Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis will officially open the annual SuperCupNI international youth football tournament on Sunday (23 July).
The Rangers midfielder, who has won a record 140 caps for his country, will lead 64 teams from across the world through the streets of Coleraine before opening the festival of football at the Coleraine Showgrounds.
This year the summer tournament - it was previously known as the Milk Cup - is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Victor Leonard from SuperCupNI said the organisers were “absolutely delighted” when the Northern Ireland captain agreed to open the event.
He said: “Steven is one of our most famous and respected graduates and we have kept in close contact with him over the years and he has always promised us that he would come back some day as our guest of honour at the parade and opening ceremony.
“We wanted to ensure that our guest for the 40th anniversary was someone extra special and we are delighted that Steven has agreed to attend.
“He is an inspiration to all of the young people who are about to compete in what promises to be an exciting week of football and he is proof that with hard work young players can go on and achieve major accolades and accomplishments in the game.
“I know from past conversations with Steven that he has very fond memories of the tournament and he has told us the tournament was pivotal in his own development as a player and helped him to realise his dream of becoming a professional footballer.”
📅 #OnThisDay 2️⃣0️⃣ years ago - @StevenDavis8 and @fernandinho met as Northern Ireland faced Brazil in the 2003 tournament. Steven Davis joins us for the Welcoming Parade and Cermony on Sunday 🙌 pic.twitter.com/85jKfq27Pl— SuperCupNI ⚽️🏆 (@SuperCupNI) July 19, 2023
Victor believes the Northern Ireland skipper, the most capped British player of all time, will be “a very popular guest” and his presence in Coleraine on Sunday will stir up even more interest in the parade and opening ceremony, which is always well attended.
Down the years numerous players who have gone on to represent their country have played at the event. Most of them turned out for one of Northern Ireland’s six county teams, while others played for club sides or represented Northern Ireland.
The Irish FA has regularly arranged for Northern Ireland underage teams to take part, and this year a Northern Ireland U16 girls’ team will be competing.
Davis, who hails from Cullybackey, has starred for some of the biggest clubs in Britain, including Rangers, Aston Villa, Fulham and Southampton.
He first shone at the tournament in 2000 when he was part of the County Antrim junior squad and three years later he represented Northern Ireland in the elite section when they took on Brazil in an opening day fixture at Windsor Park.
The action in this year’s tournament is set to begin on Monday across four male age groups and two girls’ age groups, with the tournament concluding with finals day next Friday (28 July).
Matches are set to be staged at venues in three council areas: Causeway Coast and Glens, Mid and East Antrim and Antrim and Newtownabbey.
For further information on the tournament go to www.supercupni.com.
Image: Northern Ireland's Steven Davis and Brazil's Fernandinho in action at the 2003 tournament.