Place to Visit: Windsor Park

Northern Ireland is privileged to have a great National Football Team which participates internationally within its association. I am a big fan. It all started in the late 19th century up to 1921 after which the original team was changed by the Football Association of Ireland. The pro tournaments are dynamic and exciting for locals and expats who live elsewhere. It can be a subject of debate and argument, as with many sports. I don’t miss the world Cup.

Home matches took place at Windsor Park for decades, home of Linfield. The stadium was under contract until it was realized how much it needed major new construction. It involved more than a mere facelift. There has been considerable controversy about who will play in the new venue when it is ready. Meanwhile the games occur at Casement Park in west Belfast until Windsor Park is rebuilt. Several proposals were offered and relevant studies conducted. Phased in work would be undertaken after demolition. In 2013, permission was granted for the vast redevelopment project at the enormous cost of 29.2 million. The source would be the government as state aid to Linfield. All kinds of pros and cons were tossed around before the new stadium got the green light. Not until 2014 was it started at long last. It is well underway and includes a new South Stand, Kop Stand, and Railway Stand. It is near to the end awaiting an anxious footfall public. Eighteen thousand fans will be accommodated. Young and old will once again flock to Windsor Park, a location filled with history, and they will continue to come for generations. Northern Ireland football is ever so popular.

Let me end with a few words about the uniforms and equipment so you get the full picture. You can view them on line if I entice you. After all, the soccer team reached the quarter-finals in 1958 and 1982 followed by a first appearance at the European tournament second round last year. The gear includes a colorful jersey emblazoned with the words “Northern Ireland Football” and a logo. Choose from white, black, or green—short or long sleeves. Cleats and shoes come to match if you shop at the world soccer shop on line. Last but not least, the players where their own kind of shin guards (see here) and have a preference to the ball. Small personal items go in the team green backpack, suitable for a water bottle and lunch.

The shin guards are not that different from most soccer teams consisting of a rather bulky pad and strap. They can be made by special order in a particular color. Nike, Sondico and Wilson make them for professional use and Adidas makes the socks. As one might expect, the shin guards have a soft synthetic lining for maximum comfort and a highly protective front plate or hard shield. There you have the gear in a nutshell. Now watch a game!