“I look to the future, it makes me cry. But it seems too real, to tell you why. Escape from our history. Free from the memory” – Nicky Wire.
I didn’t know what to write today so my heart is just pouring out some emotion here while I jot this down, live from the Hostel Jacques Brel in Brussels, Belgium. I don’t know why I’m in Belgium in truth. As you may have read, I was in France for two weeks and the plan was to stay in France until my beloved Northern Ireland international football team either won the tournament, or got knocked out.
“It’s the Ulster boys making all the noise, everywhere we go” – Northern Irish football fans.
That moment came around 8 pm last night in the city of Paris. A Gareth McAuley own goal put my wee Northern Ireland out, in fine voice, but ultimately it was a 1-0 defeat and we were out of the tournament. Wales progressed. I had a quick decision to make. I needed to keep my promise to myself so immediately, I booked myself on a border bus to Brussels in Belgium in the early hours of Sunday morning.
I know I’ll reflect more on the European Championships in France 2016, in future writings again but right now I feel pride at my country, but I also feel I have achieved something personal. This was my dream, long before backpacking the world. To watch Northern Ireland at a tournament. I went to all four matches, loved the party, it was all bliss.
“Everyday is all there is; in my some kind of bliss” – Kylie Minogue.
I also reached the 121 “cap” mark as a fan, so it doesn’t seem I have any dreams left, other than if we qualify for the World Cup again. As a Northern Irish football fan, this is a high. It might be a good time to call it a day on away trips. Having travelled to Adana, Trieste, Riga, Lyon etc. down the years as well as countless trips back home to Bangor and Belfast for the home matches, it feels good to go out on a high. But who can tell. None of our destinies are really in our own hands.
Through my passion for supporting my country, I have now hopefully helped people understand the benefits and joys of supporting a wee country like ours. I hoped it would make an impression and we would all live happy lives. The GAWA (Green and White Army) is now bigger than we could have ever imagined all those ago at 5-0 home defeats to Spain. I’m proud of my interviews about supporting Northern Ireland on media outlets like the BBC, Belfast Telegraph, German TV and most recently The Sun newspaper, yesterday. This was always my favourite British newspaper when I lived in England, so I’m humbled by it.
I don’t know where I’m going from Brussels, I have to check out of this hostel at 11 am tomorrow and from there – who knows. Here are some photos from the tournament, I have hundreds more, and will share all in good time.
“Will Grigg’s on fire; your defence is terrified” – Wigan Athletic fans.
I will update when I can but it seems my crazy journey needs a new twist very very soon. Right now, I have no idea where, when or what that might be. I’m confused but things will work out, somewhere somehow. Thanks to my fellow Northern Ireland fans for inspiring this magical journey. Again, on with the show.
“Your destiny may keep you warm” – Noel Gallagher.