Monday 26 September 2016

Video: Classy Northern Ireland fans make local pensioner's day with heartwarming gesture

Stephen Looney in Lyon

Published 20/06/2016 | 20:16

Northern Ireland fans have made an old man very happy after having a whip-round to repair a broken window in Lyon.

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The Green And White Army was enjoying a kickabout in the Place Bellecour when a stray ball accidentally broke a pensioner's window.

The man looked on forlornly until charitable fans organised an impromptu whip-round to pay for the damage done – and in doing so secured a fan for life.

Newtownabbey man Steve Eccles was in the square with his father Davy and friends when the window was broken, and moved immediately to repair the damage.

“There were a couple of balls being kicked around the square, and it was good, friendly craic”, said the 38-year-old council worker.

“Someone miskicked the ball and it unfortunately broke a pane of glass in a nearby house. This French pensioner came out with a woman, who might have been his wife or his daughter.

“He stood by the window for a while and he was clearly quite upset, maybe wondering what would happen next.

“All the boys saw that he was upset so myself and my dad suggested doing a whip-round, got a couple of cups and started collecting.

“Every Northern Ireland fan in the vicinity was happy to chip in and we think we raised a few hundred euros for the man.

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“I spoke to him in the broken French I learned in secondary school, saying 'Je regrette la fenetre'.

“He said 'no problem, who do you play tomorrow night?' We said 'Ukraine' and he said 'good luck, I hope you win!'

“It was obvious that he was quite taken by the kindness, we invited him for a drink and he and his wife joined us for a whisky.

“He told us he loves Belfast and wants Northern Ireland to win in Euro 2016. He was a lovely man.”

Mr Eccles is over in France with dad Davy, Andy Agnew, Alex McQuillan and Davy Henderson, and has to return to Belfast on Friday.

“I got tickets for all three group games but have to go back on Friday no matter what happens. My dad is staying on if Northern Ireland get through.

“We started buying group tickets back in 2004 and this is the best, we've had a magnificent time.

“Nice was great and the win over Ukraine in Lyon will stay with me for the rest of my life, we are enjoying Lyon and looking forward to playing Germany tomorrow night.

“The atmsophere has been brilliant. In Nice, the Polish fans didn't gloat after beating us, they sang and danced with us before and after and we were the same after beating Ukraine.

“The pints are a bit dear here in Paris though, €9 in some of the bars and €6 in the Fanzone, so we'll stick to the Fanzone!”

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