Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: Northern Ireland and Republic fans receive Paris medal

'It's just in our DNA. We love a party'

Northern Ireland fans and Republic of Ireland fans received the Medal of the City of Paris on Thursday as a mark of gratitude for their "exemplary behaviour" in the city during Euro 2016.

Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo presented the fans with the award. Thousands of fans from Northern Ireland travelled to Nice, Lyon and Paris throughout the tournament to support the team as they moved through the group stages and into the final 16 of the tournament.

They were knocked after a 1-0 defeat to Wales.

Mayor Hidalgo said that Parisians and visitors to the city were "charmed and impressed by their kindness, their chants and their good humour".

Representatives from the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs and the Irish Football Association received the medal on behalf of the supporters prior to tonight’s semi-final between France and Germany.

The Green and White Army won hearts across Europe during the tournament, with fans introducing anthem Will Grigg's on Fire to the masses.

Supporters from the Republic were filmed singing a lullaby to a baby in Bordeaux, helping a couple change a tyre in Paris and singing Dancing Queen alongside Swedish supporters.

Will Grigg's on Fire

Ms Hidalgo presented the award for Northern Ireland - a medal with the Paris motto Fluctuat nec mergitur - to Jim Spratt from Belfast.

He said: "I don't know what the motto means - probably Will Grigg's on Fire.

"It's actually overwhelming. I'm very proud to receive the medal on behalf of all the Northern Irish fans.

"Will Grigg's on Fire has become the song of the tournament. Even last night when we were walking down the Champs Elysees after the Portugal game and their fans were singing it.

"I think what has captured it most is we would stay in the stadium half an hour after our team has been beaten and still be singing and some people just don't get that."

The Medal of the City of Paris was created in 1911 to recognise individuals or groups who have made a "remarkable act on the capital".

Among the names on the roll call are tennis champion Rafa Nadal, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and jazz pianist Herbie Hancock.

Ms Hidalgo said: "Thanks to the Irish fans, we have seen extraordinary things since the beginning of the Euro competition.

"We've seen love songs in the streets, we've seen baby songs in the Metro, we've seen policemen singing with the Green Army.

"We've heard - so many times - the great fire of Will Grigg in our stadiums.

"The Paris medal is a symbol of appreciation that recognises a remarkable act on the capital, and we are excited this year to award it to the Irish fans."

In a letter to Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster, Madame Hidalgo said: “From the beginning of the Euro 2016 football tournament, in all the cities concerned in France and particularly in Paris, your supporters displayed exemplary behaviour.

“While the practice of international football is, unfortunately, sometimes marred by rudeness, excesses or even violence, Northern Ireland supporters showed us all, to our great benefit, what supporting a country and a sport truly means.

“For all these reasons, on behalf of all Parisians and as a mark of respect and gratitude I have decided to award the Medal of the City of Paris to those citizens of Northern Ireland who came to support their team in our capital.”

Irish Football Association Chief Executive Patrick Nelson, who attended the presentation ceremony, said: “This award for our fans is thoroughly deserved.

“The Green and White Army have, of course, provided remarkable support for the Northern Ireland team home and away for many years, but they were exceptional in France.

“Their amazing backing for our players, their good humour, their relentless singing and their positive interaction with the French people and with fans from other countries at Euro 2016 were rightly applauded by other fans and players from within Europe and around the world.

“I am delighted their exemplary sportsmanship, which showed Northern Ireland in a very positive light, has been recognised in this way by the Mayor of Paris.”

First Minister Arlene Foster said earlier today: "I am immensely proud of all the Northern Ireland supporters who travelled to France to support the Northern Ireland team with such loyalty, passion and enthusiasm.

"I commend our Green and White Army for their outstanding behaviour throughout the team’s time in the tournament and for the consideration and kindness shown to their hosts. Their sense of fun, spirit, banter and chanting won admiration, respect and friendship and showcased Northern Ireland once again at its very best.

"I am delighted Mayor Hidalgo has chosen to recognise the Northern fans with this prestigious award."

Irish superfan Jamie Monaghan

Disabled Republic of Ireland fan Jamie Monaghan was chosen to accept an award for Republic supporters.

Jamie, from Togher, near Drogheda, suffers from a rare genetic condition called trisomy 9 mosaicism, meaning he cannot walk or talk.

The condition didn't stop him from attending every one of the Republic's games in his wheelchair with his dad Philip, mum Annette and sister Aoife.

"We thought that it was all over but it's not," Aoife told the BBC.

"Jamie got a great reception [at the tournament], everyone loved seeing him in the wheelchair," Aoife said.

"He's really social - it doesn't matter who you are, where you're from, he'll want to shake your hand.

"All the fans were really good to him, they came up to him and some gave them their flags - we got a French flag and a Belgian flag."

Jamie's father Philip, from near Drogheda, said: "It's huge. I'm delighted for Jamie. He loves his football."

Speaking about what made the Republic's fans so entertaining during the tournament, he said: "It's just in our DNA. We love a party."

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