“I’ve got a big connection with Gomel,” Borini revealed to Liverpoolfc.com as Liverpool start their season in Belarus, playing their first match in this season’s Europa League earlier today. Borini made his competitive debut for the Reds this afternoon in a 1-0 win against the Belarussians, but for Borini the game was about much more than himself.
“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.”
He is still in contact with those youngsters and predicted that Liverpool would face Gomel whilst he was completing his move to Anfield, saying: “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.”
The big hopes for the young Italian are seemingly comparable to his and his family’s big heart, but Borini insists he wouldn’t let outside issues affect him in the 1-0 win. Borini played the whole 90 minutes and with the second leg ahead, he was grateful to Rodgers for the chance.
“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.”
On Thursday evening, Stewart Downing grabbed the only goal of the encounter, which ended up a lot closer than Liverpool would have expected as they fielded a strong side including Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel. Andy Carroll was left out of the encounter, fuelling further speculation of his completing a loan move to West Ham. Lucas Leiva also took steps forward to recovery by making a substitute appearance, replacing England international Jordan Henderson in the second half.
Elsewhere, Russian big spenders Anzhi Makhachkala won their first leg against Vitesse Arnhem 2-0 and Cypriots APOEL Nicosia came out 2-1 victors over Aalesunds FK, but there were shocks with Swiss side Young Boys and Legia Warsaw both going behind in their first leg ties.