The dream of competing at World Cup 2010 in South Africa for Northern Ireland took a hit in Slovakia but morale was given a major boost with a spirited performance against the Czech Republic at Windsor Park. Next stop for the GAWA was Slovenia...
Match Day Montage - Slovenia
Another warm greeting for the NI fans as the Slovenia autumn basked in bright sunshine with temperatures in the high teens.
We started our trip in the west of the country in the lakeside location of Bled, where we dropped in on the Belfast owners of the George Best Backpackers bar and bumped into a member of the 1st Far East NISC, based in Hong Kong.
In the west of Slovenia in the beautiful lakeside town of Bled a wee slice of Northern Ireland hospitality is keeping the locals happy at the George Best backpackers bar.
The South of England NISC made the pilgrimage to the Bestie pub from where they set off in a Green and White "Navy" fashion as they went white water rafting. Green wigs and GAWA songs shocked the usually tranquil forests of western Slovenia.
A pair of likely lads from the South of England Northern Ireland Supporters Club teamed up with another couple of Ulster expats to go white water rafting in Bled, Slovenia
Then it was off to the capital, Ljubljana, to watch a friendly match between the NI fans and Slovenia supporters. They even charged an entrance fee and asked the mayor along! In a nip and tuck game the honours and pride were shared as the match ended 1-1.
NI Fans took on Slovenia Fans in a gutsy performance in Ljubljana.
And finally we arrived in Maribor, ski town, and venue for the main event. After a valiant fight the boys in green went down to two late sucker punches losing 2-0. The road to South Africa is most definitely an uphill one for Nigel Worthington's men.
Standing next to a globe shaped war memorial in Maribor town centre we found former Fermanagh resident Barry Hetherington. He now plies his trade in India, but that doesn't stop him travelling like Michael Palin to get to NI games. He explains his mammoth trip - making full use of the war memorial as a prop - and talks about his love for the unique atmosphere the NI fans bring to away matches.
Former Fermanagh resident Barry Hetherington now plies his trade in India, but that doesn't stop him travelling like Michael Palin to get to NI games.
"That Jonny Blair gets about a bit... (rafting video) you try living with him for a year and he's like that ALL THE TIME. I was graced with the pleasure of interviewing him for an article too, and some of the things he came out with of his exploits with SOENISC can't be mentioned here! That flag also goes with him EVERYWHERE, he's never seen without it and has got into many adventures with it." Lewis Clarke, Bournemouth.
"I was number 9 hopeful Healy captain (fans match video), great work from the 2 guys from the BBC and they did a great job with the finished article, great job." Alan Burgess, Larne.
"Off to Bratislava on the train. After 2 years of watching most Nor'n Ir'n games as a lone fan in a smokey sports bar in Prague, I can't wait to see Sir David and the boys in the flesh once again." Phil Alexander, Prague.
"I've got my NI shirt and I'll be watching online from the far side of the world. Go-on the boys. Make us proud." Jonathan Scott, New Zealand
" Being a Norn Iron supporter has never been sweeter these last few years! May I again be in Windsor for many more memories..BRING ON THE CZECHS!!! Jay Wallace, Greyabbey.
" Brilliant! I am an Englishman living in the USA. What a great example of how to support your team and Country!! You done yourselves proud! If only the idiot English fans could take your lead!! Graham Sharpe, Miami, USA.
"Our club, Whitehouse NI Supporters Section, have planned away trips to Slovenia and San Marino. The club has been going for 26 years and at its height had 30 members and have seen the highs and lows. Its important to realise that when going to support our wee country you should never expect to win but you do expect a performance . George Lunn.
In the taxi on our way to Las Palmas for the final match of the Euro campaign, the taxi driver phoned his sister to let her hear our chants on the 60 minute drive! His driving had been dodgy enough to begin with...Joel, Belfast.
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