Belfast Telegraph

How Northern Ireland fans can prove they're great ambassadors against Republic, writes supporters chief

The Irish FA yesterday announced Northern Ireland will play a friendly against the Republic at the Aviva Stadium on November 15. Seven years ago, the Carling Nations Cup competition in Dublin was marred by reports of sectarian chanting. Here, Chairman of the Amalgamation of NI Supporters’ Clubs, Gary McAllister writes why NI fans will only enhance their excellent reputation when they travel south this time

By Gary McAllister

We've got to treat this match like any other away game. From our point of view as a supporters' organisation, we have to work closely with the IFA and the police for all away matches, and we'll be doing the same with this game.

Whether any problems arise remains to be seen. I have a lot of contacts within the IFA who want to speak to us and ensure the police are also in on that conversation.

We would have that process for every game, so those conversations are nothing out of the ordinary.

But we have to hear how the game will be approached, especially from a ticketing point of view, as it's a game lots of people will want to attend.

We've a hard-earned reputation for being well behaved and being good ambassadors for our country.

As Northern Ireland fans, we have made friends for Northern Ireland everywhere we've been, and this should be no different.

People have to remember it's a football match, but our message to people is very clear: you go along as a fan and you support our team.

It's important people remember that, no matter who we play. It's a derby match, and people will want to get one over on the Republic, but it's a football match.

We weren't drawn to play the Republic in the Nations League, so we're now playing a friendly game.

Michael O'Neill has given his reasons why he thinks it's a good fixture and the game has been arranged, so we'll support our team like we always do in any other game and hope for a win.

I understand the friendly date is now a mandatory date on which a game must be played as demanded by Uefa.

Since most of the other countries are playing Nations League games of their own, there were only a small number of options to choose from. I think there were only three or four countries we could have played and most of them would have involved considerable travel.

The team have to travel back for the important game against Austria, which is the following Sunday, so the options were limited. The focus will be on that game, which is much more important.

Our message is very clear, as it is for every away game - we go as fans to support our team.

Our reputation is of being well behaved fans, of being good ambassadors for our country, and I'm confident that will still be the case after the game on November 15 against the Republic of Ireland. We're looking forward to the game in Dublin.

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