Under the football stars and the Eiffel Tower

When the France-Romania match ended, the Eiffel Tower was lit up with the colours of the French flag. But the celebration on the iconic landmark couldn't equal the reverie of the fans below.

"I am relieved; it was a stressful match," said Alexandre Robert, 26, decked out in a France jersey with the tricolour painted on his cheek. In the background, groups of celebrators danced, singing and embracing.

"Payet delivered an incredible goal, so we are confident for what's to come. France is going to win," Robert said, grinning. "And I'm coming back here for the rest of the matches."

The Paris fan zone, one of the public spaces transformed into public football viewing areas across the 10 host sites for the matches, started to fill up early, hours before the tournament kick-off.

Groups of friends, and father-son duos, kicked footballs to each other on the green park area under the three mega-screens, while a tent full of foosball tables reverberated with the clacks of figurines kicking miniature balls.

Truta Radu, 23, a Romania supporter who lives in southern Paris, said he came to the fan zone to celebrate alongside other football fans. Watching at home "is not the same," he said. "When they are so many people around you, people who are excited ... it's not the same."

Radu was with 17 other Romania supporters, dressed in their teams' kits. They made a block of colour on the lawn, like other groups of supporters for teams that weren't even playing.

"It is really great, because I have the impression that there aren't [many] French - there are a lot of people who travelled to get here and who are in the spirit of the Euro," said Goichon Armond, 22, in Paris for the week from the southern French region of Provence.

Robert Millar, 37, from Northern Ireland, was one of the many visitors. Alongside a group of friends, he was traversing France for the matches - and seeing three of them live.

"This is our first night of 14 nights, and it was an absolutely brilliant start - brilliant!" Millar said, before breaking out into chants of "Allez les bleus" - the chant of France.

Despite ongoing labour strikes that have disrupted rail traffic, backed up garbage collection in some Paris neighborhoods and will ripple over into some Air France flight cancellations over the weekend, Millar said he and his friends hadn't faced any inconveniences.

They were also unworried about security. France has enlisted approximately 90,000 security personnel, including some 13,000 private agents, to secure the games. Multiple perimetres of security checks surrounded the fan zone, and police, gendarmes and security agents patrolled the grounds - only occasionally looking up to check on the progress of Les Bleus.

France's victories, when they came, were greeted with lung-bursting renditions of the Marseillaise - the country's national anthem. And not just the French were celebrating.

"It was cool, it was honestly cool," said 26-year-old Richard de Foor, visiting from Belgium. "There are loads of people, there was a really great mood, and with the screens in front of the Eiffel Tower - there's nothing better."

Last update: Sat, 11/06/2016 - 11:53


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