Northern Ireland news

Calls to drop British national anthem from Milk Cup opening ceremony

Young people from all over the world take part in the SuperCup formerly known as the Milk Cup

THERE have been calls for the British national anthem to be dropped from the opening ceremony of a prestigious youth football tournament with claims it excludes young players from the nationalist community.

The SuperCup NI, formerly the Milk Cup, is an international football tournament, which has been taking place since 1983.

It attracts youth teams from around world as well including six teams representing each county in Northern Ireland.

Considered one of the most prestigious youth tournaments in the world in the past players such as David Beckham, who played with the Manchester United youth team in 1991, have taken part.

The tournament kicks off on Sunday, July 24 with an opening ceremony in Coleraine that includes the playing of God Save the Queen.

A mother of one of the Co Antrim youth players has called on the organisers to cancel this part of the ceremony to make the tournament more inclusive.

"This is meant to be a cross community football tournament where all the young players feel welcome, and we were all proud when my son made the team, he's worked really hard and our entire family want to go and support him," she said.

"But it's almost as if we are not wanted or purposely made to feel unwelcome. My family don't want to stand for God Save The Queen, it's like they are undermining the hard work of our children by making them do this.

"If you don't stand you're immediately singled out and that's not right either, this should be a happy occasion.

"Why can't a neutral anthem be played, my wee lad doesn't understand why he's being asked to stand for a British national anthem when all he wants to do is play football. Why are politics being dragged into a youth football tournament at all", she added.

SuperCup NI chairman Victor Leonard, however, said they have received no complaints and the matter has never been raised before.

He said the British national anthem is played once at the opening ceremony, and the flags of all competing nations are flown at the opening and the final.

"We have been running the event now for 34 years. Everything is done very, very tactfully. We have teams from the south and mixed teams from the north," he said.

"We have never had an issue. We are very cross-community and we have been doing it for 34 years," he said.

"Anybody who comes to the event knows we don't offend."

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