June 29 was another designated ‘rest day’ at Euro 2016 – but that’s only made the tournament’s irreverent headlines more important than ever.
Medals for all of Ireland, Jakub Blaszczykowski inspiring Wimbledon stars and a desperate plea on behalf of a Wales legend all feature in our round-up of the best stories you may have missed…
IRELAND FANS HONOURED IN PARIS
The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland might have left Euro 2016 empty-handed, but fans of both nations will be taking medals back to the Emerald Isle.
As a reward for their inspiring support and good behaviour, mayor Anne Hidalgo has informed both governments that supporters have been awarded an honorary Medal of the City of Paris – known as the Grand Vermeil.
“They had a very positive attitude, cheerful. They have been exemplary. We wanted to say thank you,” she told L’Equipe. Selected fan groups will receive the award – won in the past by tennis star Rafael Nadal, no less – at an official ceremony in the coming days.
Irish fans have captured the hearts of the host nation with spirited yet compassionate support. Viral clips have included singing a lullaby to a baby, helping to change a stranger’s car tyre, enjoying a sing-off with a police officer, tidying up bars to the refrain of ‘clean up for the Boys in Green’ – and, of course, something about Will Grigg.
— FAIreland (@FAIreland) June 29, 2016
GET SAUNDERS OFF THE HOOK? THAT’S A FINE IDEA
Wales’ progress to the quarter-finals has come as a big shock to a number of fans, but apparently none more so than former striker Dean Saunders.
A supporter campaign, led by Richard Jackson, has set up a fundraising page to help pay off a hefty parking charge that Saunders is apparently set to incur.
According to the page, the 52-year-old former Liverpool striker – working as a TV pundit for the finals in France – opted to park in Birmingham Airport’s more pricey short-stay car park, as he was convinced they would not make it out of the group stage.
As of June 29, a grand total of £27 had been raised. Unfortunately, with the cost of the parking space reportedly set at £100 per day, there’s quite some way to go yet…
KUBA HELPS RADWANSKA POLE-AXE KOZLOVA
Jakub Blaszczykowski’s words of encouragement clearly did the trick for Polish compatriot Agnieszka Radwanska at Wimbledon on Wednesday.
Blaszczykowski sent the third seed a message of goodwill ahead of her first-round match at SW19 against Kateryna Kozlova.
No doubt inspired by the support from the squad in France, Radwanska cruised past her Ukrainian opponent 6-2 6-1 in just 63 minutes.
Radwanska will hope for a similarly one-sided outcome when Poland meet Portugal in the quarter-finals in Marseille on Thursday.
— UEFA EURO 2016 (@UEFAEURO) June 29, 2016
MARSEILLE SUR-FARCE PROBLEMS PERSIST
The state of the pitches at Euro 2016 has been a constant topic of conversation.
The surface in Lille was re-laid while training sessions at several other venues have been switched to protect the turf.
It is not unreasonable to expect the issues at the Stade Velodrome – highlighted by France boss Didier Deschamps when he was in Marseille – to have been rectified.
It is eight days since a game was staged in the port city and yet both Portugal and Poland were forced to train elsewhere ahead of their quarter-final clash on Friday.
Fernando Santos’ men opted to stage their session at Marcoussis before flying south while Poland trained at Marseille’s Le centre d’entraînement Robert-Louis-Dreyfus.
ICELAND AND WALES CATCH SUPER EAGLE EYES
The stirring performances of Iceland and Wales at Euro 2016 have created a wave of positivity across Europe – unless you’re an England fan, of course.
But the two teams’ run to the quarter-final stage is now serving to inspire sides from as far afield as Africa.
Former Nigeria international Victor Ikpeba has challenged the Super Eagles to embrace the same qualities of “discipline, dedication and hard work” in order to re-establish themselves as the elite nation on the continent.
Ikpeba, who played in two World Cups and has since held an advisory role at the Nigerian Football Federation, is unlikely to be the last to champion the endeavours of these two footballing fairytales.
Iceland and Wales have shown what @NGSuperEagles can achieve with discipline, dedication and hardwork. Nothing is impossible
— Victor Ikpeba (@V_Ikpeba) June 29, 2016