I’m England’s most loyal fan – my secret hack to guarantee I always get a ticket
ENGLAND’S “most obsessed” fan heads to Qatar to cheer on the team during the FIFA World Cup.
Superfan Ian Odgers, 54, has been fiercely loyal to the Three Lions, having not missed a qualifier or friendly for England in more than a decade.
The father, from Dereham, will watch all three of England’s World Cup group stage matches which get underway this Sunday.
He is one of an estimated 250 people on a ‘top capper’ scheme which means he gets priority tickets to England’s biggest clash.
So loyal is Ian to the cause, he once even spent seven hours getting his body painted with the St George flag for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The World Cup in Qatar will see Ian take part in his fifth international tournament overall.
His first England game was back when he was a child in 1984 when the Three Lions faced Yugoslavia.
Ian says that he used to be more interested in his club football, but after becoming more financially stable, he has focused exclusively on England for the past 15 years.
He said: “I don’t think I’ve missed an England home game for about 13 years. Wherever England go in Britain, I go.
“Qualifiers and friendlies, I haven’t missed an away game in 11 years.
“I have been to the European Championships in France in 2016 and supported the boys all the way in Russia.”
He added: “I’m considered a ‘top capper’ so every time England play I’m guaranteed a ticket. I love supporting my country.
“It’s not physically possible at the moment to have more live caps than I’ve got. I’m so proud to be English, always have been.”
Ian flies home from Qatar on December 5, with a view to returning should England reach the semi-finals and final.
The devout fan has traveled thousands of miles around the world to support his country and he says he loves visiting different parts of the world.
Qatar will be the 66th country he has visited in the name of football.
He will live in an apartment, a short metro ride outside the capital, Doha.
“It’s a bit unusual to have a winter World Cup, but it’s about the football performance at the end of the day.
“I’m sure there will be some phenomenal games, I’m there to support and get behind my team.
“I’m excited about it, I know there’s a lot of bad press about how they got the tournament, but every country has problems.
“Look at Russia four years ago, I was there and there were things that were corrupt about it. They invaded Ukraine long before what happened this year.
“I’ve never been to this part of the world much, so I’m excited about it.”
He added that he was keen to meet fans of other nationalities and would always respect the host country’s culture.
Ian said: “I’m well traveled and I respect other cultures. I’m an atheist and I want to respect their religion.
“There are pubs and stuff that I think are a lot better than people realise, and I’m happy to wait until I need to have my drink.
“I love meeting new people, other fans and understanding where people are coming from.
Ian continued: “I’m not a fan of those who go to the football but are really hooligans who care more about throwing bottles than supporting the lads – it gives England fans a bad line.
“I like to have a drink, but when I finish a can or bottle the last thing I think about is smashing it against a wall or throwing it.
“Unfortunately there are always a few idiots who take it too far. I don’t like that element of following England but I want to represent my country in the best possible way.
“I’m old, I’m there to enjoy the game and don’t feel the need to boo another team’s national anthem for example.”
The football mad fan has also acquired tickets to watch other World Cup matches like Brazil vs Cameroon, Spain vs Costa Rica and Uruguay vs South Korea.
Will be visiting almost every stadium in Qatar to fully immerse myself in the magic of the World Cup.
Every match you attend gets you a cap – he has already booked tickets for next year including Malta away and Moldova away.
“It’s in my diary before anything else, I love football and traveling so much – I’m football mad!
“I’ve got a load of passport stamps tattooed on me.”
And while Ian loves the beautiful game, it comes at a huge cost.
He reckons the trip will cost him around £8,000 if England make it all the way to the final.
But if Three Lions crashes earlier, he estimates the figure will end up at around £5,000.
Despite his dedication, Ian is not keen on the men’s team winning their second World Cup and believes after semi-final and final performances in the last two tournaments, it is “do or die” for Gareth Southgate.
He said: “As much as I love England, I don’t think we’re going to win. I rate our chances as very slim, but I felt like I was going out to Russia.
“I’ve stood by Gareth but the last result was a shame, it’s do or die for him.”
Ian has a Three Lions tattoo inked on his leg but hopes to update it this summer.
“My tattoo only has one star, I hope to add it this time fingers crossed.”
Speaking about his most memorable moments watching England, Ian cites the penalty shootout win over Colombia at the 2018 World Cup as one of his personal highlights.
He was also present in the delirious summer of 2021 when England knocked fierce rivals Germany out of the European Championship.
Outside of his Three Lions commitments, Ian is a busy man, often running marathons and contributing to charity.
He is co-founder of the Dereham Ukraine aid center and has run over 200 marathons.
While in Qatar he also plans to see David Guetta at a music festival.