Eurofanz is a football tournament for football fans held in Lviv, Ukraine held annually since 2007. Wales have entered a team for the last five years but this year due to one of our group celebrating a significant birthday we were invited to enter as Bala Town which we gratefully accepted.

So, on Thursday 12th July, 20 of us left Bala to meet up with the 5 lads from South Wales who were already in Lviv carrying out the media coverage for us. We joined up with the rest of the squad for a few quiet drinks and team bonding before the opening games on Friday.

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Bala would play their matches at Stadium Progres and were paired with Heerenveen of Holland and AIK of Sweden, (a team that Bala had played in the Europa league qualifers two years previously and had great rapour with their fans). Two matches each to be played, with the top two teams qualifying for the knockout stages the following day, in the hope of getting to finals day on the Sunday. Our first match would be against AIK at 15.50 on the Friday and the second one v Heeraveen at 19.10, which meant a long day. Luckily, there was a bar at the venue and, what with prices as extortionate as only 40p a pint it could spell trouble for the later kick off!!

After a quiet Thursday evening mostly sightseeing the local art galleries and churches the lads were up early(ish) Friday morning and raring to go.

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En route to the ground our European scout Ian “Ianto” Rowlands got talking to a local lad and convinced him to play for us due to our squad depth not being very big. Misha Buchatskyi was a local lad on his way to work but dropped everything to help us out and boy did we need him. We got to the ground and settled down to catch some of the other group matches and mingle with other teams and have a laugh but the draw of the bar seemed to attract most of our lads towards it so we set up camp near there to discuss formations and tactics.

Our first match versus AIK was not a good start at all. Never mind the fact we lost three players to injury inside the first 10 mins, meaning we had no subs left, but we were totally outplayed by a strong AIK team and were beaten 7-0. A bit battered and bruised we went to drown our sorrows….. erm, I mean get refreshments(!) and settled down to watch Heereveen v AIK. AIK emerged as 5-2 winners which meant a win in our final game and we would qualify for the knockout games on Saturday.

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With the three injuries we had the lads that were there supporting us stepped up and deputised superbly. Some of them hadn’t played since their school days more than 20 years ago and some also without boots!

The game started off evenly but then after 15 minutes a moment of history – the ball was played through to 54 year old Martin “Schneider” Roberts who beat his man and deftly lifted the ball over the keeper and into the net and scored the first ever goal for Bala town and Wales at the competition to spark wild celebrations! The goal gave us all much needed confidence and then it was the turn of the Merthyr Messi. Thomas Bowen stole the show scoring twice before half time then twice more after the break helped by Ianto with three assists to help the team to an unbelievable 5-0 WIN that meant we qualified for the knockout stage and our opponents would be Newcastle!

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After a heavy night celebrating, we dragged our stiff battered and bruised bodies out of bed ready for the big match. With so many injuries we needed reinforcements and Misha called a couple of his friends up Vitaly Savchuk and Bohdan Mykolaichuk to help. Singing the National Anthem before the game was an emotional moment and one we were all very proud of, certainly something i will never personally forget. The match started but disaster struck after 2 minutes of the game as our inspirational centre half, Ianto pulled his hamstring and was forced off. We gave a good account of ourselves nonetheless, hitting the bar twice when the game was goalless but with a deflated squad we  unfortunately were beaten 4-0 in the end by the stronger team, bringing an end to our tournament.

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We hung around and watched the French team beat Newcastle 4-0 in the next match before going back to the hotel to dress up in fancy dress and hit the town and meet up with the Heeraveen lads that we made good friends with and drink the night away. On the Sunday in the finals day Bala town were awarded the best fans award for our efforts which was a nice touch from the organisers. Were hoping to return in 2019 after having such an amazing time.

The lads that were in Lviv 2018: Keith Humphreys, Ian Rowlands, Alun Llwyd Jones, Colin Roberts, Emlyn Jones, Martin Roberts, Sion Parry, Robin Jones, Guto Evans, Gareth Davies, Alun Jones, Keith Crump, Phillip Owen, Aled Williams, Richard Jones, Glenydd Thomas, Sion Griffiths, Huw Roberts, John Roberts, Kyle Jones, Perry Wyn, Dave O’Gorman, Jordan Ratcliffe, Stuart Bowen, Thomas Bowen, Misha Buchatskyi, Vitaly Savchuk, Bohdan Mykolaichuk.

Emlyn Jones

Visit Eurofanz to read more about the tournament

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