‘Everybody loves it’: the Wales fans who made a Tenerife pub their unofficial fan zone

After the idea of watching the World Cup in Spain rather than Qatar went viral, the Wigan Pier stepped in

Nine hours before the kick-off of a match being played in a desert about 4,000 miles away, the staff at the Wigan Pier, in southern Tenerife, were leaving nothing to chance.

The Welsh flags and bunting were up inside and out, the red shirts were on, the chairs were set facing the big screens and 45 barrels of beer were standing by to be drained on Tuesday by the hundreds of Wales supporters who have made the pub their unofficial fan zone for the duration of the World Cup.

To put things in context, the Wigan Pier normally sells 12 barrels of beer. A week. Also, there are typically far, far fewer red dragons.

The pub and its next-door sister establishment, La Flaca, have attracted hundreds of Wales fans since the side qualified for the World Cup in June and a woman called Bethany Evans used social media to half-jokingly float the idea of watching the tournament in Spain rather than the host nation to save money and hassle. Evans’s idea soon went viral and the venue was decided after Kelly Spiers, who owns the Wigan Pier and La Flaca, offered her bars.

“Bethany asked people if they were thinking of going somewhere apart from Qatar because of the expense and the beer costs and the human rights issues,” said Spiers.

Colette Daisley and Kelly Spiers
Colette Daisley (left) and Kelly Spiers at the Wigan Pier pub in Arona, Tenerife. Spiers owns the pub and its next-door sister establishment, La Flaca. Photograph: Sam Jones/The Guardian

“She decided to come here to Tenerife because of the year-round sun. She asked on Facebook if there were any bars that could accommodate 300 people. I’ve got two next to each other so I said yes.”

After that, said Spiers, things escalated somewhat. “I don’t know where it’s come from. It’s just kept going and it’s been absolutely fantastic. I think people have just jumped on the bandwagon.”

She also said the violence that erupted between England and Wales fans on Friday night in a strip close to the Playa de las Américas has not been replicated at the Wigan Pier, where many families gather to watch the tournament.

“Everybody loves it and there’s been no trouble here,” she said. “We’ve had 600-plus fans in here and there’s been no trouble at all.”

Friday’s scenes, however, led local authorities to increase the police presence ahead of Wales v England on Tuesday.

Arona municipal council said it was working with police to avoid any repetition of last week’s clashes, adding that the authorities would be keeping a close eye on the match and had deployed a special unit in tourist areas.

“Given the events that took place this week, both the Policía Nacional and the local force have coordinated their efforts to prevent possible disturbances in tourist areas of Arona over the next few World Cup matches,” it said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the Policía Nacional said that while he could not comment on how many officers were being deployed, the force was taking the matter very seriously.

“We’re going to be reinforcing the security patrols with officers from the UIP riot squad and there will also be reinforcements from the prevention and reaction unit who will be deployed in the hours leading up to the game and until it finishes,” he said. “They will be controlling the Américas zone and the surrounding areas.”

Asked what the message was to fans, he added: “It’s not up to us to tell fans how to behave – it’s a matter of common sense. People should enjoy the game but also show respect and behave nicely so everyone can enjoy it.”

Some of those gathered at the Wigan Pier were annoyed and frustrated by the violence but said it had involved only a small minority of fans.

Wales fans gathering in Tenerife to watch the World Cup matches.
Wales fans gathering in Tenerife to watch the World Cup matches. Photograph: Nigel Harris/PA

Sharon Thomas, 49, from north Wales, had come to Tenerife with her husband, Steve, and six other family members, including their three-year-old grandson Henry, who lolled in his buggy, looking remarkably relaxed about the evening’s scoreline.

“My husband did think of going to Qatar, but then there’s the cost and the accommodation, so in the end we decided to pay for the family to come here,” said Sharon. “And it’s been wonderful. There have been no problems here.”

Steve, who has followed Wales for decades, said that while he would have loved to have been in Qatar, it wasn’t practical. And besides, he added, “the whole thing’s a bloody farce”.

As he finished his pint and got ready to take his grandson for a stroll, Steve mused that while Tenerife was a fine place to watch the football, Fifa could have avoided the whole issue by choosing a different host country.

“I think it’s a shame they placed it where they placed it,” he said. “Can you imagine how many Welsh people would have gone to Australia or the US?”

For Gethin Vaughan, who had come to Tenerife with three friends from north Wales, the decision to head for the Canaries had been made by pockets rather than consciences.

The economics speak for themselves: in the brief period before it was removed from sale at the tournament grounds in Qatar, a beer cost £12. In Tenerife, a pint can be had for €2 (£1.75).

“Qatar was a bit too expensive,” said Thomas as the group walked along the beach towards the Wigan Pier. “And this has been really good. But it would be nice to find a way to stop England floating tonight.”

England’s floating, however, was not to be stopped. As the final whistle blew at four minutes to nine, the Welsh fans commiserated with each other, sang, and then sang a little more, their choruses carrying through the humid air outside the Wigan Pier and across the roundabout where a line of police stood.

“I’m feeling OK, to be honest,” said Neil Elias, from Caernarfon. “We should have done more in the first half but, as a football fan, England were just brilliant.”

He and his girlfriend may not have made it to Qatar, but their world cup in Tenerife had not disappointed. “The memories I’ll take are of this place, the collective experience, the Welsh singing and of the togetherness,” he said.


Sam Jones in Arona

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