Let's face it, the off-pitch news swirling around Euro 2012 has not been pretty. Before the matches started there was a huge focus on how much racism players would face in the Eastern European countries hosting the games, Ukraine and Poland. Then there were the violent clashes between Poland and Russia fans the other day, which have raised concerns about the specter of hooliganism at the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
Despite all this bad press concerning football fans, yesterday one group of fans acquitted themselves quite well, serving as an example of why and how football fandom can be fun, should be fun. Despite the economic situation in their country and despite the fact that their team lost to Spain 4-0 and previously lost to Croatia, 3-1, the Ireland fans stayed for the full match, serenading their team, their country with The Fields of Athenry.
The cynic can easily, and rightly, point out that Euro 2012 was Ireland's first appearance in a major tournament since the 2002 World Cup Finals; therefore, its fans have low expectations and can frivolously enjoy just being at the Euros. On the other hand, I think that the fans of more "serious" teams (England, Russia, etc.) would do well to take a moment and try to learn something from the Ireland fans, because, when all is said and done, football is just a game and sometimes you don't need to win to feel good about your country, and to feel good about yourself.