The Irish Football Association (IFA) is the governing body in the soccer world of Northern Ireland; its main responsibilities include overseeing association-level soccer in the six counties. In addition to its role within the soccer community, IFA is well known and respected for its community relations work and commitment to curbing sectarianism that is often found in sports within Northern Ireland.
Recently, PPI-NI partnered up with IFA, in addition to Ulster Rugby and the Ulster Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), to deliver the first-ever Game of Three Halves at Ballysillan Leisure Centre in north Belfast. IFA has been an integral part of the development of the game, which aims to bring together children from both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland to experience sports that have been historically separated.
Michael Boyd, Head of Community Relations for IFA, says:
“The IFA’s partnership with PeacePlayers, the Ulster GAA and Ulster Rugby via the Game of Three Halves is a very positive development which is supporting all the partners to further use sport as a hook to promote good relations in Northern Ireland, challenging sectarianism and racism. Through this partnership, we are all reaching further than ever to promote respect for diversity and create sustainable links to foster new friendships that otherwise would simply not be possible.”
Last week, the Northern Ireland national team took on the Faroe Islands in a Euro 2012 qualifying game. Many thanks to IFA for inviting PPI-NI to attend! International Fellows Shannon Brown and Meghan Houlihan braved the stormy night to watch Northern Ireland win 4-0. The highlight of the evening wasn’t the awesome cheers, the four goals, or the sold-out crowd’s energy: the best part of the night was seeing the signs supporting anti-sectarianism around the field. Slogans like “Love football, hate bigotry,” and “Football for all: giving sectarianism the boot” could be seen from all over Windsor Park’s stadium.
Kudos to IFA for their involvement in promoting peace in Northern Ireland! Keep an eye on PPI-NI’s blog posts in the coming weeks to learn more about the Game of Three Halves and the involvement of Ulster Rugby and Ulster GAA.