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Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Thursday, 20 August 2009 17:46 UK

Road to SA - Poland

Despite a massive change in travel plans forced on the NI fans they still set out for the new match venue in Chorzow, a seven hour drive south of the original city of Szczecin, in northern Poland, for Northern Ireland's vital group three clash. We followed some of the hardy souls making the pilgrimage by plane, train and automobile....and a fair few buses.

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Gary McAllister, Press Officer for the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs, took a video diary of his 24 hour round trip - from Berlin to Chorzow and back - for the Poland V NI World Cup qualifier.

As usual, the Road to South Africa web team were among the travelling fans and for this trip we certainly put in the miles.

From Belfast it was a coach trip to Dublin Airport for a plane bound for Berlin. Then a quick train ride over to Szczecin in northern Poland to visit the stadium where the game was to be played - the Stadion Florian Kryger.

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We caught up with NI fans who based themselves in Berlin ahead of the Poland v NI World Cup Qualifier, 500 miles away in Chorzow.

Then another, slightly longer, train journey (8 hours) to Katowice and finally on by bus to the match in Chorzow on Saturday (5th September).

Originally a mass gathering of GAWA was to adorn the streets of Berlin as private buses had been booked to take the fans the short, two-hour journey across the border to Szczecin.

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Northern Ireland fans head to the original venue in Szczecin in northern Poland.

However, after safety improvements at the original stadium, which were to be finished in time for the 5th September kick off, failed to materialise, FIFA ruled that a venue switch was necessary...and what a switch ....almost 700 kms south.

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We followed a hardy group of NI fans on an eight hour train journey from Szczecin in northern Poland to Chorzow in the south.

Some fans had already booked direct flights to Szczecin and other cities in northern Europe, along with the cost of hotels and transport bookings, their wallet's were instantly lighter.

This left our fans with stark choices - bin their plans and start again, face a 14 hour round trip from Berlin or don't travel. Thanks to a great deal of work behind the scenes from the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs, the IFA and the PSNI, a large number of fans chose to amend their plans and get to the new venue via various routes.

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Fans enjoy a trouble-free build-up to Northern Ireland match in Poland

The IFA subsidised special buses which took around 200 fans into Chorzow on match day and returned to Berlin for flights home to the UK.

Further fans made their way to the match from Krakow, Katowice and beyond, bringing the estimated numbers of the Green & White Army in the Stadion Slaski stadium to nearly 1000.

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The NI fans arrive in Chorzow in southern Poland and find the Slaski Stadium a buzz of red and white...plus a few robocops.

Despite some unnecessary rumours and newspaper reports about possible trouble off the pitch, adding to an already tense game, decent football fans, on both sides, made the trip a memorable one for the right reasons.

NI fans
Bangor NISC member Johnny Ferris poses for a snap with one of the bosses from the Polish Hooligan Response Team and his son as the GAWA prove their friendly image once again.

SOME OF YOUR COMMENTS

"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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see also
Pick your N Ireland XI
06 Jun 07 |  Internationals
Bratislava Pics
24 Sep 08 |  Photo Galleries
Slovenia photos
24 Oct 08 |  Football
Worthington praises solid display
20 Aug 08 |  Internationals
Scotland 0-0 Northern Ireland
20 Aug 08 |  Internationals
N Ireland secure Hungary friendly
22 Jul 08 |  Internationals
Worthington in Euro 2008 mission
11 Jun 08 |  Internationals
Worthington happy with NI group
25 Nov 07 |  Internationals


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