Sectarianism gets the red card at Seaview

23rd August 2012

SLIG has now completed it's third annual Interface Soccer Seven's Tournamant.

On Tuesday 14th August, more than 150 girls and boys from interface areas across Belfast came together for a soccer sevens tournament at Seaview Stadium in North Belfast.

Lenadoon and Shankill

The event was organised by SLIG's Neil McKee, and funded by the Housing Executive’s Community Cohesion Unit and the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council.

SLIG believes that sport has an important role to play in breaking down sectarian barriers. This year's Soccer Tournament follows on from last year's very succesful tournament and was aimed at cultivating and sustaining positive relations at a local level right across the city. So, as well as competing on a ‘round robin’ and knockout basis, the children also attended Good Relations Workshops focusing on the ‘similarities and differences’ between their communities.

Neil tells us:

“Real progress is being made day in day out in interface areas across the city, so today is all about building on the positive relationships that already exist as well as forging new ones.

We highlight the similarities and differences that exist between interface communities, dispel myths and misconceptions and try to break down some of the barriers that are synonymous with a segregated society.”

Speaking on the day, Jennifer Hawthorne, Head of the Housing Executive’s Community Cohesion Unit said:

“The Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey highlighted that over 80% of people aspire to live in a mixed neighbourhood, so it is essential that the development of positive relations at a local level, regardless of religion or ethnic background, is at the heart of what we do as an organisation.

That is why projects like this are so important to us. Not only are they fun but they give the children an opportunity to see at first hand what it would be like living in a shared community. And, if we uncover the next Jonny Evans or Chris Brunt along the way that would be a bonus!”

Bebhinn McKinley, Policy Officer with NI Community Relations Council stated:

“CRC have been working through the Interface Working Group and Interface Community Partners for several years to create the conditions to transform and regenerate interface areas. The environment has changed significantly recently and we have seen substantial progress. Through this project SLIG have again demonstrated their commitment to improving relationships and supporting young people in interface areas.”

Neil McKee with NIHE's Jennifer Hawthorne and Gerry Flynn

Immaculata and Suffolk

Tony McCusker, Chair of NI Community Relations Council added:

“CRC is pleased to support this initiative and the work to build better relationships between communities, particularly involving young people.”

Teams competing on the day came from Lenadoon, Suffolk, Sandy Row, Lower Falls, Shankill, Waterworks, Lower Ormeau and Inner East Belfast. The Under 13s boys winners were Immaculata with Lenadoon runners up. Waterworks girls won the Under 16s girls competition beating Lenadoon girls in the final and the Under 16s boys competition was won by Connswater who beat Sandy Row in the final.

Declan Smyth (13) from Lenadoon said “It’s the second time I have taken part. I wanted to see people from different communities. I don’t like people fighting. There are differences – but through the football and workshops, you see they are not big differences. You can get past them”

Waterworks and Lenadoon Girls Teams

Stephen Boyd (14) from East Belfast said “Its just an experience – to be able to play football with people from different areas. I would not meet people from other areas without something like this. I just would not get the opportunity.”

SLIG continues to be committed to bringing young people together through sport and other activities. Huge well done to everyone that took part!

For more information, simply contact:

Neil McKee
Tel: 028 9062 9146

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