Darts, basketball and Uno – how England are staying entertained in Covid bubble

Basketball, Game of Thrones and Uno are just some of the ways Harry Kane and his England team-mates have been filling their time ahead of the European Championship.

The squad heads to London on Saturday to prepare for their Group D opener against Croatia.

The Three Lions get their Euro 2020 campaign under way at Wembley on Sunday, having spent the week preparing for the game at their St George’s Park base.

With a Covid bubble in place around the squad, Gareth Southgate’s 26 players have had to entertain themselves within the confines of the training campus.

Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka was victorious on the media dart board on Wednesday.
Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka was victorious on the media dart board on Wednesday (Nick Potts/PA)

They were already showing their competitive edge by dominating the media in the now-familiar darts contest as Southgate, Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka all left the press conference marquee victorious.

Despite plush rooms and games consoles, traditional card game Uno appears to be a surprise hit among the players – with Jadon Sancho praising the ability of a potential future Manchester United team-mate.

“Just been playing Uno,” the Borussia Dortmund winger told Radio 5 Live’s Daily Euros podcast. “I’m very good. Luke Shaw is very good. He’s tactical, he reads your mind.”

Saka explained the reasons behind his “little chilli” nickname on Wednesday and will have been hoping to be hot on the hoops of the basketball court.

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“I have been playing basketball with the boys, table tennis, pool,” he said.

“Then we have a nice spa, I have my PlayStation with my boys back home and we have been playing Uno as well. You are never really bored here.”

Ben Chilwell, meanwhile, explained the rules on the court and how it has united the squad.

“They’ve got a basketball court down there and that is something I enjoyed playing at school so I was the first one down there on the court,” the Chelsea full-back told the Official England podcast.

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“There is a group of us, around 10, who play a knockout game there in the evenings. It’s a fun way to pass the time in the hotel.

“There is a good group and you feel like you’re not away on international duty, you’re just with your friends at the park playing. It brings us closer together.”

For Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, it was a case of the simple things that put a smile on his face.

“There’s a lovely smell. The smell from the reception to the rooms was lovely,” he said in an interview with talkSPORT.

“Normally when you come with England you’re travelling, you’re on a plane, you go somewhere.

“It’s moody, you get to a hotel, the hotel’s moody. You’re there, you’ve got football to play, you enjoy your football, you get back to the hotel. It’s boring.

“Coming here, somewhere you’ve been for many years. You know everything about the place and it’s just nice to be on home soil for once and breathing some great British air and the weather’s nice outside and I can’t stop smiling!”

As well as the boredom breakers and the serious work of training sessions and team meetings, the players all had their rooms individually kitted out to make them feel more at home.

Gareth Southgate and his staff have been overseeing training ahead of the opening game against Croatia.
Gareth Southgate and his staff have been overseeing training ahead of the opening game against Croatia. (Nick Potts/PA)

“It’s unbelievable, there’s everything in there,” said Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish.

“There’s so much stuff. They’ve done a great job to be fair. I think they tried to make it as homely as possible. There were so many nice touches.

“I went into my room thinking it’d be a normal room but then there’s was photos of my family around the room and one of my dog which made me happy.”

Captain Kane, meanwhile, said he was planning to shun much of the physical activity to binge on a well-known boxset.

Harry Kane will be watching the likes of Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner during his time at St George's Park
Harry Kane will be watching the likes of Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner during his time at St George’s Park (Liam McBurney/PA)

“We’ve got a cricket pitch and we might get a bit of golf in, but it’s more around the hotel,” he said.

“Boys will be playing PlayStation and things like that, but I’ve just started Game of Thrones, believe it or not.

“I’ve got a nice little period to finish that off and it’ll be finished before the end of the tournament…I might take it and have the odd game of Fortnite, but not as much as I used to.”

If the camaraderie and good mood around the camp plays a part in a victory over Croatia on Sunday afternoon and takes England further into the finals – Kane will be hoping he may need another series to watch or find himself having to hone his Uno skills.