There has been much excitement in the build up to the Euros, especially with Northern Ireland qualifying for the competition. The GAWA have been celebrating it seems for months and are having a ball now in France. We all have Facebook status feeds filled with friends and family living it up in Nice, Cannes, Lyon and surrounding areas.
It is sad then to see other football fans intent on bringing the event into disarray, with agendas to cause as much chaos and damage as possible. All football fans then get tarred with the same brush – as hooligans.
But on Sunday I was shown not once, but twice that this is definitely not the case.
The first example of this was when I spotted a photo of my friend Allison and her twin boys Scott and James on Facebook on Sunday morning alongside their neighbouring Polish fans and opponents for that evening. The PR person in me immediately saw an opportunity and asked Allison if I could share the image. She was happy that I did so and the image spread like wildfire on Twitter. The human side of me saw a lovely picture of football fans enjoying the atmosphere and being brought together by the game and the event.
The second example was later at the Big Ards and North Down Footie Family Picnic. A small group of Polish fans attended the game screening with family and friends, although they were well outnumbered by a sea of green shirts. When Poland scored their goal I held my breath – the Polish fans celebrated by jumping and shouting and rightly so. But as I waited for the boos I was surprised to hear none, simply to see smiling faces looking back in congratulations. When the games finished the NI fans shook the Polish fans hands as they left. No bad feeling. No animosity.
It showed how sport can bring people together were there is respect, and both examples of this certainly warmed my heart.