Sport in Belfast
Watching and playing sports is an important part of culture in Belfast, Northern Ireland where almost six out of ten (59%) of the adult population regularly participate in one or more sports. Belfast has several notable sports teams playing a diverse variety of sports including football, rugby, traditional Irish Gaelic games, and North American sports like American football and ice hockey. The Belfast Marathon is run annually on May Day, and attracted 14,300 participants in 2007.
The Northern Ireland national football team, currently ranked 88th in the FIFA World Rankings and 1st in the FIFA rankings per capita, play their home matches in Windsor Park. Belfast was the hometown of the renowned Northern Irish footballer, George Best who died in November 2005. On the day he was buried in the city, 100,000 people lined the route from his home on the Cregagh Road to Roselawn cemetery. Since his death the City Airport has been named after him and a trust has been set up to fund a memorial to him in the city centre.
The 2012–13 Irish League football champions Cliftonville are based in Belfast, as are fellow Premiership teams Glentoran, Linfield and Crusaders. Intermediate-level clubs are: Donegal Celtic, Dundela, Harland & Wolff Welders, PSNI, Queen's University and Sport & Leisure Swifts, who compete in the NIFL Championship; Albert Foundry F.C., Bloomfield F.C., Crumlin Star F.C., East Belfast F.C., Grove United F.C., Immaculata F.C., Malachians F.C., Orangefield Old Boys' Association F.C., Rosario Youth Club F.C., St Patrick's Young Men F.C., Shankill United F.C., Short Brothers F.C. and Sirocco Works F.C. of the Northern Amateur Football League and Brantwood of the Ballymena & Provincial Intermediate League.
Gaelic football and hurling
Gaelic football is the most popular spectator sport in the island of Ireland. Casement Park, in West Belfast has a capacity of 32,000 which makes it the second largest Gaelic Athletic Association ground in Ulster. It was named after Sir Roger Casement, one of the "revolutionaries" of the 1916 Easter Rising.
Queen's University and the University of Ulster, Jordanstown compete in the Sigerson Cup. This is the top division championship of university Gaelic football in Ireland. They also compete in the Fitzgibbon Cup, which is the Hurling university championship equivalent.
2005–06 Celtic League champions and former European Rugby Union champions Ulster play at Ravenhill in South Belfast. The All-Ireland League is the national league for the 48 senior rugby union clubs in Ireland. There are four Belfast clubs in the league: Belfast Harlequins (Division 1B); and Instonians, Malone and Queen's University (Division 2A). The Ulster Senior League and the Ulster Senior Cup are also competitions entered by senior rugby clubs in Ulster.
Belfast boasts Ireland's premier cricket venue at Stormont, Belfast. The Ireland cricket team plays many of its home games at this venue, which, in 2006, also hosted the first ever one-day international (ODI) between Ireland and England. In 2007, Ireland, India and South Africa played a triangular series of one-day internationals at Stormont, and in 2008 the qualifying tournament for the ICC World Twenty20 was held there.
At club level, Belfast has seven senior teams: CIYMS, Instonians and Civil Service North of Ireland are in the Premier League of the NCU Senior League; Woodvale are in Section 1; Cooke Collegians are in Section 2; and Cregagh and PSNI are in Section 3.
Hockey is a major participatory sport in Belfast, for both men and women. The top men's teams are Annadale (which now plays its home matches outside the city, at Carryduff), Instonians, who are currently in the Premier Division of the Ulster league. The main women's teams are Pegasus, Belfast Harlequins, Victorians and Knock.
Belfast is represented in the Elite Ice Hockey League by Ireland's first professional ice hockey team, the Belfast Giants. The game was brought to Belfast by Canadian businessman Bob Zeller in 2000. The team won the British Ice Hockey Superleague Championship in 2002 and were crowned the Elite League Champion in 2006. Ex-NHL star Theo Fleury played for the team and was named the most valuable player in the league during his time there. Home matches are played at the Odyssey Arena and watched by up to 7000 fans.
Softball In Ulster
Softball Started in Belfast in 2007. In March 2008 Softball Ulster was recognised by Softball Ireland as a governing body for the sport of softball in Ulster. The goal of this body is to develop softball in Ulster, provide the support and structure for clubs and teams in the counties of Ulster and represent its membership in dealings with Softball Ireland Softball is a cross-community sport which is open to all ages and fitness levels. In Ulster Slowpitch Softball is currently played with mixed (men and women) teams, adding a social dimension to the sport.
Current Club & Teams:-
Belfast Aviators Softball Club -- Aviators
Belfast Softball Club --------------- Brawlers & Smokin' Aces
Belfast Sliders Softball Club --- Sliders
Belfast Braves Softball Club ---- Braves
Ulster Jordanstown Softball Club ---- Elks
Belfast Cubs ---- Cubs formally Belfast Jets
- Double world champion Alex "Hurricane" Higgins and Joe Swail are both professional snooker players from Belfast. The city also runs its own District Snooker League.
- Belfast Trojans American football team represent Belfast in the IAFL, competing for the Shamrock Bowl.
- Belfast has produced several world champion boxers including Wayne McCullough and Rinty Monaghan. The Ultimate Fighting Championship recently announced that UFC 72 will take place at Odyssey Arena on June 16, 2007.
- The Belfast Marathon is run annually on May Day, attracting 14,300 participants in 2007.
- In 2013 Belfast will hold the World Police and Fire Games.
- Dave Finlay, a professional wrestler, is from Belfast.