Children from community centres in Belfast attend a game at the IIHF World Championships Div IB. Photo: Ian Offers, GBSC.
Belfast kids go crazy for the game
Vocal groups of schoolkids have become a feature of games at this year's Division IB - thanks to a community link-up the Belfast Giants and the City Council.
A corner of Northern Ireland turned Dutch and Croatian on Wednesday afternoon as World Championship fever gripped local schoolkids.
A group of youngsters from three Community Centres in West Belfast took over a block at the SSE Arena to roar on the Netherlands and Croatia during the teams’ World Championship Division IB clash.
And the noise was so loud that the visiting Croatian fans sitting nearby were drowned out by the youthful choir alongside them.
Tommy O’Reilly, a community group leader, was delighted that the kids from Horn Drive, Glen Road and Suffolk Community Centres had the chance to get a flavour of a major tournament in their home city.
“Some of these kids might go to see the Belfast Giants here, but for a lot of them this would be their first time at the arena,” he said. “They’ll never have seen anything like this before, so it’s a fantastic opportunity to be a part of an international event.”
Each centre picked a team to root for in the game – two went for the Dutch, the other was backing Croatia. National flags and home-made banners were the order of the day, waved with gusto amid chants of ‘Come on Holland!’ and ‘Let’s go, Croatia!’. As the Croats eased into a 5-0 lead, Mr. O’Reilly noted with some satisfaction that his group had backed a winner, although the Netherlands restored some pride with a battling conclusion to the game.
The trip was organized thanks to a partnership between the Belfast Giants, Belfast City Council and some of the 26 community centres that work right across the Northern Irish capital. These organisations, which work in the heart of local communities throughout Belfast, were encouraged to get involved and introduce youngsters to the game as part of the centres’ support for efforts to promote sporting and cultural opportunities in conjunction with the local authorities.
“Even though our centre will only be at the one game, it’s been a great chance for kids in this city to do something they’ve never done before,” concluded Mr. O’Reilly.