Soccer-Scotland's Tartan Army kicks off Euro 2024 in high sprits

Soccer Football - Euro 2024 Previews - Munich Football Arena, Munich, Germany - June 13, 2024 Scotland fans in Munich ahead of tomorrow's match against Germany REUTERS/Leonhard Simon

MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Scotland fans streamed into Munich on planes, trains and automobiles, singing, drinking and producing a feel-good party in the southern German city on Thursday ahead of the start of Euro 2024.

At Marienplatz square in the city centre, members of the Tartan Army kept waiters busy with drink orders, taking only a break to stand and sing "Flower of Scotland" when a group of bagpipers started playing the anthem.

For supporters like Jess Barber - who spent 34 hours travelling from Australia to join her brother and a surprised father - the opportunity to cheer on Scotland abroad for the first time since the 1998 World Cup in France was too big an opportunity to miss.

This tournament also stands in contrast to the previous European Championship when COVID-19 restrictions put a damper on the good times.

"Both my flights from Melbourne and Bangkok were full of Scots coming to Germany," Barber said. "We arrived at 5 a.m and came straight to the centre. We haven't even been to the hotel yet."

Scotland begin their campaign against Germany on Friday in Munich where they will hope for an upset that could help them through the group stage for the first time in 11 tournaments.

Germany are also banking on a wave of enthusiasm from their own supporters as well as an estimated 2.7 million visitors for the June 14-July 14 event with large fan zones set up across all major cities.

"I'm hoping for a second fairy tale, like the fairy tale summer of 2006," said Siegfried Rothe, 67, one of a few dozen people wearing a German football shirt and cap at midday in the city centre, recalling the World Cup Germany hosted.

German officials have estimated more than 100,000 Scottish supporters would head to Munich for the opening match and many said they came without tickets, preferring to head to Fan Zones or bars.

Some faced considerable challenges. Craig Fyfe and his friends found it cheaper to fly to Prague and take the train to Munich, a six-hour journey made easier with Czech beer and other like-minded supporters.

"We grew up watching Scotland not qualify and this is the first tournament we have been able to go to and enjoy the atmosphere," said Fyfe, a 28-year-old from Glasgow.

"Everybody is coming on planes, trains and automobiles."

While thousands of police will be deployed around the clock in an attempt to head off potential threats from Islamists, hooligans, violent individuals and cyber-attacks, the atmosphere in Munich showed the biggest problem will be shutting down the party.

Michael Wright and his brother David brought their young children so planned to keep the partying under control but Clydebank native Bill Lawless, 65, had other ideas.

"We will enjoy the game whether we win, lose or draw," he said. "It's about the party."

(Reporting by Michael Kahn, Editing by Ed Osmond)

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