Release Date: 27/09/2012
ON Tuesday 11 September, the avid ‘Green and White Army’ gathered in Windsor Park for the World Cup Qualifier against Luxembourg, hopeful and anxious that our home team would deliver.
While The Kop and other stands were almost filled to capacity, the Railway Stand was host to a few community organisations who had benefitted from the distribution of complimentary tickets from the Irish Football Association’s Community Relations Department.
For many of these young people, this visit to Windsor Park was their first, and was anticipated with excitement and some anxiety as attendance at Northern Ireland matches was not the norm for their community. Despite this, they filed into the Railway Stand for the game, ponchos and bags of sweets at the ready.
While the match may not have been as successful as the home crowd would have liked, the same cannot be said for the experiences described by the groups.
The Community Relations Department at the Irish FA distributed over 200 complimentary tickets to several different organisations across Northern Ireland.
Claire Adams, from the Football for All team in Community Relations, said: “We love being able to provide this opportunity for groups from around Northern Ireland. It gives us a unique opportunity to help positive perceptions to be developed about Northern Ireland football, as well as the chance for young people to experience the excitement of supporting the home team.”
Claire also had the chance to chat to Gary Lightbody, the lead singer from local band Snow Patrol, who was interested in the cross community nature of the groups invited, and felt it was important for young people in Northern Ireland to experience the matches as a positive event.
The groups included Rosario Youth Club from the Ormeau Road. Their Under 12’s team had never been to a Northern Ireland game before, and really enjoyed the match and the atmosphere of the stadium, joining in with the ‘Green and White Army’ chants.
Also experiencing their first Northern Ireland game were the Tullycarnet Under 8’s, who wrapped up warm for the occasion, but enjoyed celebrating the home goal with the other spectators, and serenaded their bus driver on the way home with new songs and chants they had picked up.
The Northern Ireland Community for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS) also benefitted from the tickets provided by the Community Relations Department, with 10 members of the organisation attending the match. As some had never previously experienced a match, they were excited at the opportunity to attend, and really enjoyed the experience.
Crusaders Community Development Group also received complimentary tickets for the Northern Ireland v Luxembourg World Cup Qualifier, and stood out well in the Railway Stand in their black and red tracksuits. They were very enthusiastic in their support for the home team, and would love to go another match in the future.
The Greater Village Regeneration Trust and Belfast Community Sports Development Network also benefitted from complimentary tickets from the Irish FA’s Community Relations Department. All groups joined together in the Railway Stand to show their support for the Northern Ireland team, cheering and chanting along with the rest of Windsor Park.
Teenage Kickz, an organisation from Derry ~ Londonderry , made the lengthy trip down to Windsor Park on Tuesday 11 September after receiving tickets from the Community Relations Department. Twenty members of the group took their seats in the Railway Stand, unsure what to expect as none of them had experienced a Northern Ireland game before.
Sarah Keys, the Football for All Development Officer based in the North West, was speaking to the leader of the group, Peter Hutton, who gave very positive feedback.
Despite the disappointing score board at the end of the match, the young people and their leaders reported that they had an amazing time at the match, and really enjoyed the atmosphere of the stadium. The younger members of the group had expressed some anxiety before the game, not knowing what to expect, however they soon forgot about their worries as the enthusiastic and supportive crowd provided an atmosphere of excitement.
Rosario Under 12’s Team
The Northern Ireland Community for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS).
Crusaders Community Development
The Greater Village Regeneration Trust.
Belfast Community Sports Development Network
Tullycarnet Under 8’s
Claire Adams, Football for All staff & Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody.
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