A French man has written an open letter to Irish football fans saying that regardless of what happens on the pitch the Republic’s supporters are the champions of Euro 2016.
Olivier Sauton, a 38-year-old author and actor who lives in Paris, said Irish fans are gentlemen, adding that even though they drink a lot, he hardly ever sees them vomit.
His letter comes as Ireland prepare take on hosts France in Lyon on Sunday, in what many are seeing as a revenge match after Thierry Henry’s heartbreaking handball in 2009.
The boys in green have been acquiring fans and gaining admirers since they landed in Paris a fortnight ago, and have won praise for their good behaviour and sense of humour.
Mr Sauton sent a translated version of his letter to the Press Association, writing: “Dear Irish supporter, Sunday your country will face mine in the knockout stages of Euro 2016. And you know what? It doesn’t matter whether it is my country or yours that wins.
“Either way, I’ll be happy. And I will celebrate. Because even if my blood is French, my heart is, thanks to you and your comrades, becoming Irish.”
He said Irish fans “don’t know all the good you’re doing to our country”, adding: “Since you’re here, Irish friend, we only speak of generosity, brotherhood and the good atmosphere you put in the stands.
“In the stands and in the streets too! Every day, we see you in videos in which you sing ballads for pretty French ladies, lullabies for innocent babies, loving slogans for the police who remember thanks to you that they can be loved. You repair the car that you accidentally damaged and even pushed bank notes in the car to compensate the driver.”
Mr Sauton added: “Even drunk, you’re a gentleman. Even with your belly exceeding your shirt, you have class. Even defeated, you’re in good spirits.
“I love you, Irish, and I don’t think I’m wrong telling you that France has fallen under your spell. You conquered us so fast and yet you reign over us already.”
He hailed Irish fans for spreading love and said they are “beautiful” when they drink.
“Because it is much more than good mood what you spread, Irish brother, it is love. Love of your neighbour, stuff that had been forgotten here. Love of the beer too! You drink a lot! I never saw that.
“And how beautiful you are when you drink ! You sing, you laugh, you fraternise and I rarely see you vomit.”
Mr Sauton also mentioned the controversial Henry moment of 2009.
The French player – known for his va va voom – got away with handling the ball in the build-up to the decisive goal in a World Cup play-off as France advanced to the 2010 tournament in South Africa at Ireland’s expense.
Mr Sauton wrote: “You remember in 2009, we robbed you. We played like feet and it took the hand of Thierry Henry to go to the World Cup.
“But if God is not Irish, he must have family in the Irish people – divine justice – we made fools of ourselves and made the whole world laugh (again a strike story, home speciality).
“At the time, despite the joy of qualifying, many French were ashamed because we were happy the game was won, but at the same time we also lost our pride. You, you were sad but not violent, and went back home without seeking revenge.
“Hey, the Irishman: you are a great lord. The kind of guy we bow to. I swear if you win on Sunday thanks to an imaginary penalty, a wandering hand, a bench not whistled, there will be no problem between us: ball in centre. And the French who dare to complain, we will condemn him to drink water, that’ll teach him.”
He finished his letter by writing: “Good game, Irish brother. You can be proud. Because the Euro is not over, yet you’ve already won.”