More than 150 young people from eight football clubs across Belfast came together for a week-long summer sports camp supported by Clanmil and Apex Housing.
The 'Play and Unite' camp which took place on the grounds of Aircraft Park, Shorts FC was designed to encourage positive community relations among young people and was delivered by the Sport Changes Life Foundation.
Participating clubs included Celtic Boys Belfast, Knockbreda FC, St Malachys Old Boys Youth FC, Glentoran FC, St Oliver Plunkett FC, Shorts FC, Rosario FC, and Albert Foundry FC.
The camp provided a unique opportunity for young footballers to connect, learn, and grow through shared experiences. The programme featured small-sided games, professional coaching sessions, and workshops on personal development, fostering positive relations, and raising awareness about mental health using the services of local charity, TAMHI. All activities were designed to enhance the participants' football skills while also imparting crucial life skills.
Philip Whyte, Community Cohesion Officer with Clanmil said:
“At Clanmil we aim to provide homes for people to live well, and that includes supporting people who live in areas close to our shared neighborhoods to take part in cross-community projects like this one. This project promotes positive messages around respect and teamwork, helping to challenge sectarianism and bring communities together. There has been a very positive impact on the young people involved and their parents.”
Distinguished guests from the local Irish League clubs added a touch of inspiration to the event. Several Glentoran players made an appearance on the first day, followed by a visit from Crusaders FC players and manager Stephen Baxter.
Ambassador and supporter of the event was David Jeffrey MBE, who is a well-known figure in local football. He offered unwavering support and motivation to the young participants.
Mark O'Brien, an ex-Irish League referee, also took the opportunity to engage parents in discussions about respect and their child's transition to 9-a-side and 11-a-side football.
Alan Teggart, General Manager of the Sport Changes Life Foundation said:
"At its core, the ‘Play & Unite’ Football Camp transcended the boundaries of sport, serving as a powerful testament to the impact of collective effort in breaking down barriers and nurturing connections among diverse groups. As a Belfast-based foundation, we’ve always been committed to our mission of using sports as a vehicle to elevate the aspirations of young people. The camp not only exemplified the positive influence of sports on personal growth but also underscored the potential of shared experiences in fostering a more inclusive society. A huge thank you must go to Clanmil Housing and Apex Housing Association."
Funding from both Clanmil and Apex was provided through the Shared Housing Programme, which originates from the Northern Ireland Executive Together: Building a United Community Strategy. The Strategy reflects the Executive’s commitment to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united and shared society.
Find out more about Clanmil's shared neighbourhoods here: Shared Neighbourhoods | Clanmil