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Meet the Northern Irish five-a-side team going for the world title and a chance to play against Neymar

Northern Ireland will be represented this weekend at the world finals of Neymar Jr's Five.

The five-a-side competition, headed up by the Barcelona star, will come to a climax in Praia Grande, Brazil from July 7-8 and some Belfast men are going for the world title.

MEET THE TEAM

Artur Kopyt – 31, from South Belfast and currently working with the IFA. Plays for Donegal Celtic F.C.

Chris Elliot – 18, From East Belfast and attends school at Wellington College. Plays for Tullycarnet F.C.

Conor Kernohan – 18, From Castlereagh Road and attends school at Grosvenor.

Daniel Larmour – 18, From Castlereagh Road and attends school at Grosvenor. Plays for Carrick Reserves F.C.

Darius Roohi (Captain) – 18, From Ravenhill Road and attends school at Wellington. Plays for PSNI Reserves F.C.

Guillerme Keke – 26, From Shankhill Road and currently works as a personal trainer. Plays for Ards F.C.

Thomas Macklin – 18, From Downpatrick and attends school at Our Lady’s and St. Patricks College. Plays for PSNI Reserves F.C.

THE COMPETITION

Distillery Elite took home the top prize after besting 185 teams and over 1,300 players throughout the preliminary stages of the tournament in April.  The prize-hungry young men know exactly what it takes to tackle the world’s best players in this year’s tournament.

Team Captain, Darius Roohi (18) commented: “It is such an honour to once again represent Northern Ireland and we will be taking full advantage of the fact that we made it to Brazil last year.

“Having played against and studied some of the other countries who participated in the tournament previously, we are under no illusion that it won’t be a challenge.  The game can be fast paced and highly skilled so we’ve been working on our fitness levels and practicing hard, to make sure we hold our own and compete with some of the other teams, that are used to playing in such a warm climate.  We are confident though that this year we have what it takes to go all the way,” said Darius.

National champions from 53 countries across six continents will battle it out at the Instituto Projeto Neymar Jr this weekend. More than 100,000 players have taken part in the second year of the tournament that has become a truly global phenomenon. For the winners, the icing on the cake will be the chance to play against a team led by Neymar Jr in the town where he grew up.

Neymar Jr’s Five is authentic football with a twist. There are no goalkeepers and whenever a team scores, the opposition loses a player, which makes the 10-minute matches fast, technical, tactical – and great fun to play.

The stage is now set for the World Final, which begins on Friday, July 7 with a group stage featuring the 53 national champions. The best 32 will make it through to the knock-out stages on Saturday July 8, with a series of matches whittling the teams down to two teams, who battle it out in the final match.

The 100,000-plus players who have featured in the second edition of the competition is a sharp increase from the 65,000 who played in the first year. For Neymar Jr, the highlight of the competition has been seeing so many people from so many different backgrounds playing the game around the world on every imaginable surface, in all weathers, and with a unique sense of fun.

“Nobody expected so many players from so many different countries and I’m delighted to see people playing the game the way it should be played – together, in friendship, and with a great sense of fun,” said Neymar Jr, who is preparing for another crucial season with Barcelona and Brazil – the finals of the 2018 World Cup now less than a year away. “This is football the way I grew up playing it and I hope the numbers just get bigger and bigger,” he condcluded.

The teams will be dreaming of following in the footsteps of Anjos da Bola (Angels of the Ball) – the Brazilian team who sealed victory in the final of the first edition in 2016. They were not only rewarded with a game against Neymar Jr and friends, but with a trip to see FC Barcelona in action in the Camp Nou and time alongside their hero at the Catalan club’s training ground.

The location of the World Final, The Instituto Projeto Neymar Jr, is a private, non-profit association dedicated to social causes, set up by the player and his family. Located in Jardim Glória, in Praia Grande, where Neymar Jr spent much of his childhood, the Institute is an 8,400m2 education and sporting complex catering for 2,470 underprivileged children aged 7-14 and their families.

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