Diehard NI fan: We can’t let terrorists wreck our normality

Hugh Smy (centre), a veteran NI supporter, is pictured in Helsinki with sons (left to right) Clark and Alan
Hugh Smy (centre), a veteran NI supporter, is pictured in Helsinki with sons (left to right) Clark and Alan

Pulling out of attending Euro2016 matches would effectively be giving in to the violence of Islamist fanatics, according to one die-hard Northern Ireland supporter.

Hugh Smy declared that he still intends to travel to watch the team play in France – and would do so even if it was in the midst of a Nazi invasion.

Meanwhile, ex-Northern Ireland player David Campbell said he still plans to go too, despite the atrocities in Belgium on Tuesday.

Earlier in the week, UEFA executive committee vice-president Giancarlo Abete had been quoted as telling a radio show: “We can’t exclude the possibility of playing behind closed doors as we cannot exclude terrorism.”

Mr Smy, a 56-year-old groundsman (and former electrician) from Londonderry, said he had only missed two Windsor Park matches in 40 years, and that even if “Hitler was invading” he would still want to go to France.

“My relatives had been there long before me about 100 years ago, so therefore a couple of boys with balaclavas are not going to scare us away,” he said, referring to ancestors who had fought at the Somme.

He is a member of Londonderry Northern Ireland Supporters’ Club, and said that all those he knows in the group would be undeterred too.

“Any of the people I know of who have booked to go, they’ll be there no matter what happens. It’s more or less what we’ve lived through in this country here. The minute you stop doing something that should be [part of] normality, you’re really giving in to the terrorists. So no, we’ll be there. No matter what.”

Asked if Tuesday’s bloodshed would put him off, Mr Campbell, 50,said: “No, no, absolutely I’m looking forward to going. I think in a situation like this sport is a great way of bringing people together...

“Things like this very much should continue.”

Mr Campbell (originally from Northern Ireland but now living in Liverpool) had played against Brazil for the country in the 1986 World Cup.

He was speaking to the News Letter from Italy, where he said there was a degree of heightened tension and security (with the people he was coming to meet unable to enter the Arrivals area of the airport for example).

“Sport can build bridges that sometimes Prime Minister or politicians can never build. Sport can do that. So, we’ll be very much going. But it’s difficult, isn’t it? It’s difficult for everyone.”