Zenica here we come

 Well, 725 fans are slowly making their way to Zenica – aka Port Talbot in the mountains.

The host city for what could be the most wildly celebrated day in Welsh football history is quite a contrast to the breathtaking majesty of Sarajevo.

En route to the fourth-largest city in Bosnia, home of 115,000 people, the beauty of the mountains jumps out at you. Low-lying shrubbery is a kaleidoscope of crimsons, furious orange and green-yellows as the treeless slopes resemble coral reefs.

The steel plant towards the top of Zenica (pronounced ‘Zenitsa’) brings you up short. It features a constant burning flame as the Indian-owned factory churns out fumes and steel.

Unlike Port Talbot, there’s no mild pong.

Stray (though not wild) dogs live on the street next to the bus and train station.

A rather sinister looking mural on a wall near the station marks  well – I don’t know.

The ground is four minutes’ walk from the station. Its four floodlights look like huge frying pan flippers.

And there’s a distinctly 80s era feel to the arena. All mod cons appear to have been spared here though obviously Bosnia has greater concerns to worry about in the recent past.

 

 It’s remiscent of a Third Division side’s ground, Oldham say.

And so far no indication that a major football match is imminent – Bosnia are still in striking distance of third place in our group and a possible play-off route to Euro 2016. But no evidence of a panting-hot desperation for the game or a screaming fanfare as residents take up the chance to witness Gareth Bale in the flesh. 

Stadion Bilino Polje holds about 14,000 and entry was barred earlier today – probably because Wales were training there.

The Welsh hack pack were in attendance and the most notable face present was international radio superstar Rob Phillips who was mobbed by hordes of fans (only kidding, Rob).

The stadium has shops built into its ground floor and is a great place to buy a carpet on your way to the match.

 On the main entrance side of the ground, there’s a small cafe/bar which goes by the name of Cafe Troll.


Is it a sign that there will be no let-up in the fortunes of the  blighted, benighted, always-thwarted Wales football side? Are we about to get the trolling of our lives? Yet another one.

Ever since the 6-1 defeat in Serbia in 2012 I can’t bring myself to build up hopes for a positive outcome – so I’ve travelled fully expecting a reverse. That’s what too many Wales games does for you.

On a more positive note, the Welsh fans’ charity Gol have notched up another success – driving this 150 quid banger all the way here.

It will end up in Belgrade, Serbia, on Sunday where it will be handed to a local charity for the underprivileged.


One of the four occupants – Kevin Davies – reports few glitches apart from a nasty looking red warning light going on in Split.

It’s the third long drive by Welsh fans. There was a motorcade to Baku in 2009 and some fans did a Gol drive to Macedonia. Kev says: “The family we handed the vehicle over to sold our car for scrap and bought a cow with the proceeds.”

Let’s hope the fans’ game on an artificial pitch in Sarajevo, next to the Zeljeznicar stadium is no omen at all.

A useful Wales fans’ side – we can’t always say that on our foreign trips – succumbed 6-1 to some handy Bosnians.

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