The Irish Football Association and UEFA staged a “completely fabulous” UEFA Super Cup this week.
That’s the verdict of Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson, who said the event had been delivered “after many years of bid writing, politicking, negotiating, planning and yet more planning”.
In a letter to staff at the association, he said: “We were host to UEFA, we enjoyed the company of Chelsea and Villarreal and we were broadcast live to more than 200 countries.
“I can tell you that UEFA leaders, including Aleksander Čeferin (UEFA President), were delighted with all aspects of the match, from the stadium to the organisation to the hospitality to the football, although admittedly we didn’t control the last one!”
And he added: “We showed the world the best of the Irish Football Association, the best of Belfast and the best of Northern Ireland.”
The chief executive said the match between the reigning UEFA Champions League holders and the reigning UEFA Europa League champions at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park - which Chelsea won in a dramatic penalty shoot-out – and everything surrounding it had been “completely fabulous”.
In the email to staff he added: “I can confidently predict that however long any of us work, whichever companies we work for either in days gone by or in the future, this week’s UEFA Super Cup event will be a shining highlight for all of us.
“Well done to everyone. Whether you did a little or a lot you contributed to one of our best days, so thank you.”
Irish FA President Conrad Kirkwood told staff the Super Cup was a credit to them all and revealed he had received verbal and written compliments from senior football figures from across Europe.
“They highlighted the very welcoming, friendly and helpful manner shown by our staff and volunteers,” he said.
“Hopefully the attention to detail and hard work will reap further rewards with other high level competitions coming to Northern Ireland in the future,” the President added.
And reflecting generally on the occasion, he said in a statement: “A smile is a universal welcome. It will have been the smiles and enthusiasm of our staff and volunteers that assured our place in the memories of everyone who attended the Super Cup.
“Our wee country is developing a dedicated cadre of volunteers who are great ambassadors for Northern Ireland at whichever event they volunteer. They will surely not only leave a people legacy here for other events but they will also have left our visitors with a strong desire to return soon as tourists. That can only be good for the economy.
“On the footballing side I could not have been prouder of how the stadium looked and our meticulous work will hold us in good stead if other opportunities arise in the future.”
Anita Hamilton, Head of Stadium Operations at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, praised all the hard work that went in to helping the stadium put on “an unbelievable event”.
She pointed out: “The stadium was completely transformed in a few short weeks. In preparation for UEFA’s arrival the stadium team oversaw the refurbishment of the South Stand hospitality lounges and the North Stand, a major pitch renovation and the installation of a new 3G pitch surround warm-up area as well as the upgrading of various infrastructure systems.
“Alongside our stadium team our supplier and contractor base were incredible. They deserve great credit for all their assistance, for being so flexible and accommodating during the build-up and the event itself. Without them we simply couldn’t do what we do.”
And she added: “It was an incredible experience to be part of the team that delivered the UEFA Super Cup in Belfast. It was an unbelievable event.”