A heritage roadshow focusing on the history of football in Northern Ireland is proving to be a big hit with schoolchildren across the country.
The Heritage In A Box tour, organised by the Irish Football Association’s Education and Heritage Centre with support from Heritage Lottery Fund, has visited 30 primary schools since last September.
More than 2000 Key Stage 2 pupils have engaged with the roadshow, from the Greater Belfast area to Derry-Londonderry and Omagh and everywhere in between.
As part of the tour Jemma Thornbury from the EHC, which is located at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, delivers a 45-minute session to the young students covering the history of football in Northern Ireland.
The heritage box contains items which represent a piece of Irish Football Association history. They include Victorian era football boots, which are used to tell the story of the early years of the Irish FA and the creation of the penalty kick, and a 1930s Barcelona shirt, which helps to teach the kids about Patrick O’Connell, who played for Ireland at Windsor Park in Belfast and went on to be a top manager in Spain.
There’s also a rattle and replica shirt from 1958 when Northern Ireland competed at the World Cup Finals for the first time and a replica of the current World Cup trophy, which is used when Jemma tells the kids about the two World Cup Finals appearances in the 1980s and Northern Ireland’s contribution to the British Home Championship.
In addition there are shirts that were worn by superstar player George Best and goalkeeping genius Pat Jennings, two legends of the game in Northern Ireland, and the ball used when a more recent hero, David Healy, scored the winning goal against a star-studded England team in 2005. In addition there’s a flag from Euro 2016 when Northern Ireland reached the last 16 of the tournament in France.
Jemma Thornbury explained: “I invite the children to pick three items from the box that they want to discuss and learn a bit more about. The most popular items are the World Cup replica trophy, the rattle from 1958 and the football which David Healy guided past England goalie Paul Robinson back in 2005.
“The sessions are quite relaxed. The children ask questions throughout, while teachers often share their experiences of following Northern Ireland. For example, one teacher was at the Spain game at World Cup ‘82.
“I end the sessions by giving the kids a gift bag each and invite them to come and visit the Education and Heritage Centre, which tells the story of football in Northern Ireland using artefacts, memorabilia, story boards and interactive displays.”
You can watch more from the Heritage in a Box Tour in the video at the top of the page.