Football fans from across Ireland honoured for sportsmanship by Paris mayor
Football fans from across Ireland have been honoured for their sportsmanship during Euro 2016 by the mayor of Paris.
Anne Hidalgo offered the city’s most prestigious award – the Grand Vermeil – to fans from Northern Ireland and the Republic in a ceremony at the Eiffel Tower fan zone on Thursday evening.
The Green and White Army have 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.
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 for the Republic of Ireland fans was presented to Jamie Monaghan who suffers from a condition called trisomy 9 mosaicism, meaning he cannot walk or talk.
He attended all four games involving his side at the tournament and was also presented with a Paris Saint-Germain shirt from the mayor.
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.”
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.”