Thursday 8 December 2016

Whatever the result is, the Irish fans have won hearts in France

His Excellency Jean-Pierre Thebault Ambassador of France to Ireland

Published 26/06/2016 | 02:30

Republic of Ireland players celebrate with the fans. Photo: Reuters
Republic of Ireland players celebrate with the fans. Photo: Reuters

Rarely did the fans in Lille witness such an intense football game. It was 85 long minutes until that moment when Robbie Brady, the Ray Houghton of his era, scored. Watching the game down in my local I nearly spilled my Guinness!

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Today will be a thrilling game. Both nations have a long and proud sporting history. Ireland will field a very good team, is supported by incredible fans and defeated Germany, the 2014 World Champions, last October. They have the fighting spirit.

Regardless of the outcome, the Green Army have already won the Fair Play Cup in this Euro 2016 competition. Not only has the team shown what great football looks like but their fans have conquered the hearts of my compatriots.

In Paris, Versailles, Bordeaux, Lille and soon in Lyon, the Irish have demonstrated, with their energy and their high spirits, that football - and sport - is part of the friendship between our two countries. Citizens, but also media outlets, in France have paid tribute to the outstanding and cheerful behaviour of the Irish fans.

I have no doubt that today's game will be memorable. As host city, Lyon boasts a proud history of football.

Their local team, l'Olympique Lyonnais, won the French championship for seven years in a row in the last decade, and their women's team has also recently won the Women's League Championship for the third time.

Cheers for Team Green are not out of place in Lyon, as 'Allez les Verts' is still a rallying cry in the region due to the past victories of the green-jerseyed team of Saint-Etienne.

Today, joining the Irish and French fans at home here in Ireland, my family and I shall watch the game with a sporting heart. While I can't predict the result, I can assure you whichever tricolour wins we will celebrate it.

Allez les Bleus, Allez les Boys en Vert!

Sunday Independent

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