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Jamie Dornan's dad Jim sparks a football revolution

Rory McIlroy beat 50 Shades actor Jamie Dornan in a game of 'circular soccer' - a new concept aimed at increasing kids' skills

By Maureen Coleman

Published 15/04/2015

Proud father: Jim Dornan with his actor son Jamie
Proud father: Jim Dornan with his actor son Jamie
On the ball: Adam Purce and Ethan Boyd tackle Circular Soccer

As one of Northern Ireland's most eminent obstetricians, Professor Jim Dornan has delivered up to 6,000 babies.

But the father of Fifty Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan has conceived a brand new sports project and it's a whole different ball game to bringing babies into the world.

A lifelong football fan, Prof Dornan has come up with a new way of playing the beautiful game, overseeing Circular Soccer from its embryonic stage right through to production.

His new "baby" is set to take off around the globe, with Fifa already placing orders for the product in 10 of their federations to begin with, and schools across the UK expected to snap up the new game which could revolutionise the way football is played at grassroots level.

While international interest in the circular format of football is growing, with trials taking place at the World Cup in Rio last year and at Fifa's headquarters in Zurich, closer to home the new small-sided game has been proving popular too.

Golf superstar Rory McIlroy and Jamie Dornan, Prof Dornan's Hollywood actor son, played a one-on-one version of the game recently in Belfast, in a world exclusive video challenge, launched online today.

It's also been enjoyed by Northern Ireland soccer siblings Jonny and Corry Evans, whose father Jackie, a football coach and mentor, helped fine-tune its technical development.

Speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph about Circular Soccer, Prof Dornan said the idea stemmed from his childhood when he used to play a form of circular football with his own father around a box or an oil barrel in the garden.

"It's hard to play a competitive game of football when there are only two of you, one in goals and one shooting," he said. "I started thinking that there had to be a more engaging way to play with smaller numbers, where attacking and defending skills, practice and fun could be experienced.

"I was explaining to my personal trainer John Ferris how my dad and I loved playing football and how we'd play around in circles. He was very interested and we developed the concept a bit and realised we had something we could take to the world.

"Basically what we're doing is taking an end-to-end field sport and playing it towards the middle. We have a three-sided goal called the Trigoal and it means that the kids get more chances to be on the ball, to tackle, to pass, to play triangles and best of all, to score.

"The new game can be played on any surface, anywhere and helps to promote interaction by giving more opportunities to touch the ball. I think it will reinvent small-sided games, which are key to driving the development of football at a grassroots level."

Prof Dornan then approached Jackie Evans, former Manchester United Academy coach, to help develop the game and its coaching potential. He in turn brought it to the academy coaches at Old Trafford, who gave it the thumbs-up, remarking that its simplicity as a coaching tool was a huge plus.

"Some coaches come up with new-fangled drills that are just too complicated," Jackie said. "The bottom line is if it doesn't look like football, don't use it. Circular Soccer works because it looks like football, it has football at its heart. Anything that can encourage children to play football is going to be a winner.

"This game specifically helps encourage kids to play a higher tempo of football that encourages creativity and enjoyment.

"It's a great way to get kids engaged quickly and into a competitive situation that develops speed, skill, accuracy and movement."

Along with Jeremy Poots and Paul Martin of Mammoth Belfast, a brand engagement agency, a new company, Up and Up, was established to develop and market the new game.

In addition to trials in Rio and Zurich, it was also played in Japan, Barbados, China and Curacao. Fifa, who run grassroots programmes around the world to entice more children to play the game, saw its potential immediately and placed the first mass order.

Over the next six months Circular Soccer will also be rolled out in up to 30,000 schools across the UK.

Jackie said: "Society is changing. I grew up playing football in the street. If a car came along you picked up the ball and stood aside until it passed. There's too much traffic for that now. And no one wants their kids going to the park unless you can watch over them.

"The beauty of this game is that it can be played anywhere, a room, the garden or on a beach. It's not going to replace football but it is going to change the culture of football for generations."

His son Corry, who plays for Northern Ireland and Blackburn, said the new game, which has an introductory online price of £79.99 and will be available in various sizes, was a useful tool for improving technique, increasing stamina and encouraging fun.

"I played it with Jonny in our back garden and it was pretty competitive," he said. "It improves tackling and defending, encourages you to move around, to find a way to pass and to hit the net.

"It's intense, non-stop but enjoyable. I can see huge potential in it and would have loved it when I was growing up, playing football."

Prof Dornan said he was very excited about the launch of Circular Soccer, which proved a big hit with both his son and the world's number one golfer.

"It really brought out their competitive sides but in the end, Rory won 2-1," he said.

"I've great faith in Circular Soccer's concept. I definitely think this one will go over the line."

So what exactly is the new game all about?

Circular Soccer is a brand new training aid and game played in a circular format. It encourages players to think faster, react quicker under pressure, train harder, be more competitive and add new skills to their game. Whether they are attacking or defending, dispossessing an opponent is crucial to the game.

The game can be played in a small space, with as few as two players. Instead of being a two-direction game like traditional football, the goal is in the middle and has three sides. The game and players, therefore, revolve around the goal as they try to score. It encourages young football players to:

  • Touch the ball more often and become more skilful with it;
  • Make more decisions;
  • Be more physically efficient in the space they are playing in;
  • Have more individual teaching time with the coach;
  • Be more involved in playing time;
  • Have more opportunity to play on both sides of the ball;
  • Have more opportunities to score.

To see videos showing the game being played in Rio, Zurich, Japan, Barbados, China and Curacao, visit

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