Chernobyl children to get taste of rugby league

Six Chernobyl children, who are living in Oldham with host families for a month, will get their first taste of rugby league in Oldham’s Betfred League 1 home game against Keighley Cougars on Sunday.

Aged between nine and 11, the three boys and three girls, and their host families, will be guests of the Oldham club.

The children, from Belarus, will be Oldham flag bearers and will also take part in a half-time challenge in which they will try to hit the crossbar when kicking a ball from the 20-metre line.

The Oldham branch of Chernobyl Childrens’ Lifeline, meanwhile, will ask fans to contribute to a bucket collection.

Funds raised will go towards a recuperation programme in which children from Belarus and Northern Ukraine, who still suffer the effects of low-level radiation from the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986, come to Britain for respite and stay for a month at a time with host families.

Formed 30 years ago by Theresa Novotny, who is still active as the local leader, the Oldham Link provides host families and raises funds for air fares, visas, clothing, trips and transport.

Mark Albiston of Lees, a local host, said: “My wife and I don’t speak Russian and the children don’t speak English, but we learn to understand each other.

“They’re great kids, very under-privileged and in need of help, for which they are extremely grateful.

“Going to a rugby league match, indeed going to any sporting event, will be a new experience for them and they’ll love it, especially carrying the flag out on to the pitch.

“A big thank-you to Oldham for thinking about us and inviting us to the game.”

Club chairman Chris Hamilton said: “The people who work hard for these children do a great job and deserve our support. Oldham RLFC is pleased to help.”

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