Bringing fans together in the name of football

Football fans from multiple nationalities enjoying Sunday's barbecue at Bannview before kick-off in the Northern Ireland game with Poland.
Football fans from multiple nationalities enjoying Sunday's barbecue at Bannview before kick-off in the Northern Ireland game with Poland.

A Polish football fan connected to Portadown over the past three years is hoping for rewards beyond points at EURO 2016.

Sunday marked the opening match for Northern Ireland in the history of the European Championships - with Poland recording a 1-0 win.

Despite the result, there was plenty of cause for celebration in one small corner of the town as Bannview played host to a mini-League of Nations.

Football fans from a number of different countries enjoyed a barbecue put on at the guest house by Bannview owner Gerald Black - thanks to a request from one long-term resident.

Work commitments at Almac in Portadown have led to Lucasz Belter staying under the Bannview roof on a regular basis for around three years.

When the EURO 2016 draw put Northern Ireland up against Poland in the opening game he saw it as an opportunity to strengthen links between the town residents.

An open invitation was extended to Bannview for Sunday’s feast of football, starting with Croatia’s defeat of Turkey before the main event in Nice.

It proved in marked contrast to the ugly scenes of violence in France between hooligans and police.

“Gerald has such a nice flower garden on the roof at Bannview and the circumstances of the draw presented a great opportunity,” said Lucasz. “There are lots of Polish people living in Portadown now and I just thought the football match would be a good thing to bring both nations together.

“The idea was to sit down and watch the game together, see how we react to the other side maybe scoring a goal and, as a result of sharing the experience, learn more about our two nations.

“It was about a cultural exchange and respect.

“It is a great chance to meet, talk about history and football and get to know more about someone else.

“In Poland we have a saying about how travel educates and I feel very welcome in Northern Ireland.”

In the spirit of the occasion, Lucasz opted for a pre-match prediction of a draw but confirmed his hope that Poland would win the tournament - plus his backing for Northern Ireland.

For the full video interview visit www.portadowntimes.co.uk.