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Friday 20 Nov 2020
UEFA’s Executive Committee recognises grassroots work in Northern Ireland

Image: Brian Sloan, seen here with McDonald’s ambassador Pat Jennings, has just won a major UEFA award to go with the Irish FA McDonald’s Grassroots Award which he won last year.

UEFA has chosen a club founder from Co Armagh and a club from Co Antrim as winners in its annual Grassroots Awards.

Brian Sloan of Brookvale FC has been named as a silver prize winner in the ‘Best Grassroots Leader’ category, while Greenisland FC have won a bronze award in the ‘Best Grassroots Club’ section.

Both Brian and Greenisland will be presented with special certificates, while the clubs will receive 100 footballs each to support their grassroots activities.

Michael Boyd, the Irish FA’s Director of Football Development, said: “I am delighted that the UEFA Executive Committee has recognised Brian and Greenisland FC in the UEFA Grassroots Awards 2020.

“More than 50 countries nominated their best volunteers and community clubs. These are very prestigious awards. Brian is an inspiration for his work promoting football for all in the community and Greenisland are an amazing community-focused inclusive club. Both have served the community with distinction and deserve this international recognition.”

Brian Sloan (72) has been recognised by UEFA for his remarkable work with Brookvale.

In the early 1980s he and his friend Alan Black set up the cross-community club in the Bessbrook area and it’s still going strong. 

Brian, who last year won the People’s Award in the McDonald’s Irish FA Grassroots Football Awards for his work with Brookvale, continues to be heavily involved. Brian's sons followed in his footsteps and now coach Brookvale teams, while his grandchildren play for the club.

Greenisland Football Club’s members mainly come from the town itself and the Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey areas. Their clubhouse and 3G pitch, which was opened last year with support from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Sport NI, act as a community hub.

The club’s alumni include current Northern Ireland internationals Jonny and Corry Evans, Craig Cathcart and Michael Smith.

They offer senior and junior football and have around 400 players and 100 volunteers, providing playing opportunities for male, female and disability groups. They run programmes for children from the age of five upwards. 

Their youth teams take part in various leagues, while their seniors play in the Northern Amateur League, and last year they launched Greenisland Bears FC for boys and girls aged 7 to 12 with a learning and/or physical disability.  

There’s a focus on the holistic development of players and they organise social events for the kids. Each year they also run summer schemes, Halloween and Easter camps, day trips, midnight soccer programmes and cross-community football tournaments. And they support several Irish FA initiatives, including the Ahead of the Game mental health awareness project. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic the club have continued to serve their members and local community, delivering food packages to community groups as well as delivering medications from pharmacies to those in need. 

And to continue engaging with their members they have been posting online skills competitions and organising football fun packs for kids and life skills challenges among other things. 

UEFA Grassroots Awards are presented annually in recognition of exceptional work in grassroots football. 

A spokesperson for European football’s governing body said: “Football is built on the grassroots, which are kept alive by thousands of volunteers, projects and clubs across Europe. Our awards are designed to recognise, celebrate and promote this inspirational work.”