STOCKHOLM – Protected by a light but visible presence of armed police officers, fans of Manchester United and Ajax were arriving for the Europa League final and facing two rings of security to get into the Friends Arena in Stockholm on Wednesday.
The game is being played less than two days after a bomb attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester killed 22 people, and six weeks after a truck attack in central Stockholm that killed five people.
UEFA said it had "no specific intelligence" that the final could be a target for terrorists, but Swedish authorities were mounting one of the country's biggest security operations around Stockholm. About 1,000 police officers have been deployed at the stadium, some holding automatic weapons.
Supporters had to show their tickets at the first checkpoint to gain access to the concourse surrounding the stadium. They then faced pat-downs and bag searches at a second checkpoint.
"It's not too overbearing, but you feel secure as well," United fan Pete Temple, a 31-year-old telecommunications worker from Derry, Northern Ireland, told The Associated Press outside the stadium. "It's a good mix. I think they've got it spot on tonight."
The atmosphere was calm ahead of the game. At one stage, Ajax and United supporters, gathered outside a bar near the concourse, combined to sing, "Don't worry about a thing, 'cause every little thing gonna be all right" — a line from Bob Marley's song, Three Little Birds.
One flag, hung outside a bar in the city center filled with United fans, displayed the words: "United against terrorism. Lest we forget 22.05.17" — the date of Monday's suicide bombing.
It summed up the feelings of defiance among fans.
"Terrorists, that's their goal, to bring fear into people," said Ante Simunic, a 39-year-old plumber from Melbourne, Australia. "My only way to fight against it is to not fear, live your life. They're not taking it away from us."
There will be a minute's silence before the game in honor of the victims of the Manchester attack, and both teams will wear black armbands as a mark of respect.
"I think if we can win — not just as a United fan but the whole of the city — it will be uplifting," said 40-year-old IT worker Haroon Latif, who flew in from Manchester for the game early Wednesday with his 9-year-old son, Haris.
"We can go back with a bit of silverware to cheer people up. (Manchester) City fans, Liverpool fans, Everton fans — it will bring everyone together from a northwest perspective."
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80