French confusion at ‘Irlande du Nord’ fan in Sweden shirt
‘I am in love in Ireland. And I love Belfast too. Northern Ireland is a beautiful place’
Northern Ireland fans at the Stade de Nice on Sunday. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA Wire
A group of Northern Ireland supporters were drinking wine and beer and half-watching the Republic of Ireland match on television, but mostly they were pretty indifferent to the football.
In contrast, a French father and his young son were standing at the counter taking a keen interest in the game.
And on a seat close to the television was a lone Republic supporter, distinguishable by a tiny green, white and orange badge on the back of his shirt. A Northern Irish fan sat beside him and they seemed comfortable together.
Also present was a man wearing a Swedish jersey who turned out to have a strong Northern Ireland accent when he started urging Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his team-mates to “stuff it into” the Irish.
When the equaliser came, he erupted in celebration, trying to get a chant going. However, apart from a couple of Northerners, most of his compatriots ignored him.
Swedish Shirt then went to the bar where the French father spoke to him.
“You are Swedish?” the father asked in halting English.
“Non,” said Swedish Shirt, testing his French. “I am Irish, Northern Irish, Irlande du Nord.”
“Irish, but you support Sweden?” the father asked.
Swedish Shirt thought for a few seconds, then bilingually explained it was like, say, “Angleterre against Scotland or France versus Germany. There is great rivalry between Irlande du Nord et Irlande du Sud. It’s banter.”
“I see,” said the father.
They shook hands and Swedish Shirt sat back down.
Unity, not division
When the final whistle was blown the Republic supporter stood up to leave. Swedish Shirt was standing at the door.
“Football is a beautiful game, it should be about unity, not division. Why did you not support the Irish?” the Republic supporter asked.
“But I am Irish. Northern Irish,” Swedish Shirt said.
The Republic fan shook his head and walked out. Swedish Shirt raised his hands as if to say: “What did I do?”
The French father and son looked on, still perplexed. I chased after the Irish supporter. He was from Krakow.
Michael Krupinski said that at the start of the game he and Swedish Shirt had exchanged some words. “It was a pointless conversation. In the end I just told him that this is a game that should connect people, not divide people.”
Asked why he wore the Tricolour, he said: “I have lived in Ireland for the past 10 years, that is why I support Ireland, and Poland as well. I love Ireland, I am in love in Ireland. And I love Belfast too, Northern Ireland is a beautiful place.”
He wasn’t too upset about the incident. He said the man who shook his hand told him not to worry. “There is always going to be one,” he said.