Fans protest at French embassy

 

About 30 soccer fans gathered in front of the French embassy today to call for a rematch of Ireland’s disputed World Cup playoff against France.

Protesters arrived on a double decker bus dressed in green with a frog mascot. They were chanting: “What do we want? We want a rematch! When do we want it? We want it now!” The protest lasted about an hour over lunchtime.

Embassy security guards asked protesters not to block the entrance. The bus moved down the road and left shortly after. More people arrived after the protest had finished. They believed it would continue throughout the day.

The protest was announced on FM104 last night. Hundreds of people texted in and set up events on social networking site Facebook to say they would attend.

An embassy spokesman said: “As a sports fan I think the main thing is for sporting authorities to reply to the request for a rematch.”

Fifa today ruled out the possibility of a rematch.

Protesters are planning a march between Landsdowne Road and the French Embassy in Dublin between 2pm and 4pm tomorrow. Almost 400 people have said they will attend so far. Organisers have called on the French Football Federation to join the campaign.

“We hope at the very least we will highlight the issue of the need for video refereeing in games of this magnitude,” said a spokesman.

Kenneth Brunell from Dublin  took a taxi to today’s protest and plans to attend the march tomorrow. “I don’t think we’re going to get a rematch - it’s just nice to know we’re not sitting back and taking it. If we don’t stand up for ourselves now we never will,” he said.

More than 220,000 Irish and 4,000 French soccer fans have joined Facebook groups and pages to show their support for the rematch request.

The “Petition to have Ireland vs France replayed” page currently has a nearly 250,000 members. Its founder Kev Storrs said: “It’s not just my cause, it’s everybody’s cause who watched that match. It’s amazing to see so many people who want to see fair play recognised.”

More than 130 smaller groups and pages have been created. Two groups offer to remove Thierry Henry’s hand with a guillotine if a replay is not granted.

Mr Storr said he believes his page is successful because it does not harbour any anti-French sentiments. He has been in contact with Eircom to request free calls for Irish people to complain to Fifa headquarters in Switzerland. He plans to contact Ryanair to request free flights to organise a protest in France.

Some 15 French Facebook groups have been created in Ireland’s support. “Pour Rejouer France Irlande” has more than 2,000 members. "This is our only way to go to the World Cup with our head held high," its founder wrote. "Replay this match with respect for the rules and respect for our opponents."

Founders of "Rejouer le Match France Irlande", which has nearly 1,700 members, wrote: "We cannot be satisfied with France's victory against Ireland. We cannot veil our faces and be seen as a team without a sense of a true victory against Ireland. For the credibility of the sport, the French team and fans from all continents we ask that the match is replayed and that the best team wins."