Ireland’s soccer team may not have progressed too far in the Euros 2012 competition held in Poland and the Ukraine, but its fans have just won a top accolade.
Organisers UEFA have announced it is to present a special award to Irish fans “to recognise their great behaviour and contribution to UEFA EURO 2012”. The announcement was made in Kiev where UEFA president Michel Platini said that he intends to travel in person to Dublin to make the presentation.
The decision by the UEFA executive committee comes after Irish supporters were praised internationally for their behaviour during the competition despite results on the pitch. The award has been welcomed by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) who says it will dedicate it to the memory of James Nolan who lost his life in a tragic accident in Bydgoszcz during the tournament.
FAI president, Paddy McCaul said: "I would like to take this opportunity to thank UEFA president Michel Platini for his decision to recognise the incredible support that our fans showed during the tournament. They were a credit to the country and won praise everywhere they went in Poland, striking up a great relationship with everyone they met. I am glad that the award will be dedicated to James Nolan whose passing has touched us all."
FAI chief executive John Delaney added: "Irish supporters deserve this award for their incredible commitment, behaviour and friendliness during the tournament. They did the country proud and added something really special to the championships. I thank UEFA for their recognition and I am glad that the award will be accepted by James Nolan's parents whose tragic loss left all Irish fans deeply saddened after the tournament."
James Nolan’s father, Jimmy Nolan said: "I am deeply touched by this. It is a great honour and I would like to thank the amazing support that we have received at this difficult time from supporters in Ireland every part of the world."
Speaking on behalf of Irish supporters group, You Boys in Green, Ger Keville said: "Every single fan I have spoken to was incredibly proud of the Irish support In Poland, staying behind the team through thick and thin. Irish fans struck up a great rapport with everyone in Poland and the fact that our website got 46,000 visits from Polish fans who are still singing our songs says it all. On behalf of supporters, it is fitting that that this award will be in memory of James Nolan whose tragic death was a great loss to us all."