Sport

Chris Gunter goes viral in Belarus over his ‘support’ for freedom movement

07 Sep 2021 3 minutes Read
The flag of the Belarusian freedom movement pictured / Chris Gunter (Credit: Creative Commons)

David Owens

Record Wales caps holder Chris Gunter has long been a fans’ hero, a chin up inspiration who has lived his dream by playing for the national side.

However, after the hard fought win against Belarus on the weekend, he has unexpectedly become something of a cult hero among supporters of the Belarusian freedom movement.

The World Cup qualifier between the two sides was played behind closed doors at a neutral venue in Kazan, Russia, as teams from the UK and the EU are unable to fly into Belarus because of sanctions against their government.

Those who oppose Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko picked up on the fact that Gunter was wearing a red and white wristband that bore a striking resemblance to the former flag of Belarus, which has been adopted by the Belarusian freedom movement in their ongoing protests against Lukashenko.

Belarusian sports news service Tribunaby highlighted the fact Gunter was wearing a wristband that resembled the former Belarus flag on its Instagram page posting the message: ‘Greetings from Wales defender Chris Gunter for all Belarusians’, alongside a close up image of his wristband.

The Instagram post quickly gained traction online sparking hundreds of messages of support, and thousands of likes for the Wales international.

Political gestures

However, as much as those campaigning for a democratic Belarus would love to see the inspirational Welshman as a Belarusian freedom fighter, the truth is somewhat different.

The fact is – Gunter has been wearing that same red and white wristband for years.

As our picture (from Wales’ World Cup 2018 qualifier against Austria) shows he’s never without it during international games, which was also pointed out by many Welsh fans on social media.

Chris Gunter pictured wearing his red and white wristband during the October 2016 World Cup qualifier against Austria (Credit: “File:AUT vs. WAL 2016-10-06 (112).jpg” by Steindy (talk) 16:10, 10 November 2016 (UTC) is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Anyway, it’s unlikely the Welshman would have attempted such a stunt as it’s a decree by FIFA that international players are forbidden from making political gestures.

Nevertheless, Belarus fans were still keen to thank him for his ‘gesture’, despite Gunter no doubt being bemused by the whole thing.

One supporter summing up many Belarusians feelings posted on Instagram: ‘@chrisgunter2 even though you didn’t mean it, you made many Belarusians happy today, because of your wristband!’

It appears that Gunter’s global appeal knows no bounds. As well as being loved by the Red Wall, he also has how own dedicated fan club in China, which came to light when Wales travelled to the Far East to play in the China Cup in 2018.

There he met a group of super fans, one of which handed him a painting of his famous ‘chin up’ pose.

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