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Singing a powerful song in Poland

Sport
Singing a powerful song


Postcard

Daniel Carey


ANY musical history of Ireland’s participation in Euro 2012 is bound to feature ‘The Fields of Athenry’, given its rousing prominence during the closing stages of Thursday’s defeat to Spain. But hopefully room could be found for a brief mention of the ‘Father Ted’ classic ‘My Lovely Horse’.
First sung by our nine-strong group on D?ugi Targ, the historic thoroughfare in Gdansk which served as ‘party central’ before the match, ‘My Lovely Horse’ got a repeat airing on the tram to the stadium. It thus joined an eclectic mix of songs to be deployed in support of the boys in green, including the Eurovision winner ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids’ and the ‘Home and Away’ theme tune. All together now: “You know we belong together …”
But then, Gdansk was full of strange sounds and sights on Thursday. A man walked near the waterfront waving an Iceland (yes, Iceland) flag. Rifling through a stack of bills, a tout produced a €200 note (something one ticketless Ireland supporter claimed to have last witnessed during the Galway Races of 2008).
A gang of Mayo lads displayed a tricolour with the words ‘Doing it for the Incas’. The conquistadors’ destruction of an ancient civilisation wasn’t among the main reasons I wanted Ireland to beat Spain, but fair play to those with a sense of history.
The night before the game, the resort of Sopot was thronged with Irish fans. A squad car left the town square to a chorus of ‘Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye’. There was a ditty for every occasion. Two Jedward lookalikes crooned: “We’re gonna get the tram”. Later, a group near the stadium chanted at passers-by: “What is that in zloty?”
There were melodic tributes to individual players too – the ‘I Gotta Feeling’-esque ‘We’ve got Glenn Whelan’, and a ‘Sex Bomb’-inspired ode to a midfielder with Westport connections: “Paul Green, Paul Green, you’re my Paul Green, Xavi, Iniesta are afraid cause he’s so mean”. (Was it a coincidence that Iniesta’s departure followed Green’s arrival? I think not). It was, as one person put it on Friday morning, “great craic – apart from the football”.
Having devoted 16 hours a day throughout March to securing tickets via the Uefa portal, I was more than a little surprised to find the seat next to me vacant at kick-off time. It was eventually filled by an Ulsterman who had clearly been filling up himself. Told by the (white) steward that there was no smoking, this (white) guy responded with a black power salute.
The space afforded the Spanish team was a source of constant irritation to my neighbour. “Close them down, eat their f***in’ toenails,” he roared. Still, he retained a black sense of humour. Spotting that two-goal Fernando Torres had made way for Cesc Fabregas, he squeezed my arm and said: “We’re in with a shout now, wha’?”
Determined to take his victories where he could find them, he joined in with chants of “You’ll never score four” and the optimistic “We’re gonna win 4-3!” Then Spain scored a fourth and we all began bellowing about where small, free birds fly. My new friend combined vocals with gyrating. I will now forever associate his full-blown pelvic thrusts – which would have done justice to Elvis Presley – with Pete St John’s tale of woe.
Generally speaking, the Irish and Polish fans have got on well together. We spent Tuesday evening watching the Poland-Russia game in Sopot town square, where some bright spark came up with the song ‘Pol-ska for the boys in green’. It proved a huge hit.
After Poland-Russia finished level, an Irishman who noticed the striking resemblance between a nearby Polish woman and an American reality TV show called out: “Kim! Kim Kardashian!” She smiled at the reference but still went home. I think most of us are ready to do likewise. But unfortunately we’re here until Wednesday.

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