Wednesday 22 November 2017

'He was following his dream' - friends remember young Northern Ireland fan Darren Rodgers

Darren Rodgers, left, was remembered by Republic of Ireland fans this evening
Darren Rodgers, left, was remembered by Republic of Ireland fans this evening

Laurence White

Friends of the Northern Irish football fan killed in France have said he was living his dream by following the team at Euro 2016.

Darren Rodgers (24) died after falling from the promenade in Nice during the early hours yesterday morning.

Originally from Ballymena, Darren had fulfilled a lifelong ambition by watching his country play Poland just hours before the tragic accident.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill led tributes, while a minute’s silence is being considered before Thursday’s match against Ukraine.

The waterfront area in Nice where the tragic incident occurred. Inset: Northern Ireland fan Darren Rodgers
The waterfront area in Nice where the tragic incident occurred. Inset: Northern Ireland fan Darren Rodgers

Republic of Ireland fans showed solidarity, with applause in Darren’s memory, during their game against Sweden in Paris. Back in Nice, devastated friends returned to the spot where the tragedy happened.

Darren McDonald, from Ballymena, was among a group who had travelled to the stadium with Darren on Sunday. “He was with us all day, went on the bus to the match with us, and the next thing we heard was that this had happened,” he told the Irish Independent.

Tributes for Northern Ireland fan Darren Rodgers who died during the Euro 2016 football tournament in Nice. Getty Images
Tributes for Northern Ireland fan Darren Rodgers who died during the Euro 2016 football tournament in Nice. Getty Images

“He was just a bubbly character who was full of life – not a bad bone in his body. We had waited 30 years for a day like yesterday, and for something to happen to one of our own fans, a friend, is very sad.”

Ian Thompson, who was also part of the group, said: “My last memories of him are going to the match in the bus. He was having such fun and getting along with the Polish fans. He was a wee character. It is devastating for someone to go to a match that was every Northern Ireland fan’s dream and lose their life like this.”

Mr Rodgers was on his own when he fell about eight metres from a promenade on to a beach at Castel Plage. He died in hospital overnight.

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