EURO 2016

Fans from across Ireland get medals for behaviour in France

EURO 2016By Sunday World
Fans get their medal from the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo
Fans get their medal from the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo

Football fans from across Ireland have been honoured for their sportsmanship during Euro 2016 by the mayor of Paris.

Anne Hidalgo offered the city's most prestigious award - the Grand Vermeil - to fans from Northern Ireland and the Republic in a ceremony at the Eiffel Tower fan zone on Thursday evening.

The Green and White Army have won hearts across Europe during the tournament, with fans introducing anthem Will Grigg's on Fire to the masses.

Supporters from the Republic were filmed singing a lullaby to a baby in Bordeaux, helping a couple change a tyre in Paris and singing Dancing Queen alongside Swedish supporters.

Ms Hidalgo presented the award for Northern Ireland - a medal with the Paris motto Fluctuat nec mergitur - to Jim Spratt from Belfast.

He said: "I don't know what the motto means - probably Will Grigg's on Fire.

"It's actually overwhelming. I'm very proud to receive the medal on behalf of all the Northern Irish fans.

"Will Grigg's on Fire has become the song of the tournament. Even last night when we were walking down the Champs Elysees after the Portugal game and their fans were singing it.

"I think what has captured it most is we would stay in the stadium half an hour after our team has been beaten and still be singing and some people just don't get that."

The medal for the Republic of Ireland fans was presented to Jamie Monaghan who suffers from a condition called trisomy 9 mosaicism, meaning he cannot walk or talk.

He attended all four games involving his side at the tournament and was also presented with a Paris Saint-Germain shirt from the mayor.

Jamie's father Philip, from near Drogheda, said: "It's huge. I'm delighted for Jamie. He loves his football."

Speaking about what made the Republic's fans so entertaining during the tournament, he said: "It's just in our DNA. We love a party."

Philip also said that it's been the greatest experience of Jamie's life to accept the award on the Irish supporters' behalf.

Philip said: "This has been a huge honour bestowed on Jamie, and of course for our family. Ever since John Delaney asked him to represent the supporters at the reception, Jamie has been so excited and tonight has been one of the greatest experiences in his life."

Joe McKenna said: "I'm so proud to be here with Jamie and Philip, as well as the Irish Ambassador to Paris to represent all of the many great supporters of the Republic of Ireland national team. This honour proves that we are amongst the best in the world."

FAI CEO John Delaney said: "I was delighted to see our fantastic supporters receive this great honour from Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

"Our supporters are the greatest ambassadors our country could have and just like our new generation of footballing heroes, we're extremely proud of them.

"It was also great to see Jamie Monaghan collect this award on behalf of all of our supporters and I include the late James Nolan, who sadly passed away during EURO 2012. 

"It is fitting too that we remember the two Northern Ireland supporters - Darren Rodgers and Robert Rainey - who died during EURO 2016.”

The Medal of the City of Paris was created in 1911 to recognise individuals or groups who have made a "remarkable act on the capital".

Among the names on the roll call are tennis champion Rafa Nadal, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and jazz pianist Herbie Hancock.

Ms Hidalgo said: "Thanks to the Irish fans, we have seen extraordinary things since the beginning of the Euro competition.

"We've seen love songs in the streets, we've seen baby songs in the Metro, we've seen policemen singing with the Green Army.

"We've heard - so many times - the great fire of Will Grigg in our stadiums.

"The Paris medal is a symbol of appreciation that recognises a remarkable act on the capital, and we are excited this year to award it to the Irish fans."