‘Embarrassing’ to label all British supporters as thugs: NI fan

Northern Ireland supporter Alex Brown in Nice
Northern Ireland supporter Alex Brown in Nice

It would be “embarrassing” to brand all British fans as hooligans because of the actions of a minority of football fans, a Northern Ireland supporter has said.

While the riots in Marseille caught the headlines, Alex Brown said he hoped the travelling Northern Ireland entourage would make their mark through friendship.

The streets of Nice reverberated with beery but good natured greetings from football lovers gathered on the Mediterranean coastal city for a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

The Mexico World Cup of 1986 was the last time the small country tasted major tournament football.

Mr Brown said: “It is 30 years ago now. I have never seen them in the Euros in my lifetime and I am 58 years of age now.

“Northern Ireland people are a special race of people and we always like to get together in other parts of the world and demonstrate our friendship and mix with other fans and that does not involve any street violence or anything of that nature like in Marseille.

“To label the whole British people with that behaviour is nothing short of embarrassing and I hope we can get through the next few days with the Northern Ireland fans peaceful.”

Minor trouble broke out on Saturday night started by French hooligans and a small number of Northern Ireland fans reacted, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said. It was quickly quelled.

But for much of the time officers stood in t-shirts close to drinkers with their French police colleagues.

Mr Brown, from Coleraine, drove from his home town to Nice via the Irish Republic ahead of Sunday’s opening clash against Poland - a journey stretching over three days.

Others had travelled from Sydney and New York for the special reunion.

Northern Irish and Polish fans swapped flag-emblazoned sunglasses and larked around on the beach side promenade.

Pool volleyball, a variety of ball games and of course football entertained.

The pebble beach provided a warm if unforgiving platform for sunbathing. Food outlets were crowded, while the pubs’ pavement tables were full with revellers soaking up the pre-match buzz.

Le Grand Tour double decker red bus was packed with sightseers cloaked in Northern Ireland flags.

And a French wedding party serenaded a beaming bride and groom under a shower of flowers and petals outside a city centre hotel.