THOUSANDS of England fans poured into Qatar for the World Cup clash with France last night – heralded by a sensational Sun mascot parade through the capital’s historic souk market.
Locals in traditional robes and fans of all nations – including English, French, Argentines, Brazillians and Moroccans joined the wacky procession snaking through the marketplace.
Chesney, 51, led on guitar strumming his hit backed by band trumpeter John Hemmingham, 59, and the booming big bass drum of pal Steve Holmes, 51.
The clamour for pictures and selfies from the cheering crowds at one point completely blocked the narrow souk thoroughfare.
Locals posed for pictures and cuddled up to furry lion Harry with their kids until the fun was halted to respect the Muslim call to prayer at sunset.
Trumpeter John from Sheffield – who has been to every England game – said: “That’s the most fun I’ve had since I’ve been here – what a reception!
“I’ve learned the notes of Chesney’s One and Only song and will be playing it in the crowd tomorrow to get the fans going.
“Our fans are arriving and the atmosphere is building – it’s going to be a fantastic game and I’m sure we can win.”
Steve, also from Sheffield, said: “Fans of all nations love Harry Mane and Chesney’s song is catching on among the England supporters. The parade was a great laugh and we really shook the place up – we were mobbed!
“I’ve been to seven World Cups and can honestly say we can win it this time. Gareth Southgate’s team has matured since Russia and they’re now the real deal.”
Chesney laughed after being rescued from the crowds: “That was unreal – absolutely brilliant. It’s great to be having fun among England fans ahead of one of the biggest games in our history – now all we have to do is go out and win it!”
Estate agent Paul Dubberley, 63, from Walsall, West Mids said after a singalong with The Sun team: “I’m convinced we can beat the French and win the World Cup.
“And I’ve put my money where my mouth is by getting tickets all the way to the final to watch us lift the trophy. It’s been great meeting Chesney – he’s a great guy and we all love his lucky song.”
Retired teacher Norman Bartlam, 64, also from Walsall said: “The atmosphere here has been terrific – and made even better by the fun we’ve had with Chesney and The Sun team.
“We’re heading for the game full of hope and praying that we can play well enough to beat French and go on to finally bring it home.”
Back home an estimated 45 million pints will be downed on pubs’ busiest day for three years today – as 23 million roar on England on Super Saturday.
A £350 million big match party with almost half England’s population tuned in will see beer sales rocket 50 per cent. Around 25 million pints will be drunk today in 30,000 pubs, plus 20m at home, British Beer and Pub Association consumption trends showed.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “At home and at the bar, the beer is flowing.”
December is pubs’ busiest month of the year, and the 7pm prime time France game is England’s first Saturday match of the first winter World Cup.
Tickets for England’s quarter final game being offered by touts for up to £9,000 each last night. There were 679 tickets being offered on the resale website Ticombo. Some were being sold for £2,500 and each came with a hefty booking fee of £750.
That totalled £3,250 each for tickets with a face value of £350. Hospitality packages were being offered for £7,000 per person plus a £2,000 booking fee, taking the total price to an eye-watering £9,000.
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