Hungarian and Portuguese fans were thrilled Tuesday to return to a packed football stadium, the Puskas Arena in Budapest the only Euro 2020 tournament venue not to limit fan capacity as a Covid-19 health precaution.
“I can’t wait to get back inside a full stadium, we’re thrilled to be back after more than two years," Bence, 24, a Hungarian ultra fan in a black t-shirt emblazoned with “Magyarorszag", told AFP in the centre of the Hungarian capital before heading to the stadium.
“We’ll create an atmosphere that will make the legs of the Portuguese players tremble," he said before setting off with thousands of other ultras on an organised march to the ground.
“We are happy that the match is a full house and that we are the only ones to do that at the Euro," said another fan, Rajmund Javori, 34.
“It is now up to us to show that this is how it can be done," he told AFP.
The Magyars also face world champions France (June 19) in Budapest, before taking on Germany in Munich (June 23) in their last group game.
Opened in 2019 but mostly empty since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the Puskas Arena holds almost 68,000 fans.
Eduardo Lopes, 57, one of several thousand Portuguese fans who made the trip said he had “really missed the big-game atmosphere".
Taking in a quick look at the River Danube before calling a taxi to the game, he said he was “not worried" about the virus.
“Statistically I am more worried about the next bicycle hitting me when I am crossing the road, than catching the virus," he said.
“Of course we are not crazy, we are normal people, so we are also taking precautions," he added, while showing his mask.
His son Guilherme, 21, said he had to show a negative PCR test at the border, but the “hassle" was “worth it" to get back to a full stadium and follow Portugal.
According to the government, Hungary’s swift vaccine rollout, partly thanks to its use of Chinese and Russian vaccines alone among EU members, means the games can be safely staged.
Fans showed little concern about the virus despite Hungary being hit with one of the highest death rates in the world in March and April, which threatened to overwhelm hospitals.
Since May, however, Hungary’s coronavirus numbers have been dramatically falling.
According to the Hungarian newspaper Nemzeti Sport the crowd of around 65,000 was the biggest at a game in Hungary since a World Cup warm-up against Brazil in 1986.