Each camp sings its anthem, accompanied by its fans in the crowd; shoulders hunched, head held high, sometimes eyes full of salty tears at the sound of the patriotic rallying call.
The other two countries that make up the UK have their own national anthems for sporting events that are not held under the flag of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Wales has “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” (“Land of my fathers”) and Scotland has “The Flower of Scotland”. But, in this case, England and Northern Ireland will share “God Save the Queen”.
Different anthems for different sports
The Good Friday Agreement (or Belfast Agreement) helped end decades of conflict between nationalists seeking a united Ireland and loyalists wishing to remain in the UK.
These differing political views largely aligned with religious beliefs, with Protestants favoring trade unionism and Catholic nationalism.
Northern Ireland has several national anthems used in different sports, as well as different team configurations – a relic of how each sport has sailed in this division.
Each of these songs occupies a slightly different position in the political landscape of Northern Ireland.
In rugby, where the team plays as United Ireland, the Republic of Ireland’s national anthem “Amhrán na bhFiann” (“The Soldier’s Song”) is played at home matches, alongside “Ireland’s Call”, specially commissioned and more inclusive, which plays home and away games.
“As a Catholic player, unfortunately, I don’t have that experience of standing up and singing the anthem as loud as possible.
“But that doesn’t take away the pride and the passion and what it means to put on the green jersey. It’s going to take someone to think outside the box, right? And be brave enough to go for it. before.”
‘What would happen to international sport in Ireland?’
Historically, each major sport has found a slightly different place in the Northern Irish landscape.
“The creation of the modern sporting world happened in the 19th century…And when that happened, Ireland was not divided,” says Rouse.
When Northern Ireland was officially created on May 3, 1921, following the Irish War of Independence, the athletics, rugby and football teams represented the whole island.
“The question immediately arose as to what would happen to international sport in Ireland,” says Rouse. “And that varies from sport to sport.”
The Irish Football Association (IFA) was, and still is, based in Belfast – the historic heart of the game where it first entered Ireland.
Unlike rugby, whose governing body was based in Dublin and whose structures allowed for greater regional autonomy, football split in two with the establishment of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) in Dublin in 1921.
The IFA and FAI initially fielded international teams called Ireland, selecting players from both north and south of the border, until the 1950s when the demands of World Cup qualifying competitions forced teams to separate completely.
But the success of the Northern Ireland team at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, with players from both communities, showed how football could, at times, transcend political divides.
“We tend to focus on the divide, it wasn’t just a divide, it was also a game that brought them together,” says Rouse.
These efforts to unite football have intensified following the peace process.
In 2006, the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs received the Brussels International Supporters’ Award for their support of charities and their efforts to combat bigotry.
The Northern Ireland Women’s Football Association (NIWFA) is a much newer entity, established in 1976, and since then women’s football in the country has grown exponentially.
Its growing popularity aligns with trends in women’s football across Europe. Euro 2022 has already set attendance records – around 450,000 tickets have been sold ahead of the tournament – while more than 91,000 fans crammed into the Camp Nou twice to watch Barcelona Femení earlier this year.
An official song – “Girl Got Game” by Jessica Hammond – was also released in support of the team and highlighting women’s football.
Building on this, the Northern Ireland women’s team hope to emulate the “spirit of 2016” that permeated the country when the men’s team qualified for Euro 2016.
It is the first time that the Northern Ireland women’s team have qualified for a major tournament, despite several long-term injuries to their key players.
Regardless of the outcome of Friday’s game, Northern Ireland will not reach the round of 16 after defeats to Norway and Austria in their opening two games, but the trip has players feeling optimistic about the game. ‘coming.