Śmieszne Historie o Piłce Nożnej w Polsce: Northern Ireland v. Poland 4 A Side Match in Belfast City

“You ain’t exactly sure if you’ve been away a while” – Noel Gallagher.

Śmieszne Historie o Piłce Nożnej w Polsce: Northern Ireland v. Poland 4 A Side Match in Belfast City

On my return to Northern Ireland recently, I organised a “Northern Ireland v. Poland” 5 a side football match in Belfast City, which in time turned into a 4 a side match. At the time, I was showing a couple of my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland. As part of this tour, my wingman and best Polish friend, the famous Legia Warszawa stalwart (and expert hotdog salesman) Rafał Kowalczyk was to captain a POLAND select team, against a Northern Ireland select team, of which I was to be captain. It was an emotional kind of trip, realising the friends we made in life were worth more than their weight in gold. Kowalczyk came to watch the Cherries with me in 2005, inspiring a….1-0 DEFEAT to Swansea City at Dean Court. My English team – AFC Bournemouth.

Cherries lost to Swansea City on the Kowalczyk debut…Bournemouth, 2005

I repaid the favour in 2017, losing my first ever Legia Warszawa match by a 3-1 scoreline to relegation candidates Ruch Chorzow…

Legia Warszawa lost 3-1 to Ruch Chorzow on my debut…2017

Legia Warszawa lost 3-1 to Ruch Chorzow on my debut…2017

Legia Warszawa lost 3-1 to Ruch Chorzow on my debut…2017

Unfortunately, for the big match in Belfast and with a few pull-outs, none of us could find enough Belfast-based Polish football fans or players, so I ended up playing in the Polish team! It was certainly unusual to be playing against Northern Ireland! My cousin, Matty Blair booked us a great venue next to Northern Ireland’s parliament – the Civil Service pitches at Stormont. It was all set – late November 2017 with a changing kick off time. First it was 4 pm (too early), then we changed it to 9pm (so my brother could make it), then back to 8pm to suit all, then finally 9pm it was! Before all that, we had TWO intense days of Northern Irish sightseeing, I played driver for my Polish friends as we ticked off some of my favourite parts of my homeland, and some lesser ventured places. Fire your honesty into my cannon, I want no bull$h*t or M*el+&r lies anymore.

“Is this the real life, or is this fantasy?” – Freddie Mercury.

Who’s to blame? Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland.

“Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right” – Randolph Churchill.

Bangor Somme Ulster Volunteer Force Mural: Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland.

“Tiocfaidh ár lá (our day will come)” – Sinn Fein.

Driver: Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland.

Ballymoney Film Sets: Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland.

Windy Day not far from Windy Hall!: Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland.

Nothing to lose at Dunluce: Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland.

“Teenage dreams so hard till bate” – The Undertones.

Whiskey in the Jar Oh!, Bushmills: Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland.

Whiskey in the Jar Oh!, Bushmills: Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland.

“You’re only king for a day” – Ivan Morrison.

Londonderry/Derry’s Walls: Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland.

Belfast City – My town of dreams.

The Leaning Tower of Ulster

We drink to while away the “troubles”

Ulster Rugby

Northern Irishmen in POLAND.

Real Northern Irish culture – watching Glentoran FC!

Real Northern Irish culture – watching Glentoran FC!

Ireland’s Oldest Pub in Donaghadee – Grace Neill’s.

Sunrise in Ballyhalbert, Northern Ireland

George Best’s Hose, the Cregagh, Northern Ireland. #belfastcity

George Best’s Hose, the Cregagh, Northern Ireland. #belfastcity

Gaelic Stadium in Dungiven: Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland.

Where the South meets the North – border town of Muff… Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland.

“In my homeland, forlorn, the sun shines down upon a tattooed youth.
His mind a microwave of loss and feeling brave, in disrepute.”

Sunday, Bloody Sunday: Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland.

“Masked gunmen shouted ‘trick or treat’, then opened fire” – 🙁

Lough Neagh: Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland.

“We’re one; but we’re not the same” – Bono/ Paul Hewson (nail on the head).

The Ponderosa: Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland, apostrophe-less

Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland. Slainte!

Shoulder of Giants: Showing my Polish friends the sights of Northern Ireland.

All that was out of the way and I met my cousins again in Dundonald, East Belfast (where I once lived, a century ago…) and we watched the Arsenal match down the Elk.

Watching Arsenal match down the Elk, Dundonald

On a ball freezing night in late November, the two teams lined up, with a hat-trick of my cousins (Matty, Connor and Gary) representing Northern Ireland. My Dad, Joe Blair played alongside Rafał, Parker and I in the Polish Select. Northern Ireland (OWC, the GAWA, My Wee Country) wore green and white. I wore red, white, black and green which served my selfish mix of Poland, AFC Bournemouth, Legia Warszawa and Glentoran and we got down to business. The Poland team for the night was the away one. The four Ulstermen all live in Belfast City.

Śmieszne Historie o Piłce Nożnej w Polsce: Northern Ireland v. Poland 4 A Side Match in Belfast City

The match was a fast 45 minute game. Originally we thought to make it 10 the winner, but goals came thick and fast and both teams ended up fairly equal in the end!! My Dad Joe Blair turned on the style for the Polish select, while Kowalczyk proved a thorn in Northern Ireland’s side in defence. Utility man Parker weighed in with a few goals and liveaway Ulsterman Jonny Blair scored the comeback goal at 2-0 down to fire the Polish side back into life, who led at 11 – 7 at one point when Blair completed the hat-trick past his cousin Connor with a “bottom corner no chance” pelanty.

Polish captain Kowalczyk prepares pre match (pitch testing).

With some rules added for offside, head height, in the box, not in the box, the scores and even final score is still disputed. Kowalczyk claims a 19-17 Polish victory. Conservative Northern Irish right wing nationalist claims a 17-17 draw while the Northern Ireland team claim a 19-17 defeat of the Polish team. There were no pelanties. My Dad, Joe said “call it a draw, let’s mix the teams up” and that was that. Anyone with a full coverage of the 45 will know for sure…

Jonny Blair tucks away a pelanty.

Joe Blair completes a hat-trick, bottom corner, Messi/Maradona/George Best style

We changed teams for the last 15 minutes and played for fun.

“I play for fun now” – George Best (AFC Bournemouth 1983).
“When did you ever play for anything else?” – Jackie Fullerton (in an era where Bestie never played to earn money).

Pele Good, Maradona Better, George BEST.

There was no time for pre-match pints, I was driving us back to North Down and had a relaxed beer with my Dad and Rafal on my return, but next time.

Thanks to all who attended and helped organise, this weekend in Kościan I play a match in Poland to complete part two. Any Polish people living in Northern Ireland, if you want to play in the next one, please get in touch, we would love to do this once every two years!!

Here are some videos of the action with thanks to my friend Julia who kindly made these for us!:

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