Euro 2020 Final: Bedford 'will be celebrating, whoever wins'

By Alex Pope
BBC News, East

image copyrightCiro Ciampi
image captionThe Ciampi family, from Bedford, will be supporting two different teams on Sunday night

Loyalties are divided in Bedford ahead of the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy. The town has 14,000 people of Italian descent, but come Sunday night, who will they be cheering, and how are their families coping with a potential split?

Walk around Bedford and you will hear people speaking in Italian, and see numerous Italian delis, bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants.

The town has a large and thriving Italian community, which dates back to the 1950s when many Italians moved to the area to work in the local brick industry.

With many families sharing British and Italian heritage, it means football allegiances are not always straightforward.

'It's coming home - or it's coming Rome'

image copyrightCiro Ciampi
image captionCiro Ciampi with his friend Marc Arena ahead of the Italy v Spain game at Wembley on Tuesday

Ciro Ciampi, 44, sees himself as Italian, although he was "born and bred" in Bedford.

His grandparents Umberto and Ines Zanna came to the area in 1951 from Caserta in Campania, southern Italy, so Mr Zanna could work at Stewartby London Brickworks.

"My friends identify me as Italian. I speak Italian, look Italian and love all things Italian," he says.

His business is also steeped in Italy, as he is the general manger of The Sharnbrook Hotel and Vesuvio Restaurant.

On Tuesday night he supported Italy when they faced Spain at Wembley, and the following night supported England against Denmark.

image copyrightCiro Ciampi
image captionUmberto and Ines Zanna came to the Bedford area in 1951

Since the start of the tournament, he has been dreaming of an England v Italy final. "It's coming home or it's coming Rome," he says.

He is already feeling "apprehensive, excited and anxious" but is letting his heart rule and supporting Italy as "my instinct, desire and passion is Italian."

He will be watching at home with his English wife, Elizabeth, and four daughters, Ella, 16, Bethany, 14, Tia, 12 and Lola, 10.

Only Mrs Ciampi and and Bethany will be supporting England.

Tia says: "I'm supporting Italy because they have a better chance as England haven't won in 55 years."

Mrs Ciampi says: "The split is second nature to us and is always good-humoured.

"Let's hope it is not a once-in-a-lifetime match.

"It is a great way to lift the country's mood, and as for Bedford, it will be a good night, whoever wins."

Whichever team triumphs, she says, there will be celebrations, "and it will be amazing to see all the fans together in a town where we can celebrate our rich and diverse heritage".

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionItalian workers eat lunch in the canteen of the Marston Valley Brickworks in the 1950s

'We can't go wrong'

image copyrightChiara Mac Call
image captionChiara Mac Call said "it will just be a just a pleasure to watch" the game with her English husband Morgan Nash

Chiara Mac Call and her husband Morgan Nash also feel the match is a "win, win".

Ms Mac Call, 45, has a "happily complicated" nationality. Dual Irish/Italian, she was born and raised in Rome, moved to the UK aged 17 and now "feels British".

She has lived in Bedford for seven years, making her home there due to the "incredible connection" with Italy.

She cannot wait until Sunday night when the couple will watch the game with friends in their garden.

"We've all been saying there is no point watching the match as we've won already. We can't go wrong," she says.

"It's just a joy, I hope it means that everyone can celebrate here in Bedford, regardless of who wins."

Those are also the views of the town's Labour MP, Mohammad Yasin, who congratulated England on Twitter on Wednesday night.

Ms Mac Call says she will be supporting Italy.

"It will just be a pleasure to watch. We shouldn't be divided - we should be together," she says.

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Mr Nash, 50, will be cheering on Gareth Southgate's team.

"I want England to win, but if we don't win, I will be happy for Italy to take it, as they are who I would have wanted to have seen in the final," he says.

For him the "family connection" is more important, as he feels he has adopted Italy as a "second loyalty".

"If England win, I will be delighted. If Italy win, I will not be as disappointed as I could have been," he says.

'Bedford is the best place to be'

image copyrightChiara Cugini
image captionTom Linton-Willoughby and Chiara Cugini were last in Italy in August 2019

Bedfordian Tom Linton-Willoughby, 38 and his Italian fiancee Chiara Cugini joke that their forthcoming wedding could be in doubt if Italy lose.

"The unofficial quotes are 'The wedding's off if England win and you're cooking for a month' - but that's a lose-lose for Chiara as she has to eat my cooking for a month," he says.

The couple have been together for seven years and, apart from different football loyalties, are very much "united".

Miss Cugini is already feeling the stress but is looking forward to watching the game with her Italian family. Her husband-to-be will be the only one supporting England.

She will be singing the Italian national anthem "very loudly", she says.

"Bedford is the best place to be. People are saying Bedford has won already so we can't really have it better than this."

image copyrightChiara Cugini
image captionNeither relishes the prospect of penalties

Mr Linton-Willougby says: "If either team wins, Bedford wins, as we're such a multi-cultural place. I think we'll do well out of it."

He is hoping for a fair game and but jokes that if England are victorious "Chiara will make my life a bit of a misery for a couple of days and then it will go back to normal".

There is one thing both are dreading, however: the possibility of spot kicks to decide the match.

"I think penalties are the worst," Miss Cugini says.

Follow England v Italy on BBC Sport. Kick-off at Wembley is at 20:00 BST on Sunday.

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