France -v- Ireland – Trip Review

This will go down in history as probably the most controversial moment in Irish soccer history…

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Clayton

A clear handball which enabled France to tap in a winning goal and book their place in next summer’s World Cup. I was at the match and Ireland did the fans & country proud. Nobody expected us to beat France in their own back yard and take the match in to extra time but that’s what happened and we even had chances to win the match in normal time…

France -v- Ireland in Paris, World Cup 2010 Playoff

The atmosphere inside the ground was strange… the French were relatively quiet (considering they had about 70,000 fans there). As soon as Ireland went 1-0 up, that’s when the French began to get their voices… Deafining jeers greeted them at half time, whenever they made substitutions and whenever their manager’s face flashed up on the big screens around the stadium.

That was fantastic from an Irish perspective of course. This was a footballing giant under severe pressure to win and facing a huge public backlash if they failed to do so. Huge home stadiums like the Stade de France can be used as a weapon for away sides. Having your own fans turn on you and jeer you off the pitch or whenever you lose possession does have an impact. That was a major boost for Ireland – the French fans were almost a liability to the French players right from when Robbie Keane scored in the 33rd minute.

France -v- Ireland in Paris, World Cup 2010 Playoff

The reason i’m concentrating so much on the French fans & atmosphere is because i believe it’s the French who are fuelling talk of a replay. Normally when big decisions go against you, it’s talked about but that’s that – it’s accepted straight away and changing a result is like trying to change time – doesn’t happen. However this incident has given French fans ammunition to attack their own side and manager.

France -v- Ireland in Paris, World Cup 2010 Playoff

French fans are not happy with their manager or the way their side is playing. They were embarrassed by the manner in which they won as they were expected to turn on the style and qualify with ease. Instead, they were outplayed and could easily have gone out… instead they’ve qualified for the world cup but not the way anybody wanted and there is a real sense of embarrassment in France and even sympathy towards Ireland.

France -v- Ireland in Paris, World Cup 2010 Playoff

Anyway, inside the stadium, nobody battered an eyelid at the handball. The Irish fans were at the opposite end of the pitch so obviously we couldn’t see what happened. We just knew it was unlike Shay Given to steam out and go after the referee once the goal went in. Still, it was a high profile match with a lot at stake so i just thought Shay was chancing his arm and appealing against a push or offside in the build up to the goal or something – you see it all the time.

Then the texts started pouring in from home and word quickly got around it was a deliberate handball and to make matters worse, a clear offside too which lead to the French winning goal. Chants of ‘cheat’ started circulating although i don’t think anyone realised (including the players) what a clear / deliberate handball it was.

So hearts were broken & the French eventually booked their spot in the world cup next summer but there was no lap of honour and both the French fans & players were pretty quick to exit the stadium considering they’d just qualified for a World Cup. At that stage, the notion of a replay wasn’t even contemplated by anyone.

France -v- Ireland in Paris, World Cup 2010 Playoff

The atmosphere inside the stadium was great and the fact Ireland even managed to take it in to extra time was no mean feat – technically beating France 1-0 away from home – it’s extremely rare Ireland beat anyone ranked above them away from home, never mind a footballing superpower like France.

This sort of stuff happens all the time and the referee’s decision is always final – we all know the rules before we kick a ball. But the FAI came out and demanded a replay and since then, the rumours have persisted and the mainstream media (even beyond UK, France & Ireland) have gotten involved and fanned the flames.

Youtube videos & Facebook groups are drawing attention to the incident and all of a sudden, there’s a media frenzy and huge social media campaigns to get a replay. Will it work? Doubtful, but there’s no harm in trying and i’m sure every Irish fan will be happy to see as many people as possible jump on this replay bandwagon to put as much pressure as possible on the powers that be, even if it doesn’t amount to anything.

I could keep writing about football but i won’t…. The result was the only dissappointing thing about the trip. Paris itself is a bit like London size-wise (huge), but the streets were much more hilly and cramped. Plenty of small steps and winding stairs etc…

Paris

Paris

The Eiffel Tower is of course the definition of Paris, so i had to see it.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

I also got up close to the Arc De Triomp & Sacre Coeur.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

Apart from that, we just didn’t have the time to go around to all the major attractions, but i’ll probably be back within the next couple of years anyway so i’ll be able to cover them all. I had my new TZ7 with me so as you can see, i put it to good use. I also took plenty of HD video, but i’ll leave that for another day…

Overall, an excellent trip with plenty of memories… i’ll probably post a few more pictures and talk about Paris more over the next few days. Right now, i’m doing my best to go through all the photos and video and get them uploaded. Not an easy task…

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