Belarus kids train with Swindon Town footballers

CHILDREN affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster were given the opportunity to train with Swindon Town footballers yesterday.

They showed off their football skills to the players at a training session at the County Ground as part of a four-week stay in the town.

"It's a very different way of life in Belarus," said Gin McGiffin, chairwoman of the Swindon Link of the Chernobyl Children Life Line.

"This is to get them back to being children - for them to just enjoy life."

The nuclear accident at Chernobyl, Ukraine, happened on April 25, 1986, when wind carried radiation north over Belarus.

Swindon Link of the Chernobyl Children Life Line organises trips to the town for affected Belarussian children who stay with local families.

The kick about happened after Mrs McGiffin was given a Pride of Swindon award at the County Ground in May when she was approached by the club who offered to set up the meeting.

Ros Fitton, who runs the Richmond Link of the Chernobyl Children Life Line and is the wife of Swindon Town chairman, Andrew Fitton, was also instrumental.

As a result of the nuclear disaster, the Belarussian children receive respite care because they are particularly susceptible to radiation-induced illnesses.

Some of the 52 children on the trip have problems with their eyes, heart and other major organs.

Mrs McGiffin, who founded the charity in 2006, said this was the first time the children had trained with players at the County Ground.

Twelve-year-old Oleg Kubiba from Bobrovich in Belarus said: "I liked playing with the professional footballers, I have never played with professional players before."

Vanja Shuvaev, nine, said: "I like very much to shoot goals - I want to play professional football."

Conditions back in Belarus are very different with no running water or electricity for many families who rely on their kitchen garden just to have enough food to get through winters where the temperature drops to minus 30 degrees. It is believed that a four-week stay in the UK eating uncontaminated food can boost the children's immune system for a further two years.

"They have been really looking forward to this," said Mrs McGiffin. "They like football but they have limited facilities to be able to play it themselves. It's a fantastic opportunity and they have never been anywhere like this before."

Midfielder Craig Easton said: "It's a great charity and it's a great way of giving the kids a bit of respite from their daily lives of extreme poverty.

"There are a few decent players and not just the boys. I think the gaffer's keeping an eye out for any future talent.

"It's great that there are families in Swindon that are reaching out to the children."

Swindon Town legend Don Rogers, who now runs the Don Rogers Sports shop in town, organised a kit for the children's school football team to be donated by Town sponsors Uhlsport and Pro Star.

"It's for a a good cause," he said. "They have got nothing, I thought it was a great idea for them to come here."



Partners: Social Network