Release Date: 11/07/2007
THE Irish Football Association reached a whole new audience last week when, for the first time, it was represented at the world famous Smithsonian Folklife festival in Washington D.C.
The annual invitational festival celebrates cultural traditions from around the world and this year it attracted over one million visitors over a 10-day period.
Pride of place at this year’s festival was the Irish Football Association stand with NI football being represented by Trevor Erskine, IFA Grassroots Development Manager and Dave McVeigh, IFA Club Licensing and Facilities Manager.
Trevor and Dave gave daily presentations on the history and development of the Irish Football Association and football in Northern Ireland as well as delivering dozens of coaching sessions to eager children and indeed adults!
As Washington has had its own major league soccer team since 1996, D.C. United, their fans are amongst the most knowledgeable in America and accordingly there was a huge interest in the IFA stand.
While the young people were eager to take part in the coaching sessions and learn new skills their parents were keen to hear more about our World Cup heroes of Sweden, Spain and Mexico and the life of George Best.
With humidity high and temperatures reaching 90 degrees on a daily basis coaching conditions were quite uncomfortable for Trevor and Dave with the boys working seven-nine hours most days.
Indeed the demand for presentations and coaching sessions was so high that Trevor and Dave were pleased to be able to call on assistance from Seamus Heath the IFA’s Grassroots Development Officer for Down district.
Seamus was on holiday in New Jersey but, despite a three-hour drive, was delighted to offer his services at this busy time.
With Seamus delivering the coaching sessions Trevor and Dave were able to “press the flesh” and spread the word about NI football people.
Rachael Cooper, event advisor for the Smithsonian Folklife festival praised the efforts of Trevor and Dave: “ Trevor and Dave were a credit to Irish soccer. They were great ambassadors for Northern Ireland soccer and their enthusiasm and energy was infectious,” she said.
“They did a terrific job and the feedback I have been getting from visitors has been very positive.”
With Trevor and Dave meeting and greeting so many people it was no surprise that they should meet somebody from home. John Shields who has lived in the States for 22 years said: “I came down to the Smithsonian festival when I heard it was focusing on Northern Ireland and I couldn’t believe it when I saw the IFA stand and recognised Trevor Erskine. Being from mid-Ulster I can remember the big man playing for Dungannon Swifts!
“I think that it was a great idea for the IFA to have a stand at the festival and it has really raised the profile of Northern Ireland football in the Washington area.”
Dave McVeigh and Trevor Erskine pictured with a budding young footballer at the IFA stand at the world famous Smithsonian Folklife festival in Washington D.C.
Trevor chats with one of the visitors to the world famous Smithsonian Folklife festival.
A local young footballer identifies Northern Ireland legend, Mal Donaghy.
IFA Grassroots Development Officer Seamus Heath with a coaching group.
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