Ireland to wear black armbands against Italy
POZNAN, Poland (AP)
Ireland will wear black armbands in Monday's match against Italy at the European Championship to commemorate the 18th anniversary of shootings in Northern Ireland that killed six people.
The match falls on the exact date of the attack and is especially poignant as it happened while the victims were watching Ireland play Italy in the 1994 World Cup on television in the rural village of Loughinisland.
European football's governing body UEFA has granted permission for the armbands to be worn.
''What happened in Loughinisland in 1994 was an awful tragedy and deeply moving for all football fans,'' said Irish football's chief executive officer John Delaney, in a statement released before the tournament. ''I would like to thank UEFA for assisting us in commemorating this atrocity and take the opportunity to remember all those who lost their lives in the troubles.''
Among the victims of the shooting was 87-year-old Barney Greene, one of the oldest victims of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
''The families are touched that this tragic event can be commemorated on such a poignant day, the 18th anniversary of the atrocity,'' added Niall Murphy, a solicitor working for the victims' families. ''We would like to thank the FAI and UEFA for their assistance in providing a forum to recall the awful events that took place on that fateful day when Ireland played Italy in 1994.''
Ireland captain Robbie Keane has also backed the move.
''It's only right we wear the armbands in respect of everyone's families and to let them know as a team and as a nation we're thinking of the families,'' Keane said Sunday.
Ireland lost its first two matches at Euro 2012 and has no chance of making the quarterfinals. Italy needs a win to progress.