13/03/2007

Irish League stars unite for Midnight Street Soccer launch

A list of Irish League stars have joined forces with the IFA's World United Anti-Racism Team to help launch the Midnight Street Soccer initiative.

Linfield’s William Murphy and Jim Ervin joined forces with Cliftonville’s Eddie Patterson and Mark Holland, Glentoran’s Philip Simpson and Gary Brown and joined the players initiative at the Eddie Irvine Centre just outside Bangor on Saturday night with over one hundred young people from all over Belfast.

The Irish League Stars mingled with the young people and volunteered their time to support the Midnight Street Soccer launch funded by Castlereagh Council and the Community Safety Partnership.

Two Players from the IFA’s World United Team, Aruna Djalo (Portuguese) and Maciek Bator (Polish), delivered a very successful Anti-Racism Workshop to the young people promoting respect for difference as part of the IFA’s ongoing and high profile Football For All Anti-Racism month in March.

Aruna explains why it was important to use the launch as an opportunity to challenge racism: “Both Maciek and I were pleased to have the opportunity to speak with the young people about the problems of racism. When I first came to Northern Ireland I suffered some racist abuse and struggled with the language and cultural barriers.

"It is important young people recognise that people should not be judged on the colour of their skin, their religion or the way they speak. People should be judged on the quality of their character and what they can contribute to the community.

"Through World United I have had an opportunity to make a positive contribution to challenge racism, promote respect and celebrate diversity through the universal power of football”.

IFA Head of Community Relations Michael Boyd helped facilitate the Anti-Racism Workshop and was full of praise for the Irish League Stars involvement. He said: “The manager of Cliftonville and the players from the Belfast clubs really got behind and supported the event. The fact they volunteered their time on a Saturday night to support this community driven event speaks volumes about them as people and I cannot praise them enough.

"Irish League football is more exciting this year than ever before and clubs, supporters and players are beginning to actively encourage positive community relations, proactively challenging racism and sectarianism. This is very encouraging for the future of the local game!”

(JM/KMcA)

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