Who were the best (and worst) fans of Euro 2016?
Euro 2016 is now officially over, and Portugal have been crowned kings. However, many have wondered how much the Portugal side deserved the title, having won only one game inside of 90 minutes.
With this in mind, when football historians look back on Euro 2016, it might not be the quality of football that springs to mind. However, the quality of the fans attending may well get a mention. Newspaper pages from all over the continent have been filled with good, bad, and ugly reports of supporter behaviour over the past month, with some groups of supporters seemingly getting as much page space as the teams competing.
With all this in mind, we’ve decided to stay one step ahead of the history books, and look at some of the best (and worst) fans we’ve seen at the tournament, with stats and images courtesy of Stay Sourced and their “Battle of the Fans”.
Republic of Ireland
Although Ireland dropped out in the last 16, that was much further than most would have expected, representing a tournament best for the boys in green. You only have to look back to Ukraine 2012 to see how far Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane have taken their squad, as that tournament saw the boys in green finish bottom of their group, with 0 points, and a -8 goal difference; the joint worst Euros performance.
Although Keane and O’Neill should take some of the credit for Ireland’s performance, surely some credit must go to the fans. For the past few weeks, Irish fans have travelled France performing good deeds of almost biblical stature, being praised by the media and the French police alike for their friendliness. Some of the miracles performed include stopping to help change an elderly French woman’s tyre, lullabying a baby to sleep, singing the lord’s prayer to a nun, and perhaps most remarkably, cleaning up after their antics. It’s behaviour like this that has resulted in the French public voting fans of the boys in green the best of the tournament.
Like Ireland, Wales weren’t really expected to accomplish much in the tournament; this was after all their first appearance at the Euros, and many pundits said that the team would just be “happy to be there”. However, naysayers have soon been proved wrong by Bale and a triumphant looking Welsh squad, who’ve surprisingly played some of the more attractive looking football of the tournament so far.
It seems that Welsh fans have adapted well to international competitions too, although the 18602 miles that individual Welsh supporters travelled to qualify will surely have helped. It’s always a good sign when the support that fans give their team is reciprocal, and Bale has rightly praised travelling Dragons. After Wales’ narrow victory over Slovakia, Bale said that fans acted as the team’s 12th man, and commented that “our fans pulled us through”. Fans have proved themselves out of the stadium too, with images of Welsh fans helping a lost boy find his dad currently doing the rounds on social media.
Crashing out unspectacularly I the group stages, perhaps the only consolation for the Russian team is their behaviour on the pitch wasn’t half as bad as that of their fans.
After a trouble free couple of games, hooliganism soon became the talk of the tournament, largely encouraged by a hard-core subsection of Russian fans. Russian Ultras were accused of travelling with the sole attention of causing trouble, something that Go Pro footage taken by fans seems to support. The Ultras made themselves known very quickly, smashing up cars, bars, and opposing fans in a highly organised fashion. To try discourage the trouble, the Russian F.A was fined €150,00 0 and slapped with a suspended disqualification. Meanwhile, France deported known troublemakers, only for them to turn up in the country again just a few days later. With the next world cup set to take place in Russia, the next two years of international football look set to be a riot.
For the Three Lions, Euro 2016 has turned out to be a classic English tournament. Pre-tournament media pressure? Check. Talks of a new golden generation? Check. Guidance from a tactically inept manager? Check. A team of players who although talented, simply can’t cope with the enormous pressure placed on any England side? Check. Boozed up fans playing Frisbee with patio chairs? Check.
With performances as shaky as England’s, it’s not surprising that fans of the three lions have had to find entertainment elsewhere. That meant excessive drinking, provocative chanting, and lots and lots of tear gas. For aging hooligans, the scenes were almost enough to bring a nostalgic tear to the eye, with the sight of patio chairs gliding through the Marseille evening air bringing back memories of France 98. It’s also been acknowledged that local and visiting ultras may have provoked much of the violence, with heavy handed French police not exactly helping. That doesn’t excuse infighting amongst fans through, nor does it make the taunting of refugee children acceptable. Once again, it seems like a minority of idiots have damaged the reputation of English fans abroad, and it’s that minority who are responsible for England’s inclusion in this list.