Sunday, March 1, 2015

Belarus Put 5 Past Northern Ireland

By Jonny Blair

The Northern Ireland ladies team played England in May 2007 in Gillingham, Kent. They lost 4-0 and played with passion and pride against full-time professionals. The fans sang loudly in defeat. So when Shaun Schofield (Author and full-time genius) mentioned going to another away game, it all fell into place. I was going to Belarus! I had exchanged emails with a few of the team and staff before arriving, and when I arrived at the Tourist Hotel in Bobruisk, the team welcomed me as the only Northern Ireland fan at the match! I got to hang out and dine with the squad and staff, and was also given free transport to the stadium, hotel and airport.

I was able to watch the Northern Ireland ladies team train and listen to the team talks from manager Alfie Wylie all before the match. I got given a signed football shirt from the ladies team that travelled to Belarus on this trip and I treasure it. Life had taken me to Bobruisk, this non-descript city in Belarus. I was the only football fan of Northern Ireland who had travelled independently to this match.

In the hotel in Bobruisk I met an Irish Australian guy called Owen and him and his mate Albert joined me in the Northern Irish end for the match. I sang my heart of for 90 minutes to inspire the Northern Ireland ladies team against Belarus, but we went 1-0 down in the first half and never recovered. The final score was 5-0 but I sang loud and proud for the entire match. Belarus had won and I had enjoyed the match. The locals didn't seem to appreciate my singing too much as the police had to escort me from them towards the end! It was all a bit of fun.

After the match and the sad 5-0 defeat the local fans bombarded me for presents as they assumed I was a rich westerner. I wasn't - I was a backpacker but I spared them a key ring before catching the bus back to Minsk, the country's capital city. On arrival in Minsk and after checking into the hotel, it was time for a pint of beer and I found a bar called Drozhzy United, some odd Irish themed pub near a square. Nice to relax with a beer after a manic day out!

My journey to Belarus was interesting and moving. It was now over and I would head to Warsaw next in lovely Poland...


Belarus 5:0 Northern Ireland

(Kazeeva 26, Tatarynova 49, 90, Davydovich 57, Kuzniatsova 80)

Top beers - Dnyaprouskaye and Greynitska.

Bars I was in - Drozhzy United Irish Bar and Hotel Minsk Bar.

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