The upcoming World Cup play off between Northern Ireland and Switzerland is a make or break opportunity for the Green and White Army... and it also has the potential to spark a family feud.
South Down MLA Jim Wells will be taking his usual seat in Windsor Park for the first leg on November 9, accompanied to the match by his ‘lucky mascot’ – his son-in-law Tom Bach, who will find himself in a bit of a quandary on the night.
Tom, who hails from Steffisburg in Switzerland, has become an adopted Ulsterman, after marrying Jim’s daughter Sharon and moving to Northern Ireland. The pair met in Australia in 2012.
Jim said: “I always made it clear that any future husband would only be good enough for my daughter if he had the wisdom of Solomon, the brains of Einstein, the wealth of Rockefeller, and the Looks of Tom Cruise. When I first met Tom, I thought to myself ‘three out of four wasn’t bad’.”
He continued: “Tom is now a very popular member of the Wells family especially with my grandsons who really like their ‘Uncle Thomas’.
“Tom has many attributes but one major fault – he supports the wrong team – Switzerland.”
Jim said his son-in-law has proven to be a good luck charm: “I have been working on him for several years by taking him to Windsor Park to watch ‘Our Wee Country’ – indeed he has never seen us lose. He also wears with pride the Northern Ireland top I bought him.”
Jim said: “He will be with me at Windsor next Thursday night and I hope he won’t be too annoyed if Kyle Lafferty knocks in a hat trick.”
Tom revealed how he will be approaching the first leg of the World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park. “I usually wear a Northern Ireland shirt to the matches I go to with Jim, but this time I won’t,” he said.
The 27-year-old who is doing a PhD in Aerospace Engineering at Queen’s University, continued: “Any other occasion I would be for Northern Ireland. I really enjoy going to see them play with Jim and I’m happy when they win.
“But I can’t deny where I’m from and I will be supporting my country for these games.
“It will be good and a fun event, we’ll see how it turns out.”
Of his move from Switzerland to the Province, Tom said: “I’m liking it here in Northern Ireland. If I didn’t like it I wouldn’t be here.
“I really like the north coast and the Mournes and so on and Belfast is handy for work.”
Tom is not the first fan of another nation that Jim has introduced to Windsor Park.
In September he brought west Belfast man and Republic of Ireland fan Ciaran Weir to the Czech Republic game after he had claimed Windsor Park was a place where Catholics were not welcome.