Friday, 22 June 2012

Best Fans in the World Maybe, But Not the Best Supporters

I took a considered moment out for myself as the fields of Athenry billowed around Arena Gdansk.

After due deliberation, I too, joined in for a chorus of one of Ireland’s most renowned football anthems.

I was gutted that we had just been thumped so convincingly.

But I felt the Irish players deserved something back for all the effort they’d put in over the previous 2 seasons.

If they had of performed as inadequately as they had against the Croats - it would have been a different story.

When outclassed by superior opponents yet willing to give their all, I decided to support them.

I was there as a supporter after all.

And they needed me.

Support can change a game.

Fortress Anfield became synonymous with their successful football club due to the vociferous crowd.

Roy Keane himself spoke of the respect he had for the Liverpool atmosphere.

How intelligent they were about football, respectfully applauding when the opposition had done something worthy of ardent praise.

However, this week was also the week in which Roy questioned the expectations of the Irish support.

In an opinion subjected mainly towards the players of the Irish squad, it was the supporters who took offence.

Or at this point, I’ll switch the expression to ‘fans’.

The supporters knew what he meant.

They know enough about football and enough about what they’d seen unfold in front of them in Poland to interpret Roy correctly.

Roy was right.

Ireland weren’t good enough.

And the supporters should demand more.

In fact, they deserved more.

Roy has no problem with fans and supporters singing throughout the build-up and throughout the match itself.

He’d already gone on record as saying how great the Irish support is.

He even went as far as clarifying his comments in his column the following Sunday to avoid confusion.

Yet come kick off in the next game, the ‘fans’ of Ireland had already created a song all for the great man himself.

“F**k you Roy Keane, we’ll sing when we want”

Roy had won his potential debate with the Irish fans, without a need for retort.

4 nil down and heading for our heaviest competitive defeat in over 50 years.

“We’ll sing when we want”

Heading out of the European Championships after only 4 days?

“We’ll sing when we want”

Losing to Italy on the way to equalling the worst ever record at a European Championship?

Well, you get the picture.

If that’s all that’s needed to get the fans singing - there clearly is no requisite for expectation.

Not from the fans anyway.

The supporters, well that’s a different matter.

For them, this hurt.

And hurt badly.

10 years is a long time not to feature at a major tournament.

To come and see our dreams turn quickly to nightmares was not a singing affair.

The supporters were too crestfallen to keep the songs going.

And they were too knowing about football to join in with the “F**k yous” directed at the greatest player ever to don the green jersey.

Roy had done too much for Ireland to warrant abuse like this.

Let alone warrant abuse for a justified attack on our underachieving players.

Yet it was the fans who took exception to these home truths.

These same fans who had the audacity to hurl abuse at their captain and record goalscorer when deployed in the thankless task of chasing down the possession obsessed Spanish defence - outnumbered 5 to 1.

If they got frustrated at a player not giving 100%, behaving selfishly, even arrogantly - they could be forgiven.

But when their team is quite simply outclassed by potentially one of the most successful sides ever seen, support was the answer.

Not jeers.

Or cheers.

But encouragement to push them on.

Give them the support to chase down one more lost cause.

Force one more corner.

Score one more goal.

But no, the same fans who had just jeered Aiden McGeady to stay off the pitch after his momentum had taken him over the touchline, had turned their backs to the action to ‘do the Poznan’ by the time he had returned to play.

The Poznan, reserved only for goals by Manchester City supporters, was been exercised whilst 1 down to the Italians.

What was Mario Balotelli figuring as he watched on from the bench?

Had his beloved Italian support all wore green that day or did this Irish crowd just not ‘get’ his club’s goal celebration?

Manchester United supporters didn’t do the Poznan when 1 nil down at the Etihad.

They expected more from their team.

As did Roy.

The Irish fans had different ideas though.

They were there to party.

The atmosphere they created was unbelievable.

Build-up to every game commenced hours before any ball was kicked.

And it was world class to experience.

Unless you were a supporter.

It just made it all the more difficult knowing the only time the Aviva had sold out since it opened was against Estonia.

Not when the team needed support.

They were already 4 nil up.

