With the European Championship being contested in France, thousands of Irish fans have traveled to the country to cheer on their side. Whereas the thought of hordes of soccer fans descending on foreign towns can conjure up shudders (think: hooliganism), green-clad Ireland supporters seem to have led something of a charm offensive.
All that good karma may have had a little to do with Ireland’s 1-0 win over Italy on Wednesday, a huge victory that allowed it to move into the knockout stages of Euro 2016. The day before that game, Irish fans had done their part to create positive vibes by fixing a dent in a car.
Okay, the fans also caused the dent, or at least one Irishman did by standing on top of the car to get a better look at the jam-packed scene in Lille. But how many other people, in any situation, would do anything about that? Joyously singing “Fix the car for the boys in green!”, a group of Irish supporters not only pounded the car’s roof until the dent popped back into place, some of them stuffed money into the windows of the vehicle, all the better for the owner to pay for any further repairs.
The previous Ireland match was played in Bordeaux. It didn’t go well for the team — a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Belgium — but the Irish fans again made friends wherever they went, notably on a train, where they sang lullabies to a baby while otherwise trying to keep the noise down.
Elsewhere in Bordeaux, a large group of Irish fans was huddling in a tunnel to stay out of a downpour when French police showed up to move them along. Rather than a tense standoff ensuing, the group broke into more good-natured singing while very much behaving itself (certainly by soccer-fan standards). Going far beyond mere good behavior were some other Irish fans, who actually engaged in some impromptu trash collection — all for the “boys in green,” of course. Even the mayor of Bordeaux praised his town’s visitors.
— Alain Juppé (@alainjuppe) June 18, 2016
At one point, Irish fans even serenaded a nun on a train. How does one do that, you might ask? By serving up a musical version of “Our Father,” of course.
Not surprisingly, fans inclined to serenade nuns also took the opportunity to do the same for a young woman on a Bordeaux street, offering a dozens-strong (if not hundreds) rendition of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” One particular Irishman was rewarded with a kiss on the cheek as the crowd roared. In another example of helpfulness (as well as of causing the situation that required some help), a passing cyclist was unable to get through an Irish throng outside of a pub. No problem — the crowd picked him and carried him to the other side.
Ireland began the Euros in Paris, where it played to a 1-1 draw with Sweden. That was also where a massive group of Irish fans had some fun with a hotel resident who occasionally came out to check out the scene, each time being met with cheers, as well as sounds of disappointment when he went back into his room. After the match, Irish fans sang to their Swedish counterparts, “Go home to your sexy wives!”
The word “hooligan” is thought to have its roots in the Irish language or culture. However, at Euro 2016, it is fans of some other countries (we’re looking at you, England and Russia) who have embodied that term. The good news for everyone is that, with the win over Italy — one of the biggest in recent memory for the boys in green — Irish people will have more opportunities to cheer for their side, not to mention charm their hosts in France.