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Northern Ireland fans' Embassy will be on hand to aid supporters in France and help them be true ambassadors for NI

By Angela Rainey and Jill Goligher

Published 26/05/2016

From left: PSNI Superintendent Nigel Goddard, Gary McAllister and IFA President Jim Shaw at the launch in the Dukes Hotel
From left: PSNI Superintendent Nigel Goddard, Gary McAllister and IFA President Jim Shaw at the launch in the Dukes Hotel

Professional drummers will lead the Green and White Army on the final leg of the march to Euro 2016.

A range of people will be in France to help the thousands of Northern Ireland fans heading over for the tournament.

They include two drummers - one of whom trained at the London College of Music - to guide fans on the 2km walk to the venues in a sea of green and white.

The Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters' Clubs (AONISC) is working with the PSNI, Irish Football Association and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to form a Northern Ireland Fans' Embassy.

Up to 50,000 supporters from here - some as old as 90 - are expected to invade France.

The queries the AONISC has dealt with include whether a mother going to the game with her two tots can have nappies and bottles in the stadium, while an older fan asked if he could bring his nebuliser.

Gary McAllister, chairman of the AONISC, said: "We've been making enquiries on behalf of Northern Ireland fans to make sure everything is in place for everyone to just come along, support the team and enjoy themselves.

"We've asked on behalf of a band that comes to all the games in Hawaiian shirts with their inflatable saxophones and trumpets to see if those will be allowed in the stadium.

"The volunteers are from here, all paid their own way and will be on hand in France to help people who are lost, assist disabled people and offer help to whoever needs it.

The Fans' Embassy has encouraged supporters to enjoy the carnival atmosphere at the fanzones, which will have screens, bars and entertainment.

But supporters have been told to be respectful while abroad.

The Fans' Embassy will be on hand with the volunteers, a free booklet and a 24/7 phone number.

Superintendent Nigel Goddard will be there with his officers, identifiable by their blue police bibs, to support the fans and French police and act as "cultural interpreters."

He said: "We are aware that fans doing 'the bouncy' and singing Sweet Caroline are just enjoying themselves. But the French police may think it is a precursor to disorder.

"So we will be there to explain that in Northern Ireland that is culturally acceptable, it's just the fans' way of having a good time."

Belfast Telegraph

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