Jamie Monaghan, a 17-year old Republic of Ireland soccer fan from Co. Louth, has graciously accepted the prestigious Médaille de la Ville de Paris (Medal of Paris) on behalf of soccer fans from the whole island of Ireland for their “exemplary behavior” throughout the UEFA European soccer championship.
Monaghan, who suffers from a rare genetic condition called Trisomy 9 mosaicism (T9M), meaning he can’t walk and talk, was chosen by the Football Association of Ireland to represent the Green Army at a special reception in the French capital on Thursday after he attended all four of the Republic’s Euro games in his specially customized wheelchair.
Hosted by the Parisian mayor Anne Hidalgo, the reception honored fans of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland teams for the passion, enthusiasm and craic throughout their time in the tournament and for the many, many viral videos of their behavior which won the hearts of the French people.
Both teams were knocked out in the second round of the Euros but not before they made a big impression on the other fans and Mayor Hidalgo wished to mark the “exemplary behavior and sportsmanship” of their supporters.
“Thanks to Irish fans, we’ve seen extraordinary things,” the mayor said.
“We’ve seen love songs in the streets! We’ve seen baby songs in the metro! We’ve seen policemen singing with the Green Army!”
Here are Jamie Monaghan and Jim Spratt getting those supporters' awards from Anne Hidalgo Mayor of Paris. pic.twitter.com/Y1DjShtuaP— emmet malone (@emmetmalone) July 7, 2016
At the event, Jamie was joined by the Chairman of the Confederation of Republic of Ireland Supporters Clubs, Joe McKenna; the Irish Ambassador to France Geraldine Byrne Nason and Jim Spratt, a fish and chip shop owner from Saintfield, Co Down, appointed by the Irish Football Association (Northern Ireland federation) to represent their team.
"This has been a huge honor bestowed on Jamie, and of course for our family,” Jamie’s father Philip Monaghan told Newstalk.
“Ever since [FAI Chief Executive] John Delaney asked him to represent the supporters at the reception, Jamie has been so excited and tonight has been one of the greatest experiences in his life."
McKenna also expressed his pride in representing the Irish fans in the ceremony held at the fanzone in Paris, full of confused German and French fans taken aback by the reappearance of green shirts in the lead-up to their semi-final.
He said: "I'm so proud to be here with Jamie and Philip, as well as the Irish Ambassador to Paris to represent all of the many great supporters of the Republic of Ireland national team. This honour proves that we are amongst the best in the world."
The arrival of two Irish teams caused some confusion in France when the tournament kicked off, especially as both are managed by an M. O’Neill: Martin Michael O’Neill is the Republic’s manager, while Michael Martin O’Neill is Northern Ireland’s manager.
Such was the confusion that when trying to organize the celebration, Mayor Hidalgo addressed the invite to “the President of the Republic of Ireland, Michael D Higgins [the Republic of Ireland’s President], and his Prime Minister, Arlene Foster [Northern Ireland First Minister]”.
She awarded the Irish fans the Parisienne medal bearing the motto “Fluctuat nec mergitur,” Latin for “Tossed but not sunk,” often quoted in the wake of the terrorist attack in the city that killed 148 people last year.
“In the disturbing times we live in, the acts of kindness and positivity shown by the Irish fans serve as a model and a sign of hope to all,” Hidalgo said.Irish Times