Irish fans march to French embassy


About 200 soccer fans marched to the French embassy in Dublin yesterday to call for a rematch of Ireland’s disputed World Cup playoff against France.

Organisers used loudspeakers to ask French diplomats to intervene and organise a replay. They called for boycotts, a follow-up protest and the removal of Irish diplomats from France if the replay request is not upheld.

“We want to tell him to go back to his government and tell them his national team is a disgrace,” said one. “We will stop the World Cup if we have to.” The crowd responded with chants of “fair play is replay” and “you’ll never cheat the Irish”. 

On Friday 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 has ruled out the possibility of a rematch.

About 20 French people attended the protest. Lucile de Saint-Michel, who lives in Portobello, Dublin, said “I’m very shocked the Irish got cheated out of a victory. The Irish played better than the French in Paris. It wasn’t a pretty game.”

French support for Thierry Henry, who admitted to a handball, remained high. “It’s so sad it should happen to him. He is 'Mr Nice Guy'. It’s the ref’s fault and it’s up to Fifa to put it right,” said Ms de Saint-Michel.

However, anti-Henry sentiments predominated among the Irish, who chanted "if you hate Henry clap your hands". There were calls for him to quit the world cup.

Vincent Cavery from Dalkey, Dublin said “there should be a suit brought by the FAI against Fifa. Ireland will lose about €20 million for not going to the world cup. We should demand at least half that money back.”

However, he said it was not just about going to South Africa. “It’s a matter of sportsmanship,” he said. “Sport teaches people about right and wrong.” He called former manager Roy Keane a “disgrace” for hitting out at Ireland’s reaction to the loss. “I wonder what he’d say to a 10-year-old learning about morality and ethics. He cheated but it’s OK? Just forget about it and get on with it?”

Tony Barry from Dublin City Centre said he was disappointed with the turnout. “About 300,000 people joined a Facebook group to support us. I was expecting thousands to be here. I don’t know why so few have turned up but I think it could be the weather,” he said.

Dublin night club promoter Kev Storrs organised the protest on social networking site Facebook. More than 1,000 people said they would attend.

More than half a million Irish and 5,000 French people have joined Facebook groups and pages to support the rematch request. “Petition to have Ireland vs France replayed”, set up by Mr Storrs, is lobbying Eircom and Ryanair for free phone calls and flights to Paris and Fifa headquarters in Switzerland to aid the protest effort.