Belfast Telegraph

Fifa president helps kick-off new era at Windsor Park

By Adrian Rutherford

The boss of world football was in Belfast on Saturday night to help officially open the new national stadium.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino was among a sell-out crowd at the redeveloped Windsor Park.

Mr Infantino unveiled a plaque to mark its opening, and said Northern Ireland now had a world class arena. "With this project the Irish Football Association is both safeguarding its historical legacy and reshaping its football home in a way that fits the country's needs," he commented.

"Windsor Park has been transformed into a compact, world class stadium. It is a smart and sustainable solution, and I am honoured to be here in Belfast to see this project come to life."

Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson said the arena was a fitting home for our football team, adding: "The national football stadium is not just a building but a symbol of hope and aspiration for the new Northern Ireland we are all part of."

The redevelopment project, which took 29 months to complete, has brought three new stands - East, South and West - while seating in the ground's existing North Stand has been refurbished and a new covered walkway added.

After taking part in the official opening, First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness watched the match. Mrs Foster said: "The transformation has been remarkable and Northern Ireland, along with first class fans, now has a truly first class venue as its home of football."

Mr McGuinness said Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill and his team had proved they were a class act on and off the pitch.

Ahead of kick-off, stars including Carl Frampton, Dennis Taylor and Mary Peters took part in a lap of legends around the pitch.

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