Football

Open Letter: Merci Les Français

Open Letter: Merci Les Français

The excellent behaviour of Irish fans has made headlines around the world and particularly in France over the past two weeks. Locals have become enamoured with the Irish spirit and craic. And the same must be said for us... The French people have been legends!

Irish-French relations probably hit an all time low after la main de Henry in 2009, but after the last 16 game in Lyon things are well and truly restored. Even though we may have lost, the sight of Irish and French people singing, dancing and even joking about Henry on the streets of Lyon will never be forgotten.

The French have been excellent hosts for Euro 2016. They've been kind, genuine and accepting of the Irish from day one. From people wishing Ireland best of luck when walking past in the street to playing football with local kids in the park, each and everyone has not had a bad word to say about Ireland. Given the terrible events of last November, you could understand if French people might have been a little wary of hosting such a big event. But they've embraced it. Security and organisation have been excellent and the whole atmosphere of the tournament gives a huge middle finger to extremists everywhere.

An abiding memory and one that I think sums up the great French hosts was after the game in Lyon as I walked home alone a little dejected and deflated. I passed a local bar and upon them realising I was Irish they all stood up, walked outside and began chanting: "Stand up for the Irish fans". A great moment.

One French fan told me before the game that the team doesn't have many songs and not everyone gets really involved in the games. Going by the evidence of Sunday night something has changed in France. The French have embraced our crazy Irish antics and I think we may have left a little bit behind for the next generation of French fans.

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Merci France et bon chance.

This letter originally appeared on TheWirld.org

Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

Iain McNamara

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