The Northern Ireland supporters achieved what their senior counterparts could not with a fine 2-0 victory over a Romanian supporters select XI at Greenisland on Saturday afternoon.
Alan Ferris’ men were two goals up at the interval thanks to Allan Coates and Neil Milligan, and produced a commanding second-half performance to secure the result.
The traditional fixture, which sees Northern Ireland fans play home and away against every team in the group, builds lasting relationships and raises money for charity. An impressive £326 was raised for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Saturday’s matchday squad consisted of Romanians, who are living in Northern Ireland, and representatives from World United FC.
In front of the Greenisland FC clubhouse, in which the international shirts of their famed youth system’s graduates proudly hang, spectators enjoyed a barbecue in the perfect weather conditions.
The first goal arrived on six minutes when home striker Alan Burges turned his marker on the edge of the box to draw the foul. Coates stepped up and blasted a dipping free-kick over the goalkeeper and in off the underside of the bar.
Milligan doubled his side’s lead on 22 minutes when he embarked on a mazy dribble, easily evading the desperate Romanian attempts to tackle him before shooting into the far corner.
After the final whistle, the visitors were presented with commemorative medals and posed with a Romanian flag. Then Northern Ireland, with ‘We’re not Brazil’ blaring from the public address speakers, collected the winners’ medals and lifted a World Cup replica trophy!
Ferris reflected: “It is a custom for Northern Ireland fans to have matches home and away, with the aim of building friendships and having fun within football. Over the last 15 years, Northern Ireland fans have raised tens of thousands for charities both at home and abroad.
“We were delighted by the turnout of the Romanian select team and the charity collection was very pleasing.”
Romanian captain, Romeo Vintila, who hails from Bucharest but now lives in Larne, said: “It was a very good day. We didn’t expect such a good game but we really enjoyed it and the weather was great. Northern Ireland fans are very friendly and very kind; they’re dead on.”
He added: “We are looking forward to another game in the future. Hopefully there is a better result!”