August 15th, 2023 | NEWS

“Play & Unite” football camp promotes good community relations through sport when it brought 150 boys and girls together for a week of fun and making new friends.

The Sport Changes Life Foundation, in partnership with Celtic Boys Belfast and Knockbreda FC, proudly concluded the highly successful “Play & Unite” football camp, a remarkable initiative that brought together 150 young participants from eight football clubs from all corners of Belfast.

The ‘Play and Unite’ football camp was generously funded by Apex Housing Association and Clanmil Housing, supported through the Department for Communities and Housing Executive’s Shared Housing Programme, which originates from the Northern Ireland Executive Together: Building a United Community Strategy. The Strategy reflects the Executive’s commitment to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united and shared society.

The unique event took place on the grounds of Aircraft Park, Shorts FC, creating an environment where sport, camaraderie, and the values of good relations flourished. The participating clubs included Celtic Boys Belfast, Knockbreda FC, St Malachys Old Boys Youth FC, Glentoran FC, St Oliver Plunkett FC, Shorts FC, Rosario FC, and Albert Foundry FC. The camp provided a unique opportunity for these young athletes to connect, learn, and grow through shared experiences.

Alan Teggart, General Manager of the Sport Changes Life Foundation, was delighted with the outcome and was very proud of how the team collaborated with the local community to put the initiative together and deliver.  He said, “At its core, the ‘Play & Unite’ Football Camp transcended the boundaries of sport, serving as a powerful testament to the impact of collective effort in breaking down barriers and nurturing connections among diverse groups. As a Belfast based foundation, we’ve always been committed to our mission of using sports as a vehicle to elevate the aspirations of young people. The camp not only exemplified the positive influence of sports on personal growth but also underscored the potential of shared experiences in fostering a more inclusive society. A huge thank you must go to Clanmil Housing and Apex Housing Association.”

Under the guiding principles of unity and collaboration, the “Play & Unite” Football Camp showcased the power of sports in transcending barriers. The camp’s programme featured small-sided games, professional coaching sessions, and workshops on personal development, fostering positive relations, and raising awareness about mental health using the services of local charity, TAMHI. All activities were meticulously designed to enhance the participants’ football skills while also imparting crucial life skills.

Distinguished guests from the local Irish League clubs added a touch of inspiration to the event. Several Glentoran Football Club players made an appearance on the first day, followed by a visit from Crusaders FC players and esteemed manager Stephen Baxter throughout the remainder of the camp. The grand finale of the camp witnessed the presence of David Jeffrey MBE, a revered figure in local football, who served as an ambassador, offering unwavering support and motivation to the young participants. Mark O’Brien, an ex-Irish League referee, also took the opportunity to engage parents in discussions about respect and their child’s transition to 9-a-side and 11-a-side football.

David Jeffrey MBE on reflection of the event added, “To see so many young people, boys and girls, and to have so many parents come along was phenomenal. The message we wanted to get across to the parents was; the mums, dads and adults of tomorrow, are the children of today. If we don’t invest in them and show them examples of respect and how they should treat one another then we are doing them a real disservice. It is such a fantastic effort in bringing all these young people together under a common banner of uniting through sport”.

Apex Housing Association and Clanmil Housing, the funders of the camp, emphasised the importance of such initiatives in building a stronger community.

Sharon Hunt, Senior Communities Officer at Apex, commented: “It was our pleasure to support the ‘Play and Unite’ Camp and see young people from eight different clubs across the city coming together for football, fun and friendship.  The camp forms part of our ‘Housing for All’ good relations plan for the Belfast area and builds on the success of last year’s camp with Celtic Boys and Knockbreda football clubs. I’d like to thank Sport Changes Life for facilitating this year’s camp, TAMHI for their work on mental health and Clanmil Housing for working with us to support this valuable programme.”

Philip Whyte, Community Cohesion officer with Clanmil said: “At Clanmil we aim to provide homes for people to live well, and that includes supporting people who live in areas close to our shared neighborhoods to take part in cross-community projects like this one. This project promotes positive messages around respect and teamwork, helping to challenge sectarianism and bring communities together. There has been a very positive impact on the young people involved and their parents.”

The “Play & Unite” Football Camp stands as a testament to the transformational potential of sports in promoting unity, understanding, and shared values. There are plans to hold a similar ‘Play & Unite’ camp in 2024 as Sport Changes Life remains committed to its mission of nurturing the aspirations of young people through sports, making a lasting impact on communities and individuals alike.

If you would like to hear more about the work of the Sport Changes Life Foundation in the community, please reach out via

For media inquiries, please contact:

Joanne McNeill

Director – SCL

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