Euro 2016: Glass is half full for Irish fans in Bordeaux

Supporters hope for a result in Belgium match that would extend their French adventure

Irish and Belgian soccer supporters drink, sing and dance together on the streets of Bordeaux . Video: INPHO (James Crombie)

 

It’s not quite make or break, whatever happens. Even a defeat would leave us with a last stand in Lille next Wednesday. But thousands of Irish soccer fans have booked themselves a date with an upmarket B&B today – Belgium in Bordeaux – hoping for a result that could extend our Euro 2016 adventures beyond the group stage.

In the meantime, Italy’s defeat of Sweden yesterday was being widely celebrated last night on the banks of the Garonne.

“Ee-tal-ia! Ee-tal-ia!” chanted the crowd in Bordeaux’s Connemara Pub, after Éder’s late goal condemned the Swedes to their own last stand, also next Wednesday.

Theory

But first, the hope is that we can help ourselves to at least a draw against the Belgians, which would leave Ireland second in Group E with a game to go.

A previous generation of Irish visitors to Bordeaux distinguished itself by setting up several famous vineyards in the area.

And by coincidence, the latest influx is also involved in the local drinks industry, although more on the consumption than the production end so far.

Also, Irish football fans tend to stick to grain-based beverages, even here.

So, of course, do the Belgians, making this fixture and Bordeaux a slight mismatch. But in one way, at least, a tradition begun by the so-called wine geese is being continued this weekend.

For decades, the wines of Château Lynch-Bages have been a key weapon for Ireland’s official diplomatic service, which always serves them at State parties, so that in certain quarters, the label is synonymous with the Irish empire of influence (on which the sun never sets).

But in other quarters, increasingly, travelling football supporters are now doing the same job. “Soft diplomacy” is the term for it. And the work of these unpaid envoys really does seem to paying off.

At a Bordeaux street stall yesterday, we stopped to buy fruit. The woman noticed our accents and, sounding suspiciously like a Cockney herself, declared unprompted that the Ireland fans were “so well behaved . . . unlike some”.

‘Home of hooligans’

“We’ll leave it at two euro,” she said, delivering a first positive result of the weekend: “Because you’re Irish.”

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