Glentoran's Nacho Novo throws party for families facing tough Christmas
Football star Nacho Novo is planning to bring Christmas cheer to east Belfast - both on and off the pitch.
While the Glentoran striker hopes to jingle all the way to a victory over Linfield in the traditional Boxing Day Big Two battle, he is also planning to make it a merry Christmas for members of the community in the area by throwing a special party.
Novo will throw open the doors of the Glens' Oval home on Christmas Eve for 60-70 individuals from underprivileged backgrounds as a gesture of thanks for the reception he has received since signing for the Glens in the summer.
A huge fan favourite during his six years at Rangers, Glentoran fans have quickly taken Novo to their hearts too, despite his time in the Irish League being blighted by injuries, and he sees Christmas as the perfect time to give something back.
"I have been welcomed with open arms everywhere I go and I felt this event was the best way of expressing my gratitude to the people of east Belfast," said the Spanish star, who is currently working his way back to full fitness with the Big Two clash in mind.
"To be in a position where I can help underprivileged families in the area fills me with a great feeling of what Christmas is about - caring and helping those less fortunate than ourselves.
"I am overwhelmed by the level of support shown to this event already and thank everyone who has offered to help.
"Together we will help make Christmas more enjoyable for some families in the local community."
Novo has already spent time coaching children, both within Glentoran's youth set-up, and with other clubs in the area, with plans to engage further in the new year.
Joining the 37-year-old in the Christmas Eve venture are his agent and east Belfast businessman Bill Peden, and others from Glentoran.
"Since his arrival in east Belfast everyone has been so friendly to Nacho and it is his desire to show a little of his gratitude in this small way," said Mr Peden.
"Coupled with my own gratitude to the people of east Belfast for their support of many of my businesses in the area since I left school, and we both feel this event will be a token of our esteemed appreciation and reach out to those people who really need it most. He added: "Following on from Glentoran's fantastic Christmas appeal for the homeless, which this year has received amazing support under the guidance of Jodie Killops and others at the club, we felt that providing a Christmas meal, presents and a bit of companionship to those in the greater east Belfast community who are not just as fortunate as the rest of us could bring a small bit of happiness at a time of year when most of us spoil each other and enjoy the festivities."
Nacho and Bill are asking for anyone who knows an individual who deserves to invited to the event to contact them by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or through Sarah, Jodie or Simon at the Milk Bar at The Oval.