'Soccer mad' James Nolan recalled


Irish soccer supporter James Nolan (21) was remembered by his family today as “chirpy and soccer mad” at an emotional press conference this evening in Poland.

Mr Nolan’s family identified the Wicklow man's body after it was recovered from the River Brda in the northern city of Bydgoszcz yesterday, four days after he went missing during a Euro 2012 trip with friends.

Local police have described his death yesterday as a “tragic accident” with no sign of foul play. The city mayor has appealed to Uefa to hold a minute’s silence at a quarter-final match to remember the dead man.

Attending the press conference were James’s brother Andrew, his uncle Patrick Nolan, girlfriend Sophie and his brother-in-law Gareth. They were met on arrival in Poland by Irish Ambassador Eugene Hutchinson.

Reading a statement on behalf of his father, Jimmy, Andrew Nolan described his late brother as a humorous young man who was studying hard and loved his family and friends.

Patrick Nolan read a family statement expressing thanks to the Bydgoszcz mayor and local emergency services for their swift reaction, as well as to local media for spreading information about the missing student (21).

He expressed his gratitude to the Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, the Ambassador and his staff for their support.

An autopsy conducted yesterday in Bydgoszcz revealed no physical injuries and indicated drowning as the cause of death.

Bydgoszcz mayor Rafal Bruski extended his condolences: “On behalf of the Bydgoszcz people I would like to express my deepest sorrow and solidarity with the family members, the city inhabitants, the Irish people and all Euro 2012 football fans.”

He has also appealed to Michel Platinini, the president of Uefa, to memorise Mr Nolan with a minute of silence before the quarter final football match. “It would be a symbolic gesture of respect from all of us, showing that in such moments the great football family is united,” he wrote in a letter to Platini.

“Let us pay tribute to the Irish - the best supporters of the tournament, and let it be a day of solidarity with those who are the most affected by this untimely death,” Mr Bruski added in a separate statement.

Speaking in Dublin today, Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed his sympathy to Mr Nolan’s family.

“I’m so sad about this. I understand this was a wonderful young man. It’s so distressing for his Dad and Mam and for the family,” he said. “As the Tánaiste said, the Government on behalf of all the people offer our genuine and sincere sympathy and consolation to the Nolan family.”

Mr Kenny said it was “a tragic end to a wonderful adventure for a young man full of the joys of life, an avid follower of the Irish soccer team”. He said the authorities and the ambassador were doing all they could to help the family.

Candles were lit and ribbons in the Irish colours were on display last night in the city near the scene where he went missing.

Mr Nolan, an environmental engineering student from Blessington, went missing early on Sunday morning after spending the night socialising with friends.

The search for Mr Nolan resumed yesterday morning with authorities shifting their focus to the river Brdo after a review of CCTV footage led police to the area. It is understood that Mr Nolan was identified on footage which showed him walking towards Bydgoszcz cathedral at 1.46am on Sunday.

Police confirmed at about 11am yesterday that a man’s body had been recovered from the water at a marina nearby.

Before he went missing, Mr Nolan spent Saturday evening in the company of 10 Irish friends. The group later broke up in the old town area of Bydgoszcz before separately making their way back to their hotel. Mr Nolan was reported missing later on Sunday when his friends realised he had not returned to the hotel.

An extensive search was carried out by police and members of the local community.

Thousands of Irish and Polish people visited a Facebook page and relayed requests on Twitter for information on Mr Nolan’s whereabouts.

High-profile figures including former England soccer international and football pundit Gary Lineker and prominent football writer Guillem Balague assisted the campaign.