Twenty schoolchildren from Belfast will represent Northern Ireland at the 2018 Global Peace Games at the Peace Village in Messines, Belgium, the site of the World War One Christmas truce, in September.
Running from September 15 to 20, the event will bring together young people from across Europe with the aim of creating peacemakers of the future. Schools from Italy and Belgium will also take part with Belgian children representing countries from across the globe, including war-torn nations.
The National Children’s Football Alliance (NCFA) has invited children aged between 11 to 16 to take part in the event, which commemorates World War One and celebrates peace through play.
Through the Peace Fields Project, Cregagh Green playing field – George Best’s childhood pitch in Belfast – is twinned with Flanders Peace Fields, where in 1914 German and Allied soldiers stepped out of their trenches and momentarily escaped the horrors of war by playing football.
Pupils will visit significant battle sites and take part in international games and forums, debating the role of sport at home, in the community and at war. The event is funded by UEFA’s Foundation for Children and the EU’s Erasmus+ programme.
To mark the 100th anniversary of women being given the right to vote, the opening ceremony will be attended by Alison Rose and Helen Nolan, the British and Irish Ambassadors to Belgium. They will be joined by Paul Breyne, Commissioner-General of the Commemoration of World War One.
NCFA chief executive Ernie Brennan said: “This is a once in a lifetime experience for young peacemakers of the future. Playing football games on the world’s most poignant field will inspire them and we should never forget the essence of playing the game in its simplest form.’’
For more information about the Global Peace Games and The Peace Fields Project and how schools and clubs can twin their playing areas with Flanders Peace Field visit www.childrensfootballalliance.com