Humanity has a long and complex relationship with flags. While their use predates the written word, much of their symbolism and significance has remained the same. Flags can be used to express a national identity, a spiritual allegiance to one's country and heritage. They can be used to express a political affiliation, statement or slogan. Sometimes, they are used to mark an occasion of joy and celebration, waved in unison by a jubilant throng.
Likewise, they can be also used by British and Irish football fans to say all sorts of baffling, crass and peculiar stuff at Euro 2016.
In the last month or so, vigilante Twitter account @badeurosflags has endeavoured to expose the countless shit flags which (mainly Northern Irish) fans intend to take to the Euros. Ranging from handmade banners to the sort of thing that costs €150 to get done at an official flag shop, the time and effort that has gone into them would be admirable if they weren't, by turns, ridiculous, laughable and borderline sinister.
Here's one flag which is bound to catch the eye when Northern Ireland clash with Ukraine on Thursday. If we're not mistaken, it seems to be suggesting that esteemed broadcaster and veteran BBC Northern Ireland commentator Jackie Fullerton has "bucked" our mums. Jackie Fullerton, a 73-year-old gentleman, is a much-loved voice of football who has been commentating on the Northern Irish game for the best part of four decades. He has not, as far as we're aware, "bucked" our mums, and to claim otherwise is both frivolous and deeply upsetting.
We don't even know where to start with this thing. As in, what the actual fuck is going on here? Are the lads suggesting that – in order to really enjoy Euro 2016 – they're going to get smashed on fortified wine and exchange small arms fire in a car park just outside Ballyhornan? That they're going to knock back a bottle of Bucky before launching some sort of chaotic, caffeine-fuelled insurgency from a disused farm near to Portadown? All we know is that, if there really was a Buckfast Volunteer Force, it would be the least strategic fighting unit of all time. They'd be armed exclusively with pool cues and be bogged down with crippling logistical issues, ranging from extreme disorientation to debilitating three-day hangovers.
But hold your fucking horses, lads! The Buckfast Volunteer Force are no match for the crack troops of the Ballyclare Bucky Battalion. It is impossible to express in words the fundamental bathos of rallying your mates behind a banner showing Kyle Lafferty holding a poorly photoshopped bottle of tonic wine. As far as we're concerned, everyone in the Ballyclare Bucky Battalion should be court-martialled immediately, then confined to military jail on charges of extremely poor judgement.
If you think that's bad, try to get your heads around this thunderbastard of a flag. This is an arbitrary collection of the most Northern Irish utterances known to man, carefully arranged around the face of a guilty looking dog. Honestly, that dog looks as if it's just been accused of eating a family-sized trifle. It looks as if it's been just been interrupted while shagging your mum's favourite pillow. It looks as if it's been caught taking a shite in a plush duvet. It looks almost as shamefaced as the owners of this banner ought to look, every time they think about the money they spent getting it made to their ludicrous specifications.
On this flag, the designers have managed to include both the red right hand of Ulster and a reference to Orange Walks in their tribute to Kyle Lafferty. Just in case the references to Buckfast, "such football" and Jackie Fullerton bucking our mums weren't enough, here's a bit of controversial religious symbolism to really get us in the party mood.
Fans from the Republic certainly aren't exempt from the shit flag phenomenon. This is basically an exercise in self-stereotyping. Here they are, all the lads, waving a Father Ted meme above their heads to remind everyone that, yes, they are indeed Irish people. Here they are, all the lads, having some great craic about Ireland's favourite sitcom while watching the footie. Down with this sort of thing, we say.
This flag is actually quite good, to be honest. This is Republic of Ireland keeper Darren Randolph, photoshopped to look like Lord of the Rings' Gandalf. In case you're not familiar with the Lord of the Rings franchise, Gandalf is notoriously good at keeping clean sheets against rogue Balrogs, so this is a sort of wizardry-meets-goalkeeping joke. It's funny, the punchline is internally consistent, so we can't really complain. We give this effort 8/10, and officially approve its existence.
Here's a counterpoint to that brief flash of flag-based optimism. This pun is absolutely atrocious. We're sorry to break it to you, lads, but "Glenn Whelan" and "dancing on the ceiling" do not rhyme. Moreover, the attempt to merge Whelan's face with that of Lionel Richie has failed dismally. The result is a glimpse into an alternative future, where Chris Kamara has spent the best part of the last decade struggling with a chronic crystal meth addiction.
We're not even going to start on the England flags. We're just not even going to go there. If we try to get our heads around the England flags, we will be forced to come face to face with everything that is wrong with our irredeemable, broken society.
Needless to say, they are shit.
Enjoy more mockery of surreal, tasteless and occasionally sectarian Euros flags here.