Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: Tragic Northern Ireland fan Darren Rodgers to be honoured by players at Ukraine match

Fans set to applaud tragic fall victim

By Adrian Rutherford

Northern Ireland's footballers are planning to pay tribute to a fan who died while in France watching the team at Euro 2016.

Darren Rodgers was killed after falling from the promenade in Nice during the early hours of Monday morning.

Hundreds of fans have left flags and scarves at the spot where the accident happened.

A period of applause is also planned during the 24th minute of tomorrow’s match against Ukraine — a reference to the 24-year-old’s age.

Speaking yesterday, Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans said the players wanted to pay tribute to Darren.

“We’ll definitely try and pay our own respects in some sort of way,” he said.

Darren, from the Meadowvale area of Ballymena, had travelled to France last week for the game against Poland at the Stade de Nice.

He died after falling eight metres from the city’s promenade on to a rocky beach at Castel Plage.

Police said it was a tragic accident and not related to any disorder.

On Monday, Republic of Ireland fans clapped and sang in the 24th minute of their game against Sweden in Paris.

The Irish Football Association has contacted Euro 2016 organisers Uefa about a formal tribute at tomorrow’s game in Lyon.

One option is for the players to wear black armbands, or hold a minute’s silence just before kick-off.

Evans, a defender with West Bromwich Albion, said the players were shocked by the tragedy.

“One of the lads said that he knows some friends who know him. That’s when you think it’s a really sad thing,” he added. “I spoke to my dad last night. He’s still down in Nice and said that where the accident had taken place there were people laying flowers and crying. It’s really sad.

“What the fans did that day and the atmosphere they created for us, then we wake up next day and one of them has passed away — it’s hard to take.”

Goalkeeper Michael McGovern said it put the team’s 1-0 defeat to Poland on Sunday into focus.

He said: “It’s very sad that someone comes over here and supports us and he was probably really looking forward to it and wanting to having a good time and then he doesn’t come home.

“It’s heartbreaking for his family and friends. It puts things in perspective.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends in Ballymena.”

Around 40,000 fans are expected to follow the Northern Ireland team around France.

Evans said there is a real bond between players and supporters.

“There has never been any barriers between us and them. That’s something we’ve also got to be proud of,” he added.

Darren’s friends have described him as a young man who was bubbly and full of fun.

They said he had been living out his dream by watching his country at Euro 2016.

In Nice, a memorial marks the spot on the promenade from which the former Cambridge House Grammar School pupil fell.

Both Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland jerseys and flags have been left at the scene of the tragedy.

Former Liverpool and England striker Robbie Fowler paid tribute, writing on Twitter: “Deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Darren Rodgers, who went to the game and never came home. RIP.”

Darren played football for Braid United Football Club in Broughshane. Paying tribute they said: “We are not just losing a player, today we lose a friend and one of the best people we’ve ever known.”

Darren was also a former player for Wakehurst FC.

Many of his friends have used Facebook to pay moving tributes since news of his death broke on Monday morning.

One said: “Darren Rodgers you were the nicest fella, and will be missed by so many.”

Belfast Telegraph