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27 March 2012

Francis Rice, from Doyle Youth Club has become the first ever winner of PlayBall's Street Striker Competition.

Footballers, from communities across East Belfast, were brought together by PlayBall's new Street Striker initiative which saw around 150 football fanatics aged 14 - 17, converge on the Stormont facility to take part in a competition of footballing skill over a period of 5 weeks with the ultimate goal of landing the fantastic prize of a week's trial at Swansea City FC.

The competition provided an opportunity for the footballers to impress the judges who were made up of a selection of Northern Ireland's football elite including Northern Ireland football international Danielle McDowell and Irish League Legend, Glen Ferguson who commented on the competition.

"This is the first competition of its kind I have ever been involved in and I was curious to know what talent there might be hiding in the youth clubs, streets and community groups around East Belfast - I have to say I have been very impressed with the level of skill and dedication these guys have shown and its been a real pleasure to be involved in such an initiative. Francis really shone with his vast array of skill & natural ability. I really hope to see this fantastic event back next year and hope I can be involved again."

The initiative was managed and delivered by Paul Shaw, Sports Development Officer at PlayBall, the state of the art football facility at the Pavilion Stormont, and was supported by a number of stakeholders such as local community groups, PSNI, Sport NI, Malone College, Swansea City, IFA and Citybeat Radio.

Paul is delighted with the overall results of the initiative;

"We set out to develop an initiative which would have a real impact on the local communities of East Belfast and I am happy to say that our main objective has been met. Street Striker took a number of young people from different community backgrounds off the streets and into a development programme which gave them a goal and got them involved in healthy competition - Our hope is that these boys realise that they are not so different after all and that Street Striker will leave a lasting impression on the local community. I would like to take the opportunity to wish Francis the best of luck at his Swansea City FC trial - Hopefully we have helped to find Northern Ireland's next big thing in football!"

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