NI squad’s pride in the Green and White Army

Northern Ireland fans in Nice
Northern Ireland fans in Nice

Jonny Evans has praised the behaviour of the Green and White Army in France and said the team is proud of the friendly atmosphere they’ve created.

The West Bromwich Albion defender said the players appreciated that their families felt secure among the Northern Ireland fans – particularly as violence had flared between English and Russian fans in Marseille at the weekend.

Evans also said the team was determined to pay an official tribute to the fan who fell to his death in Nice just hours after Northern Ireland lost their opening game of Euro 2016 against Poland.

The Irish Football Association (IFA) is liaising with UEFA about the possibility of the team wearing black armbands as a mark of respect for 24-year-old Darren Rodgers from Ballymena.

Goalkeeper Michael McGovern said any disappointment following the 1-0 defeat at the Stade de Nice was quickly “put into perspective” on hearing news of the tragedy on the city’s seafront.

“It’s heartbreaking for his family and friends. It’s very sad.” he said.

“It puts things in perspective, it’s very sad. Someone comes over here and supports us, and he was probably really looking forward to it and wanting to have a good time and then he doesn’t come home.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends in Ballymena,” McGovern added.

The news broke after a weekend where Poland and Northern Ireland fans had happily mingled together on the Cote d’Azur and in the Stade de Nice. Those displays of unity were also evident in Paris on Monday night when, in the 24th minute of their match with Sweden, Republic of Ireland fans stood up, applauded and sang, ‘Stand up for the Ulsterman’.

“It was really nice to see,” said Evans.

“I hadn’t seen it but we were told about it. Ourselves have put a request in to UEFA and we’ll definitely try and pay our own respects in some sort of way.

“It shows from the Republic of Ireland fans, the togetherness that’s been in the tournament, especially towards Northern Ireland fans.

“I think as players we’ve been very proud of the way they’ve conducted themselves.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to speaks about how the atmosphere they’ve created has been unbelievable.”

Evans added: “The atmosphere that Northern Ireland and Polish fans had created in Nice, there was no animosity between them, they got together, enjoyed it and made it more enjoyable for us knowing our families are safe.

“You can go to the game and relax.”

There were reports of further clashes between British and Russian fans on Tuesday night, with video footage of supporters facing off outside a bar in Lille appearing on social media.

Northern Ireland’s next match is against Ukraine in Lyon on Thursday, kick-off 5pm.