Arsenal in Minsk - read a loyal travelling fan's account of a warm Belarus welcome
PUBLISHED: 14:53 29 September 2017
Arsenal's 4-2 win in Belarus against BATE Borisov in Europa League Group H was memorable for lots of reasons, not least because Olivier Giroud hit his 100th goal for the club.
But for the loyal 700 or so Gunners fans who made the long trip to Eastern Europe the trip was as notable for the off-field fun they had and the new friends they made.
English football fans who travel abroad following their teams may still be tarred with the old cliches but Arsenal fans always bring credit on their club when they peacefully represent their colours during continental adventures.
Read the experience of one particular fan, Sean Jeffreys and his unforgettable trip to Belarus.
“It’s dark o’clock and our journey begins to Belaru with four of us well travelled Gooners on route to Stansted Wetherspoons.
After a tight transfer time from Modlin to Chopin airports in Poland with minutes to spare we arrived at our departure gate for Minsk, the £150.00 return trip was happening.
Arsenal Belarus kindly put on a great welcome event which at cheap beer prices we duly obliged in true Gooner style, as the evening progressed more merriment ensued in various stages of inebriation.
Match day arrived with our standard away trip hangover. We started the day with a bit of culture sucking in a few sights including Victory Square and Lenin Square.
By midday we were ready for a beer. Following a recommendation we headed to ‘Malt & Hops’ bar then onto ‘Coyote bar’ for another event organised by Arsenal Belarus.
The opportunity to communicate with some truly fanatical fans from far away places was a challenge – but with some well known chants we made some new Facebook friends, plenty of group selfie’s and an exchange of match day experiences.
After the win we went to the Hilton hotel bar and enjoyed more than a couple of beers with fellow travelling fans we know from the UK, exchanging our post-match analysis then ending up with the rendition of some Highbury chants.
There was a nice touch when I saw a fan who caught Per Mertescaker’s shirt after the final whistle. He then gave it to a lucky female Arsenal Belarus fan stood behind him.
It was unquestionably a brilliant gesture and credit to our superb travelling fan base.
The welcome by the people of Belarus and Minsk was great. From the girl who ordered us a taxi on her mobile when we first arrived, to the fan from China who wanted selifes of a friend of ours, to the Russian fans who tried to destroy me with vodka everyone was fantastic.
It was great to see Belarus fans who mobbed my flag once it was up in the Coyote bar as well as the lady on the Metro who guided us to the bus stop for our journey home.
We have to say a big thank you to Artemiy Nikitenko and Arsenal Belarus for making us so welcome, those responsible at Arsenal Football Club and the Belarus Police for ensuring the safe travel to and from the Borisov arena – all of who contributed to making it such a special trip.
Next stop Belgrade, with the usual suspects – too many to mention but you know who you are...
Up the Gunners.”