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With some help from Stay Sourced and their “Battle of the Fans”, we’ve put together a definitive list of the best and worst fans of Euro 2016.
We’re over halfway through the tournament, and already some are saying that Euro 2016 is one of the more boring major competitions in recent history. Some have pointed to the fact that big teams like Germany haven’t delivered on pre-tournament expectations, whereas some have pointed to fact that the vast majority of games have been notably low scoring. A particularly dire example of the quality of football on show comes from Portugal and Croatia’s round of 16 “clash”, where neither team managed to place a single shot on target within 90 minutes.
With the quality of football coming under question, it’s likely that when football historians look back on Euro 2016, they’ll be remembering something else; the fans. For the past few weeks the antics of supporters have been speculated on as much as those of the players, being splashed on newspaper pages throughout Europe – for both good and bad reasons.
With that in mind, and with some help from Stay Sourced and their “Battle of the Fans”, we’ve decided to stay one step ahead of the history books and put together a definitive list of the best (and worst) fans of Euro 2016.
Republic of Ireland
Although Ireland dropped out in the last 16, that was much further than most would have expected. In fact it represents a tournament best for the boys in green, who previously only got as far as the group stages. You only have to look back to Ukraine 2012 to see how far Ireland have come under the stewardship of O’Neill and Keane; that year’s tournament saw the team finish bottom of their group, with 0 points and a -8 goal difference.
As much as Roy Keane’s famous temper might have helped, some of Ireland’s success has to be placed on their loyal fans. Irish fans have travelled France performing “miracles” of an almost biblical stature, and have been praised by the French police and media alike for their friendliness. Some of the good deeds performed include stopping to help change an elderly French woman’s tyre, lullabying a baby to sleep, singing the lord’s prayer to a nun, and most remarkably, cleaning up after their antics. Behaviour like this that has resulted in the French public voting fans of the boys in green the best of the tournament.
Like their Irish neighbours, Wales weren’t really expected to get very far this year; this was after all their first appearance at the Euros. Many pundits resorted to the old cliché that the team would just be “happy to be there”. Although the abilities of the team were in doubt before the tournament, with many expecting them to solely rely on the abilities of Gareth Bale, Wales have proved themselves to be surprisingly adept.
Welsh fans have adapted well to international competitions too, although the 18602 miles that individual Welsh supporters travelled to qualify will surely have helped. Bale has rightly praised travelling Dragons, saying that after Wales’ narrow victory over Slovakia, fans acted as the team’s 12th man, and is quoted as saying that “our fans pulled us through”. Fans have proved themselves out of the stadium too, with images of Welsh fans helping a lost boy find his dad currently doing the rounds on social media.
After a disappointing series of games that resulted in an early group stages exit, the only consolation for the Russian team will be that their behaviour on the pitch wasn’t half as bad as that of their fans.
After a trouble free couple of games, hooliganism soon became the talk of the tournament, largely encouraged by a highly organised minority of Russian fans. Ultras were accused of travelling with the intention of wreaking havoc, something that Go Pro footage taken by offending fans seems to confirm. The Ultras made themselves known very quickly, smashing up cars, bars, and opposing fans in a highly organised fashion. To try and discourage the trouble, the Russian team was fined €150,000 and handed a suspended disqualification. Meanwhile, France deported known troublemakers, only for them to turn up in the country again just a few days later. With the next World Cup taking place in Russia, it’s expected that the tournament will be a riot – literally.
Euro 2016 has turned out to be a classic English tournament for the Three Lions, and it’s almost as if the England team and their fans were working from a checklist. Pre-tournament media pressure? Check. Hype of a new golden generation? Check. A tactically inept manager? Check. A team of players who although talented, simply can’t cope with the pressure? Check. Boozed up fans wreaking havoc? Check.
With performances as dire as that of the England squad, it’s not really surprising that fans of the three lions had to make their own entertainment. That meant excessive drinking, offensive chanting, and lots of tear gas courtesy of the French police. For nostalgic hooligans, the scenes were almost enough to bring a tear to the eye, with patio chairs gliding through the Marseille evening air bringing back memories of France 98. It’s been widely acknowledged that England fans didn’t cause all of the trouble, with provocation from Russian ultras and the heavy handed French police not exactly helping. That doesn’t excuse infighting amongst fans though, nor does it make the taunting of children acceptable. England’s away following had the chance to prove that the old clichés of drinking and fighting were things of the past, but unfortunately minority of idiots have shown them to be alive and well in 2016.