Polish groups in Northern Ireland have appealed for Northern Ireland football fans to show “sportsmanship and camaraderie” after sinister death threat graffiti appeared on a Belfast wall targeting Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc.
The Northern Ireland Supporters Club chairman has mirrored the call as Northern Ireland and Poland prepare to play a vital World Cup qualifier tomorrow evening at Windsor Park.
‘Boruc RIP’ was emblazoned on a wall at Sandy Row and there are fears that the Poland goalkeeper could be given a hostile reception during Saturday’s match.
Boruc has long been a controversial figure for Rangers fans. In August 2006, he made religious signs during the Old Firm game. And in April 2008, he donned a T-shirt thrown from the Parkhead crowd, bearing an image of Pope John-Paul II and the message ‘God Bless The Pope’.
Maciek Bator, a director of the Polish Association in Belfast asked fans “to look beyond club football” and for both sets of supporters to back their team “respect one another and enjoy the night”.
Mr Bator added: “There is nothing the Polish residents in Northern Ireland want more than to integrate with the indigenous community, and the match is an ideal opportunity to enjoy an important occasion together. We love our football, as do the Northern Ireland fans. We know that Boruc was silly in some of his antics in matches against Rangers, but we do not want that to spill over and spoil this great occasion. We want the fans to be positive and sporting in their approach. We know that the graffiti is the work of a few and that most Northern Ireland fans will also view it as such.”
Gary McAllister, chairman of the Amalgamation of NI Supporters Clubs, said: “The graffiti should not have happened, and let’s concentrate on football and cheer on our team and forget about side issues.
“Northern Ireland is faced with two vital matches — against Poland on Saturday night and Slovenia on Wednesday — and they are must-win games if they are to qualify for South Africa. That’s all that matters.”
Northern Ireland are second in the Group Three table on seven points, behind Slovakia who have nine. Poland are third and Slovenia are fifth, both also on seven points, but have played just four games each, one fewer than Northern Ireland.
A spokesman for the Sandy Row Rangers Supporters Club dismissed the graffiti as “probably the work of kids — the height of nonsense, to be disregarded”.
He added: “I see they at least spelt Boruc’s name correctly, so I suppose that’s progress!”