Foyle Cup is for life not just for meeting sports stars

Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup 2013 Launch Everton midfielder Darron Gibson returned to his native Derry to launch the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup 2013.  Included with Darron on the City's Historic Walls are Gareth Finley, Hughes Insurance and local Derry and District Youth players who will emulate the Premiership star by competing in the competition in July. Photo: Lorcan Doherty Photography

Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup 2013 Launch Everton midfielder Darron Gibson returned to his native Derry to launch the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup 2013. Included with Darron on the City's Historic Walls are Gareth Finley, Hughes Insurance and local Derry and District Youth players who will emulate the Premiership star by competing in the competition in July. Photo: Lorcan Doherty Photography

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As soon as players like Darron Gibson and James McClean start to make inroads in the English Premiership politicians, business men and women and other leading figures are almost falling over themselves to be seen photographed with them.

Darron Gibson and James McClean are but only two local players to have benefited from the Foyle Cup which has been happening in Derry for over 20 years.

The competition started in 1992 and ran over one day with only eight teams.

Fast forward 21 years, and this year’s competition will run from July 22 to July 27 and a record breaking 216 teams from all over the world will take part.

Now, when you learn a local competition committee which depends on the generosity of its volunteers is able to attract over 200 youth football teams to our city you’d think the politicians, business men and women and other leading figures so determined to be seen with Everton star Darron Gibson would be equally as determined to make sure the Foyle Cup is funded properly.

Michael Hutton, Chairman of the Hughes Insurance Foyle Cup, spoke passionately about the future of the competition at its launch in the Tower Hotel on Thursday evening.

Mr. Hutton appealed to politicians representing many of the main political parties at the launch to seek clarity on how the competition is classified by the powers that be at Stormont.

The Foyle Cup hit the headlines a few years ago after it was revealed their funding was in doubt. After a few local politicians got involved the Foyle Cup received £40,000 but despite increasing the number of teams taking part in the competition every year, their funding has been reduced.

How can this happen?

Football and sport are sometimes frowned upon when it comes to having a conversation about culture in Derry.

But like it or lump it football, and especially youth football, is just as important to the people of this city as say Radio One’s Big Weekend or Hofesh Shechter.

The Foyle Cup organising team have been told by Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Carál Ní Chuilín, that she will not fund any further competitions unless they meet the criteria set out to promote equality and tackling poverty and social exclusion.

If the Foyle Cup doesn’t promote equality and tackle poverty and social exclusion then I don’t know what does.

My young cousin plays youth football for Ballinamallard in Fermanagh. Conal’s played in several Foyle Cup tournaments and each year he meets up with the friends he has made during previous outings.

My cousin’s friends are from other teams from all parts of the North of Ireland and the rest of the country. If that’s not something we should be proud of then I think it’s time go back to the drawing board.

Funding the Foyle Cup and its future should be a no brainer as far as I am concerned.

Perhaps instead of trying to get their photos taken with Darron Gibson, the politicians, business men and women and other leading figures should put more effort into ensuring the future of this amazing youth competition.