Northern Ireland football team honoured at Stormont for Euro 2016 achievements
The Northern Ireland football team has been honoured at Stormont for its achievements during the European Championships.
The side made their first ever appearance in the tournament in France in June and qualified for the last 16 following a 2-0 win over Ukraine and a plucky performance against Germany in the group stage. They were eliminated by Wales.
First Minister Arlene Foster and sports minister Paul Givan welcomed the squad, manager Michael O'Neill and supporters to Parliament Buildings.
The DUP leader said: "The team have been tremendous ambassadors for our country and have become a symbol for all that is good about Northern Ireland and its people.
"Qualifying for the last 16 was a magnificent achievement and we all have amazing shared experiences, pride and memories from summer 2016 that will stay with us for a very long time.
"Throughout the tournament the Northern Ireland team enhanced its reputation on the pitch while our Green And White Army were a fantastic advertisement for all that is great about Northern Ireland.
"They won friends with their good humour, spirit, banter and catalogue of catchy chants.
"It is no wonder they were awarded the Medal of the City of Paris as a mark of gratitude for their exemplary behaviour during Euro 2016."
Sports Minister Paul Givan MLA said: “The whole of Northern Ireland took pride in the team’s successes in France and we should not underestimate the impact of the success at home. There is no doubt they have inspired many young people, both girls and boys, to play football.
“The outstanding performances of both the team and the Green and White Army generated significant positive coverage throughout Europe. Our wee country achieved so much on the field while off it the thousands of dedicated fans created a fantastic atmosphere wherever they went around France.
“The fans attracted attention with media outlets at home and abroad who reported widely on the good behaviour and humour of the Northern Irish fans created a lasting and very positive image of Northern Ireland. This was formally recognised by the presentation of an award from the Mayor of Paris for their "exemplary sportsmanship" during Euro 2016.
“On top of that it was also recently announced that UEFA are to honour Northern Ireland fans with an outstanding contribution award for their support at Euro 2016.
“Together, the team and fans have brought credit and honour to our wee country and are to be commended for it. I wish the team every success for the World Cup Qualifiers and look forward to them providing us with more memorable moments in the years ahead.”