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Stars on carpet for beautiful game: Shooting for Socrates movie gets UK premiere in Belfast with World Cup

By David Young

Published 25/04/2015

Sammy McIlroy and Jimmy Boyce with Northern Ireland's 1986 World Cup players and the World Cup. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Sammy McIlroy and Jimmy Boyce with Northern Ireland's 1986 World Cup players and the World Cup. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Fiona Gold on the red carpet
Oonagh O’Reilly on the red carpet
Norman Whiteside, Billy Hamilton and Jimmy Nicholl
Callum Wyatt and Laura Connolly with the World Cup at the film premiere
Jackie Fullerton with wife Linda

Belfast Film Festival went football crazy last night as Northern Ireland's soccer heroes got their gladrags on for the UK premiere of Shooting for Socrates.

The David and Goliath story is set in Belfast against the backdrop of the 1986 World Cup, when tiny Northern Ireland took on the might of Brazil.

A galaxy of Northern Ireland soccer stars graced the red carpet at Belfast's Waterfront Hall, including former goalkeeper Pat Jennings, Norman Whiteside, Sammy McIlroy, Jimmy Nicholl, David Campbell and Gerry Armstrong.

The stars, along with their wives and families, joined actors Conleth Hill, who plays reporter Jackie Fullerton, and John Hanna, who takes the role of team manager Billy Bingham in the film.

And there was a very special guest at the black tie premiere - one never before seen in Ireland - the World Cup itself, on special loan from Fifa, football's world governing body.

The visit of the World Cup to Belfast was made possible thanks to a campaign by former Northern Ireland international David Campbell, whose astonishing soccer journey to make his international debut against Brazil powers the film's narrative.

Fifa representative Jim Boyce said the request for the World Cup to come to the premiere was originally turned down, but a special appeal from him to Fifa chief Sepp Blatter did the trick.

He said: "This film portrays the way sport has brought people together in Northern Ireland.

"People involved in sport have done a lot for this country by bringing people together."

David Campbell said: "It's been a long four years to get the film ready for release - but now everything is ready to go.

"It's great to be giving it its UK premiere here in Belfast.

"It's the true story of how we qualified, how we trained in Mexico - everything in the film is true."

Belfast Film Festival Director Michele Devlin said she had been thrilled at the success of this year's festival.

"It's really exciting to have the World Cup itself here in Belfast tonight for the premiere," she said.

The festival closes today with the screening of the European premier of Derry-born Stephen Fingleton's thriller The Survivalist.

My best football moment...

David Campbell: “Getting my first contract at Nottingham Forest with Brian Clough — what an honour!”

Jackie Fullerton, commentator:  “It’s a moment from 1986. I was allowed in the dressing room after the Brazil game, when Pat Jennings ended his career with 119 caps on June 12, 1986 — his 41st birthday.”

Jim Boyce: “I will never forget the night Northern Ireland beat England at Windsor Park for the first time in over 70 years.”

Pat Jennings: “Winning my first FA cup medal in 1967, and being made PFA Player of the Year in 1976.”

Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin: “When the Republic of Ireland beat Romania on penalties in the 1990 World Cup.”

Gerry Armstong: “It has to be the ‘82 World Cup — and beating Spain.”

Norman Whiteside: “Two goals stand out:  one against Arsenal in the 1983 FA Cup semi-final, and two years later I scored the FA Cup-winning goal against Everton.”

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