Welsh football fan in Baku unable to attend team’s Euro 2020 matches

One of the few Welsh football fans who will be in Baku for Wales’ Euro 2020 matches is unable to make it to the stadium – because he could not book the day off work.

Neale Jones, 58, a diplomat based in Azerbaijan’s capital, will be heading up the UK embassy’s consular operation when Wales take on Switzerland on Saturday and again in the city on Wednesday when they play Turkey.

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising against travel to amber-list countries like Azerbaijan to reduce the risk of coronavirus variants entering the UK.

Unlike the travelling fans, Mr Jones, from Merthyr Tydfil, who said he is one of around 20 Welsh men and women living in Baku, would not have needed a negative Covid-19 test or to quarantine in order to attend the match.

But due to work commitments he is having to settle for flying the Welsh flag above the UK’s embassy in Baku on match days to show his support.

Mr Jones was also invited to visit the Wales team’s Baku training camp and to meet national team manager Robert Page and his players last Tuesday along with the UK’s ambassador to Baku, James Sharp.

Mr Jones told the PA news agency: “Duty calls, and getting the pleasure of meeting Rob Page and the team this week and watching the team train has more than softened the blow.

“I’ll take a great deal of pride in helping to ensure that both of Wales’ games in Baku pass off smoothly.”

The diplomat said that meeting players including Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey as well as his favourite player Chris Gunter was “the next best thing” to being able to attend the games.

“We’re in a tough group but I’m hoping we can do well. We surprised a few people at the last Euros,” he said.

“I’m the only Welsh person at the embassy and I’ve put the biggest Welsh flag I have up in our operations room.”