In Pictures: Foyle Cup kicks off in Derry
Thousands of the world’s most talented young footballers paraded through Londonderry as the Foyle Cup kicked off .
A record 164 teams from across Europe, Canada and America will pit their skills against each other during the 20th Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup.
A total of 2,500 young people waved flags and team emblems as they streamed across the city’s Peace Bridge before gathering in Guildhall Square for the official opening. The route was organised as a symbolic, cross-community gesture to reflect the ethos of the tournament.
The young teams were cheered on by thousands of visiting relatives, friends, coaching teams and local people who lined the streets of Derry’s city centre.
Over the next week the teams will battle it out on pitches across Derry, Strabane, Limavady, and Donegal.
Founder and chairman of the Foyle Cup, Michael Hutton said he was delighted with the response to the event.
“Everything is 100% in order,” he said. “We are going to play 444 matches this week and 88 matches today alone.
“We have thousands of young people from all over, from the Shankill, the Falls, Creggan, Newbuildings and this is a cross-community and cross-country tournament.
“The Canadians are here, the Americans are here, we have five teams from Scotland including Celtic, Kilmarnock, Hibernians and Hearts. Hull City from England are also here.
“I honestly believe sport is a great healer and so important for bringing people together.
“This is a great news story for the city and the matches will be played in every community.
“The teams are staying in hotels across the region. This amounts to 10,000 bed nights.”
Mr Hutton said: “We pushed it from 132 teams last year to 164 this year and if we can manage it we might make it even bigger for the City of Culture year in 2013.”
"We would love to see it.”
SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan was among those who welcomed the tournament to Derry yesterday.
Mr Durkan said: “The Foyle Cup is always a fantastic boost for Derry and is great at attracting visitors to our city and helping local businesses.
“It is also wonderful for young footballers who have the opportunity to take part in such a prestigious youth tournament.”
The Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup has expanded from just eight teams 20 years ago to a record 164 teams this year. This 20th Cup was launched earlier this year by Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill.
The Derry and District Youth Football Association, founded in 1973, has organised the event since its inception, with support from Derry City |Council. Hughes Insurance and Seagate both approached the organisers offering to become sponsors this year.
The 2012 Foyle Cup will result in a £1.5m windfall for the economy of the North West.