At 6.45am yesterday morning, a merry bunch of ex-pats sat down to watch the Green and White Army in Sydney, Australia.
Shortly before 9am, most were heading to their work, cursing the Romanian referee who awarded a dubious penalty which gave Switzerland a 1-0 win at Windsor Park.
One of the fans flying the flag ‘down under’ was Glenn Fryers, who is originally from Portadown.
He told the News Letter: “It will be a big ask to overturn the 1-0 defeat by Switzerland but no means impossible.
“The game was on at 6.45am here which made it difficult for a lot of guys to attend but we still had a good turn out, one or two even managed a sneaky pint before heading into work.
“We all agreed that the refereeing decision was harsh but what can you do? We just have to dust ourselves down, get up and get on with it.
“If we make it to Russia it would be fantastic, I’d certainly love to be carrying the Sydney NISC flag in Russia. If we don’t it’s certainly not the end of the world as it’s been a great few years to be a Northern Ireland fan.”
The Sydney NISC celebrates its 10th anniversary today having been set up by Comber man Alex McClements. The club have a get-together planned for tonight and then on Monday morning they will be setting their alarm clocks for 4am to watch the second leg.
Glenn commented: “Since the club started, founding member Andy Berryman has been instrumental in keeping it going as well as helping and encouraging Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane to start supporters’ clubs as well.
“In the last few years we have a yearly get-together in one of the cities. We hosted the first one, Brisbane last year, the Perth get-together is actually in two weeks and Melbourne will be hosting next year.
“Social media has played its part in helping the growth and there were over 60 folk who made the trip to France from Australia alone. We try and meet up as often as possible whether it be for a BBQ or attending an A league (Australia’s top soccer league) game or other sporting events.
“One of the members actually has the ‘Belfast Bar’ in his house in Penrith. The get-togethers there are fantastic. On the last one we managed to raise a good bit of money for charity.”
Last year the club’s honorary president Robert Craig – a former Glentoran striker – passed away from a rare illness called Ataxia.
In his memory, the club arranged an Irish League-themed five-a-side competition this year which included a ‘Big Two’ derby between Glentoran and Linfield.
The tournament was won by Coleraine, perhaps an omen for this year’s Irish League.
Glenn said: “The supporters’ club is a great thing to be a part of. We’ve folk as young as 20 and older guys in their sixties and seventies, some who haven’t been home in over 30 years. We always look out for one another.
“For anyone from Northern Ireland thinking about making the move to Australia you will certainly find it easy making a few friends with the supporters’ clubs in the different cities.”