Irish football fans earn Paris sportsmanship medal

PARIS • The Republic of Ireland's fans are to be awarded the City of Paris medal for their "sportsmanship" at Euro 2016, the city's mayor announced on Tuesday.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo told reporters on a visit to the city's fanzone that she had sent a letter to Ireland's President Michael D. Higgins to tell him of her decision.

Hidalgo said Irish supporters deserved the honour after displaying "exemplary sportsmanship" and for the "good atmosphere" they generated as they followed Martin O'Neill's side through the first round and to a 2-1 defeat to hosts France in the last 16.

The Republic's "Green Army" have been a feature of Euro 2016, winning over French locals as they passionately supported their team.

In the early days of the tournament, which was plagued by violence, the Irish fans were seen singing a hearty rendition of "Stand up for the French police" before following with a chorus of "Sit down for the French police" in support for the local authorities in France.

They were also not afraid to lend a helping hand to those in need. To let a French cyclist pass through the crowd outside an Irish pub in Bordeaux, the fans literally carried the man - still on his bike - over their heads to let him through.

And after a night of partying and boost, they always remembered to clean up their own mess from the streets. As they happily picked up their rubbish, they would patriotically say "Clean up for the boys in green" and march on.

O'Neill paid tribute to the Republic's supporters after his side's closing game in Lyon last Sunday.

"The fans have been wonderful in our four games and I believe they gave extra energy to the players throughout the tournament," he said.

"The players mentioned their support in the warm-up against Sweden, before our first game, and that's continued until the end.

"They (the fans) have behaved themselves brilliantly and been a credit to the country."

A date for the medal ceremony will be announced later.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2016, with the headline 'Irish football fans earn Paris sportsmanship medal'. Print Edition | Subscribe