Girls were kissed, faces and even rear ends were painted, and despite all the beer and the match beatings, Poznan will be sorry to see the back of the Irish.
It’s been emotional, even for the stoic Poles who pulled out all the stops to give the Irish a farewell to remember. You had to look very hard to find an Italian in Poznan — and they had something to play for.
If the team didn’t manage to give us much to cheer about, the people of Poznan made damn sure we had a good time.
Every Polish person you ask, from the mayor to the face painters on the street, commented on how much colour and fun the Irish brought to this city.
Polish club football fans have a reputation for violence so the thing most local people commented on was just how peaceful the ordinary Irish fan was.
It’s been a long 10 days for Damian Zalewski from the Poznan City Promotion Office, but one he has enjoyed immensely. He admitted it was a big moment in the history of Poznan hosting the Euros and said the Irish had made an indelible impression on the hearts and minds of the city.
“Our reaction to the Irish can be seen all over the city on every Polish person’s face,” he said. “The Irish brought such a positive atmosphere to us. It was 10 crazy days. We were expecting and hoping for large crowds. But we weren’t expecting just how great the Irish were.”
In fact, Damien pointed out it was the fans’ reaction to a 4-0 hammering that prompted the mayor of Poznan to put an extra special effort in for the Irish fans last night in Poland.
“I watched the Spanish game and to see your fans singing The Fields of Athenry song — you love to sing even though you were losing so badly — was incredible,” said Damien.
“I had goosebumps watching it, it was quite emotional. The mayor actually contacted us directly to see if we could do something a bit special to thank you all.”
And special it was. In a typically quirky Poznanian gesture, signs of ‘You’ll Never Beat The Irish’ and ‘Come On You Boys In Green’ were written on pavements and walls all over Poznan in the dead of night, including an enormous sign telling us we were simply “the best”.
Hundreds of volunteers even organised a flashmob that brought the Old Square to a standstill to say thank you to the Irish fans.
Deputy mayor of Poznan Thomas Kayser said the city felt “lucky” to have been a base for two Irish games.
“Everybody in Poznan says we were so lucky to get the fans from Ireland. They are great. People love them in the city. I think that we can really learn a lot from them. The way they supported their team despite the results. They still support them in such a joyful nice way. It’s absolutely amazing,” he said.
Kayser said volunteers wanted to organise something like a flashmob specifically for the Irish. It was a tribute to just how much Poznan embraced the Irish, he said.
“This action is organised absolutely spontaneously. It wasn’t organised by the city officially. It’s just the decision of volunteers who wanted to show their appreciation to the great fans.
“Officially, we like all fans but I must say that Irish fans have a very special place in Poznan. Pub owners love them as well and the way they behave. Despite the amount of beer that they drink they still behave in a friendly way.”
A weary Paulina Lorek was one such volunteer and said it would be a sad sight to see the Irish army leave.
“I said it after a few days that the Irish fans are the best in the world. I am a fan of one of the biggest teams in Poland but they are nothing like the Irish fans. You cheer your team through everything, no matter what the result. It’s always positive with you guys, never negative,” she said.
Paulina said it was also special for Polish people to see so many Irish fans wearing red and white in support of her national team.
“I was in the square on the night of the last Poland game and I saw just how loudly you sing for a team that is not your own. It was amazing to see and it created such a positive atmosphere with everybody having fun with no trouble.”
They even let fans ride ponies across the square yesterday. What a city. What a country.
Do we have to go home?
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