Peace rains down: the fourth annual PPI-NI Flagship tournament!

Elizabeth “Matty” Booker, a summer intern at PeacePlayers International- NI who hails from New York, talked about her experience at the Flagship event. The Flagship event was also covered by BBC Evening Extra.
Yes! All sides of the city were well represented

All sides of the city were well-represented!

On Friday night, under the lights of the DUB at Queens University, PPI-Northern Ireland held its 4th annual Flagship tournament. As a first-time volunteer with PPI, I was very excited to be a part of the event! The tournament brought together over 100 youth from all over Belfast to unite and compete for their part of the city. It was the biggest turnout for the Flagship yet, and many participants were returning for their second or third year. For 3 hours, teams of 8-14 year-olds from North, South, East and West Belfast played various games and sports, all while building friendships and community. Despite the downpour of rain, all I could see were smiles, high fives, and team cheers. From the “Fast & Furious Fourteen” to “We’re Gonna Win,” no team was short on spirit. The kids were so excited to represent their team, and one of my players even shaved “North” in the back of his head to show his pride!
Participants during team building warm up

Participants during the team-building warm-up!

The Flagship was the final event to end the two week long Belfast Interface Games (BIG), camps that served the four parts of Belfast. As a team leader for a junior team from North Belfast, I loved watching my players compete in Gaelic football, rugby, and soccer. More importantly, I loved seeing the skills, friendships, and cross-community relationships that grew between the campers throughout the week. The volunteer coaches from the Irish Football Association (IFA), Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and Ulster Rugby  allowed the players (and me) to learn completely new sports that they’d never experienced before. Teammates who had never played Gaelic rugby were now making hand passes like a pro, and girls were eager to show their stuff and steal tags from the boys during rugby! However, competition was not the main goal of the night. My favorite moment of the Flagship was seeing my team laughing and sharing high-fives with a South Belfast team, even after we lost to them in a game of soccer (don’t worry, we won our rugby and Gaelic matches!).
Basketball players can play soccer too, they showing off the skills they just leaned from Irish Football  Association (IFA)

Some of the participants showing off the skills they learned from the Irish Football Association!

It was only fitting that the night ended with the rain stopping, the clouds breaking, and a full rainbow framing the playing fields. And at the end of the event, each participant went home with a medal, a burger and chips, and a smile. Despite the fact that it took 2 days for my shoes to dry out after the Flagship, I had so much fun working and playing with young athletes from Belfast! And this event is just one example of PPI bridging divides and bringing young people of different communities together through sport. As a teacher and coach in New York City, I’m excited to bring back all I’ve learned from my time here. The Flagship was an unforgettable end to a great summer program led by PPI-NI.  The BIG initiative would not have been possible without the help and support of Belfast City Council’s Good Relations Programme and OFMDFM’s Summer Camps Programme. A huge thank you also goes out to everyone else who made the event possible!
                                                                                                                                                                               Belfast City Council 2015 (Master)NIExecutive-cmyk

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