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Football family united in grief at loss of fellow supporter

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 15/06/2016

Northern Ireland fans stand at the promenade where Darren lost his life
Northern Ireland fans stand at the promenade where Darren lost his life

It has become a point of pilgrimage for every Northern Ireland fan in Nice.

The tribute at the spot where Darren Rodgers died has grown in size over the past 24 hours as news of the tragedy has spread.

Flags, scarves, flowers and messages of condolence line the pathway.

Football fans are like a family, and through the day a flow of supporters came to pay their respects to their lost brother.

They included Belfast men Matty Legge, Peter Stewart and Ryan Costley.

The three had travelled part of the journey with Darren, and met up with him before Sunday's game against Poland.

"We arrived with him from Paris to Nice on the train for six hours, singing and having a good time," Matty told the Belfast Telegraph.

"About 20 of us had congregated and got together.

"We saw him again before the game, then heard the news on the Monday that he had passed away. It was really sad.

"So we are just here to lay some flowers and pay our respects."

Peter added: "He was a lovely guy - full of life and having a good time."

Among the tributes was a Republic of Ireland flag, placed alongside one from Northern Ireland. Just below, a scarf reads: "Best supporters in the world".

Matty said: "Everybody feels the same - you can see the support here for him. He was one of our own, and we all feel the same sadness.

"There are Republic tops there, and some fellas from Burnley have just placed a top.

"I think that everyone feels a lot of remorse and just wants to pay respect to him."

Several fans have left their Northern Ireland tops and other items linked to the team.

Jerseys from clubs including Linfield, Portadown and Ballyclare Comrades have also been placed in Darren's memory.

Polish supporters visited on Monday night and left their country's flag tied to the railings. A French fan also placed his country's flag, adding the words "repose en paix" - rest in peace.

On one Northern Ireland flag a fan had written: "We didn't know you, but you were one of us."

Other tributes included a match ticket from Sunday's game, Northern Ireland fans' campaign cards and football stickers.

Robert Anderson, from Belfast, said: "I didn't know Darren, but as a Northern Ireland fan I wanted to come and pay a bit of respect.

"It is great for the wider football family to come together. It shows a bit of solidarity and it's nice to see.

"My thoughts are with his family - that is one of the reasons I'm here.

"It is just heartbreaking - such a real tragedy."

Belfast Telegraph

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