Frank McNally: For Irish fans, only a win against Italy will do

Euro 2016: There are musical events happening all over France. And some football

Republic of Ireland fans goof about  with a football in the Grand Place in Lille, France,  June 21st, 2016. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Republic of Ireland fans goof about with a football in the Grand Place in Lille, France, June 21st, 2016. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Irish fans were facing the music at Euro 2016 on Tuesday, but then again, so was everybody else. Whichever way you turned in France, it was hard to avoid.

That’s because midsummer is celebrated every June 21st here with the Fête de la Musique, an event that began in Paris in 1982 and has since spread to every corner of the country.

Events range from full-scale concerts involving orchestras to improvised sessions by garage bands on street corners. The programme in Lille included French chanson, electronica, jazz and world music. But in Paris, at least, there was an Irish flavour to events, with the Centre Culturel Irlandais hosting a free concert in its 19th-century courtyard, headed by trad-jazz fusion band Aldoc and rockers Bell X1.

Occasionally, the musical events collided with the football. In Marseille, the festival had to be deferred for two days due to fears of fan violence after the Ukraine-Poland game.

Back in Paris, more happily, the Fête and the Euros converged in an extraordinary event in the concert hall of the Paris Philharmonic.

There, while the Spain-Croatia game was shown live on a large screen, the symphony orchestra of the Conservatoire de Paris played in front of it.

Unusual interplay

Like the footballers, they were making things up as they went along, but in response to what was happening on screen. Of course, like the footballers too, they had some moves planned. So the programme predicted a mixture of classical, rock, pop, and electronica. And although the result of this unusual interplay of music and sport was not available at time of going to press, most people were hoping for a score-draw.

Fête or no fête, the devotion to music of the Irish fans at the Euros is by now famous. For their arrival in the north, it was heralded by a local TV channel, France 3 Nord Pas-de-Calais, the latest media organisation to declare, as their headline put it: “Les Irlandais, meilleurs supporters de l’Euro 2016”.

Describing the fans as “drôles, enthousiastes, eccentriques, festifs mai aussi respecteux”, the item included the now-obligatory greatest hits collection of their phone video clips, in which song and dance features prominently.

One of the latest incidents to go viral features a young woman called Carla Roméra, who shot a video of Irish fans in Bordeaux and found herself being worshipped by them in song.

Although mostly young men, Irish fans cannot be accused of sexism. They are equal-opportunity worshippers, as the Parisian man mistaken for the pope on his own balcony found out.

But in this case, perhaps noticing that Carla was female, blonde and beautiful, the supporters launched into a heartfelt version of an old Frankie Valli classic, singing: “You’re just too good to be true/Can’t take my eyes off you.”

‘Magical time’

After posting the video on her Facebook page, Carla recalled the incident as a “magical time” and said she was “very proud of the Irish”.

It’s reported that she works as a lifeguard, but the incident may have saved her from spending much longer in that line. Her video quickly earned more than a million likes and has since gone well beyond viral, to global pandemic status.

Having left Carla behind, the fans return to serenading their regular love – the Ireland football team – on Wednesday night, in a game that will decide whether their tournament ends in Lille or continues for at least another round.

The opposition, Italy, are already through to the knock-out stages, but need a further point to ensure first place in the group.

For the Irish, after a draw with Sweden and a 3-0 defeat to Belgium, only a win will do.

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