Monday 16 December 2019

Watch: Irish and Belgian fans clashed in possibly the worst game of football Euro 2016 has seen yet

Cathal McMahon

In a rainy Bordeaux, Ireland and Belgium clashed for the first time this afternoon in what could be described as the worst game of football seen to date at Euro 2016.

Fans from both countries came together this afternoon in the pouring rain at the huge Fanzone on Bordeaux's Place de Quinconces.

Like all players the teams hydrated first - a round of beers for the Irish and double espressos for the Belgians.

And then out to the rain soaked pitch pitch for a classic 'next goal wins'.

The game started slow and ended slower but it was yet another example of the types of friendships that Irish fans have sparked up since arriving in France.

Speaking after the clash goalkeeper Deaglan McConville, from West Belfast, summed up the performance: “We played a good game, it was just like Sweden but at the end of the day we just couldn't finish. At the end of the day, we are only here for the beer.”

Deaglan is in Bordeaux with his pals Ryan McCrory (21), Martin McLaughlin (22), and Ronan McLaughlin (22).

They were in Paris for the Sweden game and then took a first class train, “with no beers left”, down to the south-west French city for the latest game.

Ryan explained that their apartment is far from 'first class' though.

“First of all, there are at least 17,000 steps going up to the room. It's bad. It looks like something out of Soviet Russia or 17th century French.

“It's just old and awful.”

Asked how much they paid for the digs the Belfast lads replied that it was £36 (€45) for five nights.

Unlike Paris, where fans were concentrated in the Montmartre area, the Irish travellers are spread out across the sprawling city.

This has led to pockets of fans popping up around the various pubs and bars.

The search for a focal point to party is topped only by the scramble for tickets.

Rarer than a Roy Keane smile, passes for the Ireland and Belgium clash on Saturday are being flogged for extortionate amounts across the city.

The Belfast lads said they have been searching for several months online and elsewhere but to no avail.

Phil Starrett (49) and his uncle Columb Starrett (59) are over in Bordeaux to mark Columb's 60th birthday.

They are living in Oxfordshire but originally come from Co Down.

However they have been unable to get him that perfect birthday present – a ticket for the game.

Phil said: “We went to the first match together we are trying to get tickets. You don't have any spare though.

“We have been going around the areas, just chatting with people and asking them. We have friends back home who are in the  FAI supporters club and we are hoping they might be able to sort something out.

"It doesn't look too good now though."

Hundreds of Welsh fans have remained in the city after their historic victory over Slovakia last week.

A number of them explained that they decided not to travel north to Lens for the England game today after the trouble that erupted between English and Russian fans in Marseilles.

And there was another reason Mike Phennah (48) said: “We knew the Irish fans were coming so we wanted to stay and party with you guys.”

Some Welsh fans have even managed to bag tickets for the Ireland and Belgium clash on Saturday, but they are not shouting too loudly about it.

Gareth Jones (32), from Wrexham in North Wales, said he and his pals have eight tickets for the game: “We wanted to come over with the next one being all over and the next World Cup being in Russia.

“We just applied for the tickets for the games in Bordeaux and we luckily got eight tickets.”

He explained that he has been inundated with requests from Irish fans for the tickets.

“We are not actively trying to sell them. But €300, I don't mind missing it. If someone is offering stupid money then it is something to think about.”

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