No, the return leg was going to be a party.

Armenia at home was when support was needed.

But the fans weren’t there.

Slovakia didn’t sell out either.

Not even Russia could.

When the team really needed support.

It was when 4 nil up against Estonia.

When the fans could party.

And they did.

Unsure as to whether they were so jubilant for the group of players who had finally qualified after so many years of heartbreak.

Or because they’d secured the biggest two week party of the year for themselves.

The fans will remember the European Championship for the sing songs, the beers and the ‘craic’ that occurred on every night.

And who can blame them?

The supporters however, will all meet up in a few months at the Kazakhstan game.

In hope.

Eternal optimism for Ireland’s next campaign.

Their dreams may having turned to nightmares.

But in Kazakhstan, at least they’ll be able to support each other...


  1. i dont agree with the jeering of robbie keane and aidan macgeedy etc but i dont think they played well. its hard to support them sometimes when they are gtting beat 4-0 and all that but i see what you mean about having a party when they are losing and the same people are doing the pozzan 2 mins later. they do the mexican wave too when we arent winning and that recks my head.

  2. Good piece. Feel your right about those who don't normally turn up to all the games but will go to the Championships. It would be nice to have that atmosphere every time we play at home. Pity.

  3. First of all, let me state, i didnt boo or sing the Keane song once.

    However on a couple of pieces...
    First of all the comment about the fans not showing up to some of the group games - Slovakia and Russia were both on friday nights. I didnt make one as i had another engagement i couldnt get out of. The games were in Dublin. That immediately makes it tough from supporters from Cork, the North and the west of Ireland to get to the game. Many would not have made it because they were in work. Others could not afford it because they were not. I spoke to many non-Dubs who were there for Ireland. I would struggle to go to all the games if they were in Cork.
    Armenia game kicked off at 645 on a tuesday which, I suspect, ruled out Dublin supporters/fans. Estonia game people knew we were there so made the effort/spent the money to give the players the send off they deserved.. aswell as that my understanding is a lot of the tickets were given it corporates for that particular game... something i dont agree with.

    Re: Keane - the fans paid a fortune to go to Poland. Thousands. They are allowed shout at McGeady or sing about Keane if they dont agree with him. Many would now have seen his article where he clarified what he meant. Without opening up the whole debate again, many felt that Keane turned his back on his country years ago.. so of course he was gonna get a kicking for that.
    Fans, in the way you describe them, would have booed the team or left early. They chose to sing. Of course they were upset with the result and the team , but they wanted to try enjoy the money they spent as best they could. And that included me. I got little pleasure with the results, but i would dust myself down as best I could and try enjoy the night or next few days. Yes the piss up was great. But the results still hurt. I didnt want to go home to bed after we lost - it was a holiday. But it doesnt mean it hurt less. Christ, Im a Liverpool "fan" so id be depressed a lot of the time if i did let me disappear to my room everytime they lost. Id be divorced !

    The Polish loved the Irish. Doing the Poznan after we scored was a high point. I didnt see the point in doing it v Italy. But i have no problem with the "fans" that did.

  4. @TheBoxBlog piece -

    True dat.

  5. I felt the singing of the fields of athenry had little to do 'singing' per se. It wasn't like we were singing 'We all dream of a team of Gary Breens' - it was almost defiant in nature and I felt it was extraordinarily moving as it , for me, reflected a kind of pathos that is ingrained into the Irish pysche...It had next to nothing to do with a football match ...

  6. 'And they were too knowing about football to join in with the “F**k yous” directed at the greatest player ever to don the green jersey'

    I would class myself as someone who is reasonably 'knowing' about football but I still would tell Roy Keane to go fuck himself if I ever met him , not for his recent comments about the 'singing' but for in my opinion, the dereliction of duty in Japan

  7. I’m in the fans-ish bracket, I’ll give players stick and cursed at Roy, but over the years I’ve gone to a fair percentage of Ireland games and thought Roy was a legend.. but I also love watching and playing football and have done so all my life..

    I’m most definitely a football supporter, but seemingly only a fan of Ireland, surely they would go hand in hand..

    The debate could go on..

    But an interesting take on the whole thing… well done !