Norfolk-based Light Dragoons soldiers cheer on England’s footballers in Afghanistan

Norfolk-based soldiers crowded around TV sets in Afghanistan last night to roar on their national team at the Euro 2012 football championships.

Although stationed 5,500km away from home in Camp Bastion, troops from the Light Dragoons ensured they joined the fervour surrounding England's much-anticipated opening match with France.

The regiment, which is based in Swanton Morley near Dereham, is engaged in a range of tasks to defeat the insurgency in Helmand, ranging from helicopter raids on enemy strongholds to helping train the Afghan police to take responsibility for their country's security.

But those soldiers who were off-duty packed into a tent at their camp, draped with union flags and bunting, so they could enjoy some alcohol-free beers and cheer on the Three Lions in noisy, patriotic style.

Cpl Scott Mallen, 26, is a Newcastle fan who had planned ahead for the competition by packing his England shirt when his regiment deployed three months ago.


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He said it was 'massively important' that troops could enjoy home comforts while serving overseas.

'When you've got down time it is the only thing you can do,' he said. 'It's not just the football, it is the Olympics as well.

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'We all know our mates will be out on the drink at home, but this non-alcoholic beer is no good.'

The Light Dragoons are one of several units with East Anglian links currently deployed in Afghanistan, including the 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment.

A series of features on their progress in Helmand will begin in the EDP on Monday.

• chris.hill@archant.co.uk

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