On Sunday, March 21st, thanks to generous support from Ed and Penelope Peskowitz, PeacePlayers hosted its third virtual Friendship Games cultural twinning of the year. Wanting to leave their mark, PeacePlayers Northern Ireland’s twinning was youth designed AND youth led! As such, nearly 100 youth participants engaged in games led by Northern Ireland’s PeacePlayers that focused on the country’s unique culture.
It all began with the Northern Ireland team sharing a video created by their youth leaders Annarose, from a Catholic/Irish background, Rachel, from a Protestant/British background, Sam, Fintan, Alexandra, Eoin, Jayden and Adam.
English is the common language spoken in Northern Ireland, but like most places, it has its own, unique lexicons and dialect that the youth leaders took great pleasure in introducing to their team. To name a popular phrase introduced: “What’s the craic?” where craic (krak) is fun or entertainment, was one that caught on for many of the youth and was used throughout the rest of the session!
“Kicking” things off after the slang game, Sam P., youth leader on Team Justice says, “we’re trying to give you a small part of our Northern Irish culture, and a huge part of Northern Irish culture is sport. If we could have, we’d have given time to every sport in Northern Ireland, things like rugby and soccer/football… instead, what I’m gonna demonstrate for you today is Gaelic football.” Youth Leader Jacob of Team Peace shares “toe-taps” as essential to Gaelic football, a feat additional to dribbling while on the field. Screens were filled with smiles and laughs as young people and coaches from across the world practiced “toe-taps” and “hand passing” from the comfort of their bedrooms and living rooms.
Coach Hannah on Team Truth adds further context to sports’ role in Northern Irish culture and PeacePlayers by explaining as a Catholic/Irish youth, you might only play hurling or camogie, but if you are Protestant/British you might only play [field] hockey or rugby. As a result, PeacePlayers helped to design the ‘Game of Three Halves’ program “where young people from all backgrounds come together and learn to play Gaelic football, rugby and soccer” said Hannah.
The final activity led by the youth leaders in their breakout sessions was called “MatchMasters”, where participants had to match the word with the image. Images and words included, “Belfast Bap, “July 12th”, “St. Patrick’s Day”, “Catholic Church” and “Protestant Church”. A highlight moment from Team Truth was when coach San from PeacePlayers L.A. had thought she got a winning match with the image of a “Catholic Church” and the word “Protestant Church”. In her explanation,, Rachel provided yet another unique cultural distinction amongst the people of Northern Ireland.
To end the session, Debbie Byrne and youth leader Xena of Team Peace led the group in impromptu Irish dancing “for the craic!” More smiles were shared across the screen as group members attempted the Irish dance steps behind their computers.
The types of sports people play or the types of churches folks attend in Northern Ireland might feel like minor differences to many of us, but by highlighting these differences, while having a bit of craic, the Northern Irish youth leaders are providing their teammates with an authentic look into the place they call home. In doing so, we can see them for who they are, people.
Stay tuned as PeacePlayers Cyprus prepares to host the next cultural virtual twinning in April, with a special focus on International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. Be sure to follow them on Instagram and Facebook as they will be sharing all sorts of great trivia and challenges in the lead up to their twinning!