yesterday was such a rollercoaster day and i’m going to try to sum it up in a blog post while remaining acutely aware that it won’t do it even the smallest fraction of justice.

northern ireland v poland was always going to be a controversial fixture. we all have heard the stories of polish migrant workers not being welcomed into communities here in our country, and of some local companies choosing migrant workers over local people. this post is not about that but it should set the scene. add to this a footballing rivalry and a general intolerance towards each other from both sides and you’ll get the picture.

the morning was brilliant. our wee supporters club, Lough Shore NISC, picked up the trophy at a local supporters charity tournament at Olympia Leisure. one of our prizes is to possibly parade on the Windsor Park pitch on Wednesday night. more on that in the future. i’m very excited!!

in the afternoon we popped along to see a mate play in a fans match being organised between the 2 sets of fans. in fact, it was more than that. it was a full on fun day put on for the polish community by the northern ireland fans association. a brilliant gesture and a feel good factor in the air. this was not picked up much by the media yesterday sadly as they chose to focus on bad news instead.

as we reached belfast city centre, we began to see and hear reports small scuffles of violence. not totally unfamiliar to international football, but something which we had seen completely divorced from northern ireland home games in the past decade.

now i’m in no means racist or xenophobic…and i happily welcome the poles to our country…however, in this occasion from what i witnessed first hand yesterday, it seemed to be completely started and provoked by people from the polish community before the match on tate’s avenue.

i do not call them fans, because when we got into the ground, we could see that the away support was totally full. so instead it seems to have come from a few hundred mindless thugs who saw fit to cause trouble and begin running battles with the police, innocent bystanders, and a small minority of northern ireland fans who chose to retaliate, or at very worst get involved. the gangs that were congregating outside the ground were very sinister and we watched from afar as they launched anything they could get their hands on as missiles.

so sad.

and yet i was proud of the way our fans didn’t fight back on mass and mostly stayed clear of violence. for me, we still remain the best set of supporters in the world, and all of yesterdays events highlight this. the charity football tournament and the polish community day included.

however, it was so disappointing to see the anger, resentment, bigotry and hatred that the riots rose up within our own set of supporters. in some ways it was to be expected, while in other ways, it was worrying how this caused such a sinister atmosphere within the ground. and disgusting that innocent polish people in various estates across the country will be victimised as a result of their countrymen’s actions. and sad that were left talking about THIS rather than yet another incredible victory by the Green and White Army.

yesterday was a step back for tolerance and for welcoming the foreigner into our midst.