SuperCupNI opening ceremony - Jimmy Nesbitt honoured to be back at stadium 'where I watched football as a lad'
It was a spiritual homecoming for football-mad actor Jimmy Nesbitt last night as he officially opened the SuperCup NI.
A spectacular welcome parade brought the festival spirit to Coleraine, with 46 football teams from around the world being embraced by local fans.
In the middle of the celebrations, Nesbitt said: "As a Coleraine man, who sat in this ground as a young boy watching my beloved Bannsiders, it's a great honour and a massive delight for me to open this great event.
"Forty-seven players at Euro 2016 played in this tournament, 21 of them for Northern Ireland. In the past the likes of the class of '92 (Man United), Wayne Rooney and Sergio Busquets have all played here."
Showing the global impact of the SuperCup NI, formerly known as the Milk Cup, the actor also read out a text from his friend and former Red Devils manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who said: "This competition has given a platform for thousands of young players to project themselves. It's continued through difficult times, showing the good in Northern Ireland."
The Secret star finished by encouraging the crowd to support his heroes next season.
"I really want to see you all back at The Showgrounds this season to cheer on Coleraine. It's important to get behind our local game, as well as the SuperCupNI. The Irish League is also a fantastic product."
Today, the SuperCup NI's Junior and Premier competition kicks off with 23 games played across numerous venues on the north coast.
Big draws in the Junior section today include Rangers against County Armagh at The Showgrounds (7.30pm) and holders Right To Dream face GPS at the same venue (3.30pm).
The Premier section will see a rematch of last year's final at Broughshane (5pm) between County Antrim and Mexican side Club American.
Other big draws include Newcastle United versus County Fermanagh at the Ballymena Showgrounds (7.30pm).
On Saturday evening Everton beat Celtic 1-0 in the final of the inaugural Under 21 competition.