Low Lie The Fields of Tremendous Support by Irish Football Fans
If you watched the last 10 minutes of Spain-Ireland match early Friday morning, your waning faith in football must have been renewed.
If you had become disillusioned by how commercial football has gone, how the violence has tainted the image of football, how racism has made its way back to the world of football, then hearing how the Irish fans sending the team off with a rousing rendition of Irish folk ballad “The Fields of Athenry” was a rejuvenation.
Having been 4 goals down, Ireland was outclassed and outplayed by the world champions. There was no sign of a comeback, not even a hint of a consolation goal. With 5 minutes to go, elimination from the first major tournament in a decade was guaranteed, but the Irish fans chose to go out of the competition unbowed. From the 85th minute onwards, the Irish fans sang the chorus of “The Fields of Athenry” unceasingly, intermediating their team’s early exit in the hands of Spain.
Seeing this kind of sight bears an element of surrealism, even the commentators halted the commentary for a while to give the spectators a moment to enjoy the Irish fans. The song is popular among Irish sports supporters, but that night “The Fields of Athenry” almost sounded like a requiem, a majestic one, that tingled spines of those who saw it. The Irish team didn’t do much on the pitch but the fans made sure that they’re going out with their heads held high.
None should be taken away from Spain’s performance. It was a signature tiki-taka display by the reigning European champions, but one that will be fondly remembered from this match in years to come is the fans. The neutrals who saw the heartbreaking sight wished they were Irish and it’s not even a St. Patrick’s Day.
As the song blared all over the stadium and the image of thousands of Irish standing proud in the face of defeat transmitted all over the world, suddenly everybody was reminded of what football loyalty is all about.
Having witnessed in person some football-related violence recently, I’ve become a little bit disgusted with football fanaticism. When the images of the clash between Polish and Russian fans spread on the Internet a fortnight ago, I felt nothing but utter sickness seeing how the hooligans kicking their opponent who laid on the ground, covering his head from further damage. Then I saw blood and fallen bodies. Some people on Twitter reckoned that it’s a very “football” thing to attack your opposing fans. It’s not. Some things only look better in films and books. I don’t have an appetite for some “Green Street” actions and other hooligan traits.
The world of football also sees the increased numbers of racial abuse cases lately and some of them have occurred in Euro. The tournament had not even begun when the black players in the Netherlands team were reported to receive racial chants by the spectators during training session. Czech fullback, Gebre Selassie, was also reported to be racially abused during the game against Russia. Monkey chants were heard every time the player, who has an Ethiopian father, touched the ball.
There’s no room for violence and racism. They should not be tolerated. How sad it is to see some people try to defend these disgusting things behind the mask of football loyalty. Football has nothing to do with violence and racism. And being loyal football fans should not be associated with aggressiveness.
The Irish has shown what it is like to be loyal and how to take a beating graciously.
Oh how I would love to see the same thing happens in our local football scene. We don’t have to be taught about the former for we have been backing our national team during the dark period of Indonesian football, but we could use a lesson or two from the Irish about being congenial when things don’t go our way.