Search is on for NI’s five-a-side kings

Northern Ireland football legends Jim Magilton, left, and Norman Whiteside at the launch of Red Bull Neymar Jrs Five, a unique knockout 5 a side football tournament with a difference.  Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Northern Ireland football legends Jim Magilton, left, and Norman Whiteside at the launch of Red Bull Neymar Jrs Five, a unique knockout 5 a side football tournament with a difference. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Former Northern Ireland footballing legends Norman Whiteside and Jim Magilton were at Windsor Park to help launch a unique knockout five-a-side football tournament with a difference.

Red Bull’s Neymar Jr’s Five is a fun, fast-paced and technical game that will give young local footballers (16-25 yrs) the opportunity to put teams of five to seven players together to compete to represent Northern Ireland at the World Final in Brazil this summer.

Brazil and Barcelona’s great Neymar Jr is giving thousands of young players in more than 35 countries, across six continents the chance play in the ‘Neymar Jr’s Five’ five-a-side tournament.

“It’s a fun, energetic and tactical game,” said Neymar Jr, who grew up playing the same kind of fast-paced five-a-side football in his neighbourhood.

The regional qualifying rounds will start next month in Belfast, Cookstown and Coleraine with a national final in a stadium in Northern Ireland (venue TBC) on 29 May.

The winners of this will go on to represent their region in the finals in July in Praia Grande, where Neymar Jr grew up, started his professional career and lately founded ‘Instituto Projeto Neymar Jr’.

Norman Whiteside who begun his own professional career with Manchester United at the age of just 17 and holds the record for being the youngest player to take part in a World Cup.

“I was very lucky to get the chance to play in some of the best stadiums in the world so to be a young 16 to 25-year-old and be offered the opportunity to play in the likes of Praia Grande or Camp Nou with your team of friends and represent your country is fantastic.”

Jim Magilton, NI under-21 manager is keen to give his support for the tournament.

“It’s a real privilege for Northern Ireland to have been asked to take part in this Global tournament so I would encourage as many clubs, individuals and friends who currently play 5 a side to really get behind this and sign up for the regional rounds which will be held in sports arenas across the province.”