Iceland and Ireland Capture the Hearts of the World at Euro 16.
The fans of Iceland and Ireland truly made the experience of those watching and those attending Euro 2016 in France an enjoyable one. Their vibrant infectious presence and their kindness towards others saved the football championships from being hijacked by right wing racist nationalists from a number of countries who wanted to transform a celebration of sport into a bloody international battlefield. These thugs came to France hell bent on grabbing the world media’s headlines by unleashing a sense of fear amongst the crowds within the stadiums as well as a trail of destruction in the city centre’s of Marseilles, Lille, Saint-Étienne and elsewhere. The scenes of violence that filled television screens and newspapers would have been the abiding memory of Euro 2016 where it not for the happy smiling faces of the Irish and Icelanders fans, both male and female, both young and old, who made the event a festive occasion for all.
Of course fans from other countries also contributed to the festive atmosphere. Likewise the performance of other small nations such as Wales and Northern Ireland. But the Irish and Icelanders were something very special. The emotional collective singing of 'rebel ballads' by the Irish fans in stadia across France stirred the hearts of those listening. The knowledge that up to 10% of the Icelandic population traveled en-masse to France to support their team has earned the respect of everyone. Plus that eerie never-to-be-forgotten guttural chant of the players and fans at the end of the match against England- it was spellbinding, almost primeval. (Note: its origins are from Motherwell Scotland!).
As well as being a proud Irishman, I have fond memories of the years I spent living in Reykjavik and the friendships of Icelanders such as Margrét Valsdóttir and Gudrídur Haraldsdotttir. So I wish Iceland my very best in the match against France