Euro 2016: A tournament to remember for the incredible fans
Before the start of Euro 2016, France was rocked by a terrorist attack as the national side played Germany in a friendly. With countless lives lost, there were concerns that the tournament might have been played behind closed doors, thankfully the security arrangements made by the country ensured the tournament was free from any sort of terrorist violence.
Euro 2016 was a marvel for numerous occasions, from the minnows doing extremely well to Cristiano Ronaldo finally lifting a major trophy with his Portugal side. The decision to expand the tournament to 24 teams instead of the 16 might not have gone down too well with most but there is no denying the fact that the likes of Iceland, Northern Ireland and even Albania did impress.
Apart from the football being played, there were a number of reasons to celebrate, one was the supporters that turned up in large numbers to cheer on their team. Countries such as Wales, Ireland and even Iceland drummed up unbelievable support in almost every game in the tournament.
It wasn’t all fun and games though, there were a number of reports of fan violence after a few games but that is just a small blot in an otherwise excellent tournament where the supporters really did play their part.
More than just the 12th man
The fans are often called as the 12th man for a team but some of the supporters took it to another level. Iceland, who progressed all the way to the quarter-finals after dumping out the likes of Austria and England had one of the greatest stories to tell.
A country with a population of just over 330,000 reportedly had 15% of the population in France to cheer on the side. While they sang and supported the side throughout the 90 minutes, the team did their best after the game with the now famous, ‘Viking clap’ after every game.
In fact, the entire country seemed to come out and welcomed the team when they returned home. This for a side that had never played in the European championship was a great achievement but the connect with the fans was just the icing on the cake.
If the Viking clap was something to marvel, the fans that deserve the most credit for making Euro 2016 memorable has to be from Ireland. The side might not have made it to the quarter-finals but the behaviour of the fans was on a completely different level.
From taking over and celebrating with a Hungarian presenter and singing aloud on the streets to chirping a lullaby to “gently” rock a child to sleep on a subway, the Irish fans did it all. They even had their own way of dealing with violence.
It was reported that one Irish fan charged up and wanted to see the celebrations down a street in Lille that he got up onto a car and ended up damaging the roof. The other Irish fans were not to let this go and they started to wedge money into the car to pay for the damage caused.
Another set of fans did a bit of DIY by fixing the dented roof and this led to more celebrations on the street. The Irish also did their bit to pay tribute to Darren Rodgers, a Northern Ireland fan who passed away in Nice, just days into the tournament. The Irish fans, along with the Swedish fans sang out “Stand up for the Ulstermen” in his memory.
The set of Northern Irish and Irish fans even were awarded the Medal of City of Paris for their exemplary behaviour. As quoted by the BBC, Jean-François Martins, deputy mayor for sport and tourism stated: "They are a model for all the supporters of the world.”
The final bow
Even though most of the knock-out games became tepid affairs with teams deciding to play defensive football, there still was reason to celebrate the performance of the fans and supporters. The best example came in the final between Portugal and France.
The home country, which had been rocked by violence before the tournament and with a recent history of failing to perform on the big stage were usurped by a Ronaldo-less Portugal, a side which had never won an international tournament in its history.
As Cristiano Ronaldo lifted the trophy above his head, in another part of the city, a French supporter was in tears, disbelief on his face as to how the side that was backed to win the final conjured to lose it.
Yet again, it was a supporter, a young one, who stepped up and offered a consolidatory hug to the French supporter. Football is nothing without its fans, and it’s best to leave it at that. Thank you Euro 2016 for the fans more than the football.