Belfast Telegraph

Green where George Best first honed his skills becomes Northern Ireland 'peace pitch'

By Victoria Leonard

The Belfast green where George Best first kicked a football has officially become Northern Ireland's first peace pitch, after being twinned with the site of the First World War's famous Christmas truce game.

In a ceremony at the site yesterday, Cregagh Green in east Belfast was officially twinned with Flanders Peace Field in Belgium, site of the 1914 Christmas truce, when Allied troops and German forces came together to play football during a pause in the fighting.

A cross-community football match between Cregagh, St Bernard's and Lisnasharragh Primary Schools was held to launch the Peace Field Project (PFP), which commemorates the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Designated a Field in Trust, Cregagh Green is just a stone's throw from the family home of George Best (right).

During the twinning ceremony, the pitch was blessed, and the Royal British Legion played The Last Post. A minute's silence was also observed.

The initiative was organised by the National Children's Football Alliance (NCFA).

NCFA CEO Ernie Brennan said: "We are very proud to work with Cregagh Community Association and Belfast City Council, who have been incredibly positive about the peace pitch and the Peace Field Project.

"We all know that this particular green harvested one of the world's greatest footballers.

"Football brings communities together. It is a really proud event to see that this is the first peace pitch in Northern Ireland, and it will lead the way in peace tournaments on every International Day of Peace."

Secretary of Cregagh Community Association Marlene Dodds said she was "honoured" to have been made an ambassador for the peace pitch during the ceremony. "I'm very proud and it's very poignant that these kids are playing on George Best's pitch," she said. "A peace pitch is about coming together, and sport brings people together.

"In September, 20 young people aged 14 to 16 years old will go to Belgium to take part in the Global Peace Games in Flanders Peace Field, where they had the Christmas truce.

"A duplicate plaque to the one which will be displayed here will also be put up in Flanders."

Chair of Belfast City Council's People and Communities Committee, Alderman Tommy Sandford, said it was a "very poignant day".

"It's long been acknowledged that sport can be a uniting factor and it's the same today as it was 100 years ago," he said.

Lisnasharragh pupil Rhian Weatherup (11) said she was "really excited" to be taking part. "It's a great way to make friends," she said.

"I would love to be able to play like George Best. What he did was amazing, coming from this community to become one of the best players in the world."

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