Football and friendship are two of the key elements in the enormous success of one of the world’s best known international youth tournaments.
Since its formation in 1983, the STATSPorts SuperCupNI has attracted hundreds of teams from across the globe.
Friendships have been forged and sustained over the intervening decades.
Now the tournament has teamed up with another long established friendship force as it continues to bring young people of all ages together in the spirit of competition and camaraderie.
The Corrymeela Community is a widespread community of people of various traditions who, individually and together, are committed to the healing of social, religious and political divisions in Northern Ireland and throughout the rest of the world.
Last year the Community’s excellent centre, based outside Ballycastle on County Antrim’s stunning Causeway Coast, hosted four teams during the event – including one from Donegal in the Republic of Ireland, one from East Belfast in Northern Ireland and two from England.
Representatives of both the tournament and Corrymeela were delighted as the players from opposite backgrounds came together to enjoy much more than a week of football.
This summer Corrymeela will again play its part in making the whole STATSports SuperCupNI experience something quite unique for more teams.
“It is the perfect combination as far as we are concerned,” said Tim Magowan, interim executive director of Corrymeela.
“Last year we realised that the tournament and ourselves have common DNA, enabling people of different backgrounds to come together and thrive together,” he said.
“As well as focusing on their football, the players were in a great position to interact in a shared space and learn about how we can transform our lives by simply experiencing life from different perspectives.”
Mr. Magowan added: “The SuperCupNI is fundamentally about that goal too – how best we can transform our differences by coming together – literally around a shared goal.”
Tournament chairman Victor Leonard is thrilled about the recent development with the world-renown centre.
“From our point of view, the opportunities for young players to mingle and enjoy each others company is exactly what we are all about.
“Football and friendship have been the central building blocks of our competition since we started out from humble beginnings back in the early Eighties.”
He added that many friendships have been forged in that time, many which still hold strong.
“Long after a football competition is completed it is the contacts and friendships established that stand the test of time,” said Victor. “That is what makes it all worthwhile to us as organisers.”
Tim Magowan believes the tournament deserves immense credit for its role in bringing together young people from diverse regions of the globe and differing religious backgrounds.
“It is very much aligned to what we are all about at Corrymeela,” he said.
The centre hosts over 5,000 people a year, as well as a community of volunteers and staff. Corrymeela also has a dispersed community of over 150 members who commit to living out Corrymeela’s principles of reconciliation in their own communities.
Corrymeela’s programme staff travel to work with school and community groups throughout Northern Ireland, as well as hosting groups on site.
They work alongside people from youth and school groups, family and community organisations, faith communities and political parties. Corrymeela run group sessions using dialogue, experiential play, art, storytelling, mealtimes and shared community to help groups embrace difference and learn how to have difficult conversations.
Victor added: “For players focusing on a week-long tournament, the centre is ideal with its remote location helping officials to get to grips with what they need from them in terms of performance but it also delivers so much more.
“The boys from opposite teams can share so much and learn about various different aspects of life which is invaluable as they develop.”
Tim Magowan adds: “The opportunity to explore how we live together and play together well is invaluable. The tournament provides this chance and we are delighted to be involved.”
The Corrymeela base offers the potential stars of the future more practical skills too!
Tim explains: “Character development comes into it too of course.
“We had a team from Bracknell with us and they posted daily updates on social media for their families and supporters back home
“One of our little traditions is that on leaving the centre, you change your bed in readiness for the person coming after you.
“That went down well with the parents watching back in England as their sons got to grips with duvets – some for the first time!”
Victor Leonard added: “Teaming up with Corrymeela is ideal in so many ways. Not only does the centre offer high quality accommodation facilities which is something we are always exploring as we grow the tournament, but its whole ethos fits perfectly with what STATSports SuperCupNI is all about.
“We are proud that we bring together young people from various creeds and classes across the world and the fact some of them can spend their week with us in a shared space, encouraged to learn about their differences and similarities is simply wonderful.”
An added bonus for Corrymeela last year too was the fact that the Glentoran Under-13 team that stayed with them went on to win the Minor tournament.
A case of win, win all round for the latest hosts to one of the top youth football competitions on the planet.
This year’s three-pronged tournament, which features Junior and Premier events, kicks off with a parade of competing teams through Coleraine and an opening ceremony at the town’s Showgrounds on Sunday, August 2.