As Fabio Borini prepares to make his first competitive appearance as a Liverpool player, our new forward has explained why the trip to Gomel holds extra emotional significance for him.
The Reds touched down in Belarus on Wednesday evening ahead of tonight’s Europa League third round qualifier at the Central Stadion.
FC Gomel may be relative unknowns for many, but Borini is well aware of the area having been involved in charity work with youngsters from the region during his childhood.
Situated approximately 80 miles from Chernobyl, Gomel was contaminated with radioactive debris following the nuclear power plant disaster in 1986.
“I’ve got a big connection with Gomel,” Borini revealed to Liverpoolfc.com. “When I was younger, my family would take children from a village near Gomel to Italy because when the Chernobyl disaster happened, a lot of nuclear radiation went over the area.
“The children needed to breathe good air and get medical checks to make sure everything was fine.
“We helped them by taking them for one month a year in the summer so we could do all of these things for them and let them see Italy.
“I actually have a tattoo that is my name written in Russian to remember this. “
Borini has remained in contact with some of the Gomel youngsters he became friends with – and even predicted Liverpool would be drawn against the Belarusian club as he was putting the finishing touches on his move to Anfield.
“Well before the draw was made, I met the teacher of the class before coming to Liverpool and I said, ‘Gomel are in the Europa League…we’ll probably meet them.’ It was a little bit of a casual prediction.
“I actually got a lot of tickets for a class I used to spend time with in Italy when I was younger, so I will be very happy to see them at the stadium.
“I don’t think they’ve ever been to a stadium for a proper game – and I think they will have an Italian flag with them.”
On the field, Borini will be taking nothing for granted – even though Liverpool are heavy favourites to progress into the Europa League proper.
He said: “It will be a tough test because when you don’t know opponents it can be a little bit more difficult because you go against unknown players that you’ve never seen before.
“You just need to do your job properly and think about yourself. We can’t let them play or let the game pass by – we need to make the game.”
On a personal level, Borini is hoping to make the most of any chance he may be handed by Brendan Rodgers in the two-legged tie.
The Italy international added: “It means a lot because I’ve only played in Europe once when I was at Chelsea in the Champions League.
“For this season, to be in the Europa League, to go through this round and the rounds afterwards I think will be good because I will get more experience. It will be great to be seen by the people and try to show what I can do.”