June 15, holders Portugal four days later and Hungary on June 23. It will also stage one quarter-final match.
Some 14,000 fans will be allowed to attend games at the 70,000 capacity stadium, leaving plenty of people looking for other places to watch the tournament.
French lawyer Victoria Robert, 28, travelled to Munich with tickets in hand and sees the match as an opportunity to leave behind tighter restrictions in her home country to experience a big tournament, even if a subdued one compared to past events.
"It is still an opportunity to see something different," Robert said at a cafe in the centre. "It's great to come to a tournament like this even with fewer people because it is something we have not been able to experience in a long time."
Bar and restaurant workers say they expect warmer weather and easing of restrictions to attract more people, though rules dictate that establishments can show games but not make them a main event.
That means smaller TVs and fewer people, which 27-year-old Danish fan Niklas Daraard - who travelled to Munich from Denmark with friends to watch the match - said did not matter so long as the beer kept flowing.
"We love football and we knew there wouldn't be as many people but we came to watch the game on TV," Daraard said. "We are drinking beer and having fun."
(Reporting by Michael Kahn, Editing by Ed Osmond